HOW TO MAKE A TASTY FRUIT CRUMBLE
I recently popped to a local farm with my teenage boys, looking for something fun to do in the sunshine. We ended up spending a happy hour picking some fruit and I set about making some jam and a tasty plum crumble.
Fruit crumbles are a simple pudding, designed to showcase the fruit with a crispy and sweet topping, usually served with lashings of either cream or custard. Made from a small combination of ingredients, crumbles can be adjusted to suit your favourite fruit or the fruit that is in season. I have detailed below each of the key elements to make a great crumble so you can make a tasty crumble with the ingredients you have in your home or you find in your local shops.
A fruit crumble is a traditional British pudding so fruit crumbles are usually made with fruit that is commonly grown in the UK - namely apples, pears, plums, blackberries, raspberries, rhubarb, gooseberries and strawberries. That isn't to say the you couldn't make this with mangoes, pineapples or even bananas... they just aren't as common (and the finished texture of the cooked bananas might be an acquired taste!).
In terms of quantities, you need as much fruit as generously fills the base of your dish. It will soften as it cooks so bear that in mind when you fill the dish.
The Sugar for the fruit.
The sugar most commonly used here is a soft brown or a maple syrup, to give that soft, sweet, caramel flavour. Sharper fruits like rhubarb or plums need a little more, and sweet fruits like a gala apples, might need a little less, just taste the fruit before cooking and sweeten as much as you need. Don't forget that you don't need to use cooking apples, any kind of apple works in the crumble, the finished texture will just be softer with a cooking apple.
I used to make crumbles without adding something like a squeeze of lemon or a drizzle of fruity vinegar but having experimented, this extra zing cuts through the sweetness of the topping and allows the fruit to shine.
The Thickening Agent.
Every fruit will release their juices as they cook and adding a little cornstarch to the base mixture will thicken the juices as the crumble cooks, leaving you with a thick and oozy crumble.
The Crumble Topping.
This is actually a very simple ratio of ingredients - half the amount of butter to the flour ingredients. Then add roughly the same amount of sugar to the butter. You can have a little play with the flour ingredients and add oats or ground almonds, or you can keep it simple to just plain flour. I also prefer the added texture of demerara sugar, but you can use any sugar.
Crumble is brilliantly flexible and can take all sorts of tweaks. For example, a sprinkle of cinnamon in an apple crumble works perfectly, or combining apple and blackberries together, adding some local honey to pears, adding marzipan and ground almonds to raspberries... the are so many possibilities. Have fun, play with flavours and see what happens! You can also replace the flour with gluten free flour and replace the butter with dairy free butter.
RECIPE FOR PLUM CRUMBLE
100g soft butter (any kind - I used dairy free)
100g plain flour
100g demerara sugar
1 large punnet of fresh plums
175g of maple syrup
1-2tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 heaped tsp corn flour
pinch of salt
Pre-heat the oven to 180fan/gas 6.
Cut the plums in half and lay them into an overproof dish, skins down. In a measuring jug, mix together the maple syrup, balsamic vinegar, salt and corn flour until there are no lumps from the cornflour. Pour over the plums and make sure they are evenly coated.
In a bowl, with your hands, rub together the butter, the flour and the oats until your get a soft, crumbly mix. Place this mixture over the fruit, leaving a boarder around the edge so the fruit bubbles up the sides in the oven. Then sprinkle ovver the sugar.
Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes until the top is a light brown and the fruit is bubbling. Served with cream or thick custard.