Using your fingers, a fork, or a pastry cutter, work the butter into the dry ingredients until large heavy crumbs are formed.
There will be a crumble of one kind or another on my table from now until Thanksgiving. Not to mention crisps and cobblers. Making any of these is so easy that you barely need a recipe; in fact, one basic recipe with some variations will serve for each. The only requirement is fresh summer fruit, the riper and closer to jamminess the better.
Crumbles, crisps, and cobblers are humbler and more fruit-forward than their more elegant pie and tart cousins. I typically add a minimal amount of sugar or spices and let the fruit speak for itself.
I also don't usually bother measuring or weighing the fruit I buy for a crumble. When shopping, I imagine my baking dish and then grab as much fruit as I think I'll need to fill it. Back in my kitchen, I slice the fruit directly into the pan and keep going until it's filled. If I don't have enough fruit, I either settle for a fruit-to-crumble ratio that's closer to 50/50 (not a bad thing) or add a handful of blueberries or another fruit in my bag to round it out.
And don't worry if you see juices puddling at the bottom of the dish after you start to serve. This is normal, especially if you couldn't help diving into the crumble while it was still warm and not quite fully set. A spoonful of these syrupy juices is the perfect finishing touch over the scoop of ice cream you will inevitably want with your crumble.
How to Make a Fruit Crumble
Makes one 8"x8" square pan or 9" pie pan
What You Need
For the filling:
6 - 7 cups fruit, enough to almost fill pan
1/2 - 1 cup sugar, to taste
1-3 teaspoons lemon juice, to taste
1-3 tablespoons cornstarch, depending on juiciness of fruit
1 teaspoon spice, like cinnamon, ginger, or nutmeg (optional)
For the crumble topping:
1 cup (5 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (4 ounces) brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
8"x8" baking dish or
9"x9" baking dish or
9" pie dish
Heat oven to 375°F.
1. Prepare the Fruit Filling: If necessary, dice the fruit into bite-sized pieces. Toss the fruit with sugar, lemon juice, cornstarch, and any spices. Use more sugar and less lemon juice when cooking with tart fruits like rhubarb and blackberries, and less sugar but more lemon juice for sweet fruits like peaches and plums. Best is to taste a piece of fruit and adjust to taste. Use more cornstarch with very juicy fruits like plums and less with firm fruits like apples. But don't worry; no matter your ratio of these ingredients, your crumble will be delicious.
Pour the fruit filling into the baking dish.
2. Prepare the Crumble Topping: Thoroughly mix the flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt for the crumble topping. Break the butter into a few large pieces and toss these in the dry ingredients. Using your fingers, a fork, or a pastry cutter, work the butter into the dry ingredients until large heavy crumbs are formed.
3. Top the Fruit Filling: Pour the crumble topping evenly over the fruit.
4. Bake the Crumbe: Bake the crumblefor 30-35 minutes until the fruit juices are bubbling around the edges of the pan and the topping is firm to the touch.
5. Cool and Store the Crumble: Let the crumble cool for at least 15 minutes before eating. If transporting to a picnic or party, let the crumble cool completely to give the fruit filling time to set. Crumbles will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to a week. Serve cold, room temperature, or re-warmed in a low oven for 20 minutes.
• Using a 9"x13" Pan: Increase the fruit to 10-11 cups, adjusting the other filling ingredients to match. Increase all the crumble topping ingredients by half (1 1/2 cups flour, etc.), except for the baking powder.
• To Make a Crisp: Add 1/2 cup of old-fashioned rolled oats or 1/2 cup chopped nuts (or both) to the topping.
• To Make a Cobbler: Press the crumbs into biscuit-sized patties and arrange them in a single layer over the fruit.
• Flour Substitutions: Try subbing another flour for all or some of the AP flour in this recipe. Almond flour, spelt flour, and barley flour would all make delicious crumbles and cobblers.
• Sugar Substitutions: Swap the brown sugar for white sugar for a lighter flavor, especially for cobblers. Feel free to experiment with other sugars in your cupboard as well.