One of the benefits of the cooler weather is fruit crumble. Deeply satisfying. The ultimate comfort food. In our house we make crumble with almost any combination of apples, stone fruit or berries. More often than not we follow the seasons, using the ripest, sweetest fruit we can find. Our absolute, all-time favourite combination is apple and rhubarb. Rich ruby-red hues bubbling through a golden crust. Tart. Sweet. Gloriously soft with a crunchy topping.
Everyone seems to have a recipe that they swear by. Here’s mine. The secret to a great crumble lies not in the combination of fruit or topping. It’s in the technique. Follow a few simple rules and the result is perfect crumble every time.
- Unless the fruit is very soft, berries or very ripe stone fruit, I like to cook it first to soften it a little before it reaches the baking dish. I cook my fruit with just lemon juice and sugar in a wide shallow wok. No water required. I also add finely grated lemon zest for added freshness and zing.
- Remove the cooled fruit from the pan with a slotted spoon. Leaving any extra liquid behind in the pan. You definitely do not want to end up with a soggy crumble. There are always takers for that juice in our house and howls of protest when there doesn’t seem to be any.
- For a crisp and crunchy crumble topping use very cold butter and cut it through the flour and sugar mixture with your fingertips. You are looking for a rough, coarse texture. I find using the food processor can easily produce too fine a crumb. Mix through the nuts or any other additions to the topping last. Rolled oats, coconut or crushed amaretti biscuits are popular choices.
- Scatter the crumble over a cool fruit base and place immediately into a preheated oven. As the fruit has been pre cooked the crumble will cook quickly. Don’t be tempted to press the crumble into the fruit. You are looking to achieve a light, crumbly,free form topping, not a heavy crust.
I think that just about covers it all. Of late I have been baking my crumble in two smaller pie dishes for no other reason than I think it looks prettier and gives the illusion of more crumble for my greedy family. On occasion I do cook my crumbles in individual ramekins and this recipe lends itself to this perfectly. Such a delicious dessert. So simple to bake with a few ingredients. The not so humble crumble.
Apple and Rhubarb Crumble with Hazelnuts and a Hint of Ginger.
Serves 4 – 6
For the Apple and Rhubarb Filling
1 bunch rhubarb
5 large apples, peeled, cored and chopped
3/4 cup white sugar
juice and zest of 1 lemon
TRIM the rhubarb and cut the stems into 2.5cm lengths. Set aside
HEAT a large shallow frying pan or wok over medium heat and add the apples, sugar, lemon zest and juice. Cook, stirring for 3-4 minutes until apples are just beginning to soften.
ADD the chopped rhubarb and cook for a further 4-5 minutes or until the rhubarb is tender but still holds its shape. The rhubarb may release quite a bit of liquid.
USE a slotted spoon to transfer the cooked fruit to the prepared dish. Leave behind any liquid remaining in the frying pan. Allow the fruit to cool a little. Taste and add extra sugar if needed.
For the Crumble Topping
1 cup plain flour
3/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
125 grams unsalted butter, chilled and diced
1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted, skinned and roughly chopped
PREHEAT oven to 180 C. GREASE one 4 cup capacity ceramic oven proof dish, or two 20 cm round pie dishes.
WITH your fingertips, rub together the flour, brown sugar, ginger, butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs and starts to clump together. Stir through the chopped hazelnuts.
SPRINKLE the crumble evenly over the fruit base. Do not press down.
BAKE for 20 – 30 minutes or until golden and bubbling. Cooking time will depend on the size of the baking dish. Serve with cream or ice-cream.