The crumble, the working class’s quick-as-a-flash version of a full-on pie, is my go-to dessert whenever a crew gathers for a feed—whether formal, informal, or anywhere in between. Like so many foods we have grown up with, it invariably leads to a standing ovation when the last spoon has been licked clean. In this world of gels, dust and foams, we too often forget the beauty of the simplest of dishes.
The only creative process involved in making a crumble is getting the mix right; if you see a recipe that includes oats, toss the recipe and the book in which it appears into the nearest hopper. The crumble refers not to the baked result, but the texture of the butter-flour-sugar mixture—crumby and crumbly. Adding oats and/or coconut, which has come into vogue in recent times, changes the flavour and texture of the crumble mix.
The reality is the crumble topping is the quick and easy way to make a pastry, working from the top down, rather than the bottom up. Look at the recipe: butter, sugar, (self-raising) flour: the perfect mix of flavour, fat and texture.
It’s better to make more of the topping mix rather than run short—it keeps well. It’s also better to make the largest crumble you can conceive, as it reheats beautifully and is great served from the fridge for breakfast. And it’s also better to let your imagination run wild as to what goes under the crumble: apples, pears, quinces, apricots, raspberries, blackcurrants—solo or mixed together, depending on what’s in season—are all stars of the show. Of course you can make the crumble using just your fingers, while listening to a little Bach, Beatles or Beyonce, but the Thermomix does it wonderfully well in seconds.
The best partner for any crumble is your home-made ice cream; or, at the best least, the best pure cream your arteries can survive.
words & recipe Geoff Slattery
For the stewed fruit;
- 8-12 apples, depending on size (you can mix and match with pears or quinces), peeled and chopped into chunks. You will need at least a kilogram of peeled and cored fruit.
- 1 Punnet (125 grams) fresh or frozen raspberries
- 1 lemon, zested and juiced
- 50-80 g sugar—10 per cent sugar to the weight of the fruit (depends on personal taste)
- 50 g water
Crumble topping; (vary weights to fit the amount of fruit mix you have)
- 150 g self-raising flour
- 100 g sugar (any sugar is fine)
- 100 g cold unsalted butter, chopped roughly into cubes. The butter must be cold, and not the tub variety that is mixed to spread easily.
Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
Peel and core the apples, and chop roughly into chunks, and toss with lemon juice to prevent discolouring. The lemon juice and zest also provide great middle flavour to the cooked apples.
Make the topping. Add the flour, sugar and butter to the mixing bowl, and pulse 3 sec/speed 9. “Feel” the mix through the fingers. If not entirely mixed, scrape down sides, and pulse 2 sec/speed 9. Remove from bowl. Rub the mix to incorporate any butter that has not crumbed.
There are so many ways to cook the apples. I prefer to cook them in the microwave, for 10-12 minutes until broken down, but not yet pureed. The microwave also allows for as much fruit as you can peel and chop. If you prefer the Thermomix, you are restricted to about 1 kilo of peeled fruit, but it does produce a wonderful outcome. Put the apple and lemon mix, sugar and water in the bowl, and cook 15 min/100ºC/speed soft/MC on. The mix will have softened, and given off a deal of juice. It’s your choice to whizz to a puree, or leave as softened chunks. Once cooked, taste. If the mix needs more sweetening, add more sugar to taste, and cook for another minute or two. If you make a mistake with the first attempt, you never will again.
Allow the apple mix to cool (it does not have to be cold), add raspberries and stir through, and cover with the crumble topping.
Cook in preheated 180ºC oven for 20−25 minutes, until the topping is firm and browned. Some of the apple mix may bubble through the top. Allow to cool a little so you don’t burn your tongue.
Serve with cream or best vanilla bean ice cream or honey ice cream.