Blackberry & Apple Crumble

 

Aka the lazy girl’s pie.

I’m always a little surprised that America, with its obsession with apples and fruit pies of all kinds, seems to be unaware of the humble and quintessentially British fruit crumble. After all it hits exactly the same comfort eating spots that pie does, but is much, MUCH quicker and easier to make.

 

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The Minx and I were casting about for something to bake yesterday evening when I remembered that I already had a bag of stewed apple and blackberry in the freezer, left over from a crumble session last autumn.

Crumble can be made with any sorts of stewed fruits though, either mixed with apples or on their own – plum, rhubarb, apricots, pears and raspberries – are all traditional British faves.

Essentially you need to chop the fruit up into small pieces, add a couple of spoonfuls of water, enough to stop the fruit sticking, and mix with couple of spoonfuls of sugar to taste, how much will depend on the tartness/sweetness/quantity of your fruit.  Then cook very gently until the fruit is very soft. Again then cooking time will depend on what fruits you’re using. I like to make a big batch and shove a couple of bags into the freezer.

If I’m just using apples, I like to add a little cinnamon and some raisins; chopped nuts of all types – walnuts, pecans, almonds are also delicious. I’ve also eaten the most incredible crumble which added small cubes of vanilla fudge to stewed apples.

 

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As the Minx and I already had our stewed fruit to hand, all we needed to do was make the crumble topping. I’ve found that about 2 cups of flour to 3/4 cup chilled butter to 2/3 cup sugar works well.

When I say flour though, you can go a bit mad at this stage and experiment with other dried goods. Last night’s crumble was made with 1 cup of flour and half a cup each of ground almonds and rolled porridge oats. Other ground nuts would be good, wholewheat flour is a nice addition and I’ve even thrown it spoonfuls of muesli on occasion. Granola, chopped nuts, crushed cookies and other flours and grains would be interesting to try.  Likewise you can also experiment with different types of sugar – last night’s crumble was made with soft brown sugar instead of white.

When you’ve customised your crumble topping ingredients, chop the chilled butter into the flour  with a pair of kitchen scissors and start rubbing it in as if you were making pastry.  Stop when it reaches the consistency of large breadcrumbs and stir in the sugar. If you’ve experimented with oats or nuts you may need to add some flour to get it to the right consistency. Don’t worry though, quantities are extremely approximate and the important thing is to get the right breadcrumb consistency. Kids love making this by the way – they can literally be very hands on but it’s over before they can get bored.

And that’s all there is to it. Put your stewed fruit in an ovenproof dish, top with the crumble topping, press it down gently with a fork and bake for about 45 minutes at 350 degrees F/180 C.  When it comes out of the oven it won’t look much different, just a little more golden round the edges, but it will be firm and almost crunchy to the bite.

Serve warm or cold with ice cream, cream or, if you want to be really English, CUSTARD. Here are a few crumble ideas including a recipe for homemade custard (most English people would just use Bird’s custard powder or buy it ready made).

 

UPDATE:  It appears that there exists in America something called an Apple Crisp, and looking at recipes, it does seem very similar to apple crumble (though the fruit is cooked at the same time as the topping? – Must try this, seems like even less work.) I thought it seemed strange that there was no equivalent. Having said which I haven’t come across it in Seattle, and we gave some crumble to our babysitter last night and she’d never had anything like it.

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Comments

  1. says

    Er? Methinks you have been talking to the wrong people! Fruit crumble is as American as apple pie! :p Look for them under the names of crumble, crisp, or brown betty. This is different to a cobbler (which, according to Wiki, is also called a slump, a grunt, a buckle, and a sonker, etc, lol.)
    Will give it to you, though..custard is uniquely British (which I have become accustomed to via Australia and NZ, lol.) Americans will be more likely to serve with vanilla ice cream, or whipped cream. :D

  2. says

    Crumble is the favourite pud in this house. I always use SR flour, though, which was a tip from Nigella and sometimes add dessicated coconut to the crumble mix (rather nice with peaches as the base).

  3. says

    MuraliManohar – Ooh, someone else on Facebook mentioned apple crisps and looking up the recipe they seem very similar (though the fruit is cooked at the same time as the topping? Have never seen them here in Seattle though, but I’m always surrounded by delicious looking pies.
    Liz, what difference does self-raising flour make? It doesn’t really exist here, but I’ve mixed some up myself for when I cook British recipes. Dessicated coconut sound DEE-LISH

  4. mlle paradis says

    I will never be a crumble person. Or a crisp person either. There is just something about the texture that disagrees with me. But apple and blackberry!!!!! My very favorite combination in fruit pie and I totally signed on to having cream poured over my pie (as served by my English Mum-in-law) vs. ice cream. Ice cream is way too cold and too sweet.
    Thanks for giving me ideas.

  5. says

    Wow! great photos and I want a piece of that now! I have added you to my bloglist (I was in the BYW class) – I love your blog and will be checking in! That truly looks delish and I only wish I had the time to bake…maybe in the summer…

  6. says

    I found you via Tara’s Beauty photo post. It’s so lovely to find another Brit blogging on the West coast. Love Emma Bridgewater bowl, makes it look even more British!

  7. says

    It’s hard to pinpoint what difference using SR flour makes but it’s definitely better. A generally lighter, more buttery, almost shortbread result I think. (Since Nigella implored us not use plain flour, I’ve never used anything but SR since).

  8. says

    It’s hard to pinpoint what difference using SR flour makes but it’s definitely better. A generally lighter, more buttery, almost shortbread result I think. (Since Nigella implored us not use plain flour, I’ve never used anything but SR since).

  9. K says

    People tend to make crisps at home; I don’t think you’d find them for sale so much. You totally do cook the fruit at the same time and it is EASY and goooood. I would like to make the humble suggestion–and I am prepared to be screamed down–that vanilla Jello pudding mix (the kind you cook) can stand in for Bird’s Custard powder. I know it is not exactly the same, but it gets you in the right neighborhood, honest.

  10. says

    Hi Calif Lorna!
    Liz, much as I loathe Nigella, the despicable woman does know what she’s talking about, so I will try that next time.
    K, vanilla Jello pudding mix sounds horrific, so I’ll leave that up to other American-based Brits to try (Calif Lorna, do you want a give it a go?). Having said which I am also the only British person in the world who loathes custard made with Bird’s Custard Powder, so what do I know. The real custard-y thing is of course another thing entirely…

  11. K says

    I just get paralysed with fear at all the “if it starts to curdle you must do THIS THIS and THIS IMMEDIATELY or ALL WILL BE LOST!!!” instructions in real custard recipes, so I wimp out and go with the mix every time.

  12. says

    K, I hardly ever make real custard for that reason (in the UK you can buy ready made custard in cartons, a bit like you can buy eggnog here, which makes it all so much easier). However, if you use a little bit of cornflour it’s easier. I think I feel a blog post coming on… hows about I blog a proper English trifle with custard?

  13. Debbie says

    I would love to know where I can buy bowls like the one above with ‘blackberry & apple’ printed on it! Please share!

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