Crumble is a wildly simple fruit recipe topped with a crisp, buttery crumb topping that turns any fruit into a stunning dessert. It's perfectly suited for summer brunches and backyard BBQs alike. Making crumble is so easy that you barely need a recipe. Once you know the basics of making a crumble topping and how to prepare the fruit filling, you can choose any fruit or combination of fruit from any season. Here are the three essential steps you need to know for making a classic fruit crumble.
What Is a Crumble?
Crumbles are part of a family of fruit desserts that include crisps and crumbles. Crumble has a streusel-meets-pastry topping that is both crisp and craggle-filled, while the underside is softened by the fruit juices. Crumbles are 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.
Here are the three steps you need to know for any kind of fruit crumble.
- Selecting and preparing the fruit.
- Making the crumble topping.
- Baking and serving the crumble.
Selecting and Preparing Fruit for Crumble
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. As a general rule, 1 1/2 pounds of fruit will fill most baking dishes. 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.
Making Crumble Topping
Crumb topping can be as simple as flour and sugar thickened with butter, but two small upgrades make for a tastier crumble topping. First, adding a teaspoon of baking soda to the flour mixture makes the crumble topping more tender. Second, using cold butter and working it into the flour mixture makes for a pastry-like topping reminiscent of pie crust.
Pro tip: Crumble topping freezes incredibly well and can be kept on hand for crumble anytime.
Read more here: An Ingenious Trick for Easy Fruit Crumble All Summer Long
Baking Fruit Crumble
Fruit crumble's baking success depends on two things: a hot oven and a bubbling filling. Crumble requires more baking time than you think; the top should be brown and the filling should be bubbling. In order to thicken properly, the corn starch in the filling must boil, which is why bubbling is a key indicator for doneness. If you're concerned about bubbling over in the oven, you can lay a piece of foil or a baking sheet on the rack under the baking dish.
Serving Fruit Crumble
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 perfect drizzled over the scoop of ice cream you will inevitably want with your crumble.
How To Make a Fruit Crumble
What You Need
For the filling:
6 to 7 cups fruit, enough to almost fill pan
1/2 to 1 cup granulated sugar, depending on the sweetness of the fruit
1 to 3 teaspoons lemon juice, to taste
1 to 3 tablespoons cornstarch, depending on juiciness of fruit
1 teaspoon ground spice, such as cinnamon, ginger, or nutmeg (optional)
For the crumble topping:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
9x9-inch or 11x7-inch baking dish
Gallon-size zip-top freezer bag (optional)
- Heat oven to 375°F and prepare the baking dish. Arrange a rack in the middle of the the oven and heat to 375°F. Coat 9x9-inch or 11x7-inch baking dish with butter; set aside.
- Prepare the fruit filling. If necessary, dice the fruit into bite-sized pieces, removing any stems, seeds, or inedible parts. 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. Transfer the fruit filling into the baking dish.
- Prepare the crumble topping. Whisk the flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl. Cut 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.
- Scatter the crumble over the fruit. Pour the crumble topping evenly over the fruit.
- Bake the crumble. Bake until the fruit juices are bubbling around the edges of the pan and the topping is firm to the touch, 30 to 35 minutes.
- Cool the crumble. Let the crumble cool for at least 15 minutes before serving. If transporting to a picnic or party, let the crumble cool completely to give the fruit filling time to set.
- Storage: Crumbles will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to 1 week. Serve cold, room temperature, or re-warmed in a low oven for 20 minutes.
- Using a 9x13-inch pan: Increase the fruit to 10 to 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 all-purpose 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.