Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Crumble 'n' cream

This summer has been all about trying to reduce some of the rampant weeds that have taken over the house garden. We've been digging and weeding and cutting and trimming .....and cussing politely lots as we suck prickled fingers or chew on stung forearms.

I took a call pretty early that we wouldn't clear the brambles near the main shed - I could see we had quite enough to do with the rest of the property. This was a source of wild food as soon as autumn came around - our first crop of  own fruit in North Holland.

Blackberries are quite pippy, but they have beautiful rich flavours that are just divine baked in a crumble served with a nice dollop of cream. In fact, a fruit crumble is my go-to recipe for resolving any fruit glut, when the freeze just can't take anymore.

Crumbles come in two parts : the topping and the filling.

Let's start with the topping - the classic 'mix' calls for 1 part flour to 1 part fat and 1 part  sugar by weight. The drier and 'crumbier' you want your topping to be, the more fat/sugar you should add until it is almost equal parts in weight. If you love the crispy biscuity topping style  but want to keep the calories down, increase the fat, and not as much of the sugar.  I personally try and always use butter for the fat, unless I have friends over who can't take milk/lactose products - I find that margarine and other such products produce much less crispy results.

You can also mix the plain flour with other ingredients to give it texture and flavour - replace some with a replacement amount of almond meal or oats to give a nuttier or crunchy top. A touch of cinnamon or ginger in the topping to match with a flavoured filling gives a little zing.

For the fillings you can use combinations of most berries and orchard fruits - household favourites are apple, plum, blackberry, and rhubarb. Spread into the base of the baking tin, sprinkle with sugar or sweetener of choice ( honey, agave syrup, maple syrup) and spice up as desired ( cinnamon, ginger, cloves). Here in the Netherlands, I use speculaas spice - a lovely premixed winter cookie flavouring.   I rarely pre-cook the fruit unless they are particularly hard or particularly acid  as my circle like quite sharp, solid fillings - rhubarb and hard cooking apples are the only two that get a quick zap in a pan with water and sugar beforehand.

When you fill the baking dish with your filling, be aware that the softer the fruit you use in the filling, the more crumble topping you will need as the base of the crumble (crumble DMZ!) will absorb liquids and become a sweet flavoured doughy textured mass. So make sure you make lots of topping - and don't worry if you have too much as you can easily freeze it and use it straight out of the freezer later on.

Pop into a pre-heated oven at 180C/350F and cook for 30 minutes or until bubbling and crispy. If you have little volcanic explosions through the crumble, you either cooked it too long or your crumb was spread unevenly and too thinly. Never mind, they taste divine anyway!

Lastly devour with cream, or custard or evaporated milk. Be careful if it's just come out the oven - the sugar stays hot quite a while!


  1. My mother put crushed walnuts in the crumble to great effect. And coconut milk goes very well with crumble for those who can't take cow's milk.

    Have you got a good crumble recipe for one?

  2. I'm a trial/error cook when it comes to crumble but the base proportions i describe above work in small portions as well as big ones. I suggest you mix up a batch of topping then make the size of oven dish you fancy eating, and freeze the rest of the crumble if you made too much.

    Love the idea of a coconut milk custard!