Cooking Without Recipes: How To Make Streusel or Crumble Topping for Baked Fruit

We've been talking consistently this month about learning to cook without recipes. We have a few formulas and basic recipes that let us create free-form dishes on the spur of the moment. When it comes to dessert, one of these is crumble topping for baked fruit.

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We love apple crisp, berry crumble, and all kinds of baked fruit with crumbly, oaty, sweet crispy toppings. The basic formula for a crumble topping is very easy, and it can be switched up easily depending on the fruit underneath. Apples in the fall? Add plenty of cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Fresh spring berries? Just a hint of ginger or a touch of vanilla.

You can mix in nuts, or not. You can add dried herbs or fresh mint. It's a go-to formula for us; we use it all the time.

The other side of this great flexibility is that you also have a lot of room in the formula itself. We simply didn't have enough butter for a proper crispy and crumbly topping the other night, so we moistened it with a little water and it baked into a slightly cakey and soft topping for fresh rhubarb, which turned out to be just right.

Experiment until you get the texture you want - it's nearly impossible to mess this up! And check back tomorrow for the full recipe for the rhubarb crumble here - we've made it twice this week already...

Basic Oat Crumble Topping for Fruit - Crispy Version
tops a 9x13 pan

1 1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup flour
1 cup packed light brown sugar
Spices - cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger
Pinch of salt
Nuts (optional)
1 cup (two sticks) unsalted butter

Mix the dry ingredients then cut the butter into pieces and work it into the mixed ingredients with your fingers gently until it resembles coarse crumbs. Work in the nuts, if using. Sprinkle the fruit with the crumbs evenly. Bake at 375 as directed for the pie or crumble you're making. (Usually bake this topping in the range of 45 minutes.)

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Basic Oat Crumble Topping for Fruit - Softer Version
tops a 9x13 pan

1 1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
Spices - cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger
Pinch of salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Nuts (optional)
Water or milk

Mix the dry ingredients. Stir in the melted butter. Add just enough water or milk so that the mix comes together in loose clumps - not too wet. Stir in the nuts, if using. Dot the fruit with the mixture evenly and bake at 375 for about 45 minutes.

(Image: Faith Hopler)

Per serving, based on 10 servings. (% daily value)
Calories
476
Fat
25.9 g (39.8%)
Saturated
15.6 g (78%)
Trans
1 g
Carbs
58.4 g (19.5%)
Fiber
2.8 g (11.2%)
Sugars
32.3 g
Protein
4.8 g (9.6%)
Cholesterol
64.1 mg (21.4%)
Sodium
14.2 mg (0.6%)

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