The word ‘authentic’ is in the title because crumble is intended as an all-in-one pudding, probably the easiest of baked desserts to prepare.
It is unfathomable that French and American cooks, whether on television or at home, would separate the crumble mix from the fruit then marry them up only when serving. That is a food sacrilege, a violation of the crumble principle: keep it simple. The idea is to get a transition — rather than a sharp contrast — from the crunchy crumble topping to a melding of fruit and topping.
With Britain’s Mothering Sunday coming up in a few days’ time on Laetare Sunday, a delicious fruit crumble is a delightful treat with which to surprise Mum. Children will enjoy mixing the crumble topping. Dad or an older son / daughter can take care of oven duties.
You will need a medium-sized Pyrex-type dish with deep sides or standard pie dish (nothing too large) and a medium-sized mixing bowl.
Authentic English Fruit Crumble
(Prep time: 10 – 15 minutes; baking time: 30 – 40 minutes; yield: four to six portions)
250 – 300g (8 – 10 oz.) fresh or frozen fruit (plums [pips removed], soft fruits and/or apples, which should be peeled and cored)
1 – 2 tbsp sugar (depending on the tartness of the fruit — sample the fruit beforehand to determine)
140g (5 oz.) plain flour
80 g (3 oz.) light brown sugar
50 g (2 oz) cubes of softened butter or butter spread (70% butter, 30% vegetable oil)
1/ Preheat oven to 190° C (375° F) for a conventional cooker (180° C — 350°F — for a fan — convection — oven).
2/ Slice fruit (e.g. plums, apples) in thin or thinnish slices, if necessary. One plum — no pip — should yield eight slices. An apple should be cut in slices of 1/2 a centimetre or 1/8″. If you are using cherries, please ensure you remove the stones beforehand. You can do this with a cherry stoner or by carefully cutting part of the cherry and squeezing out the stone.
3/ Place fruit in the Pyrex dish.
4/ Sprinkle 1 – 2 tbsp sugar evenly over the fruit.
5/ In a medium-sized bowl rub together with your (clean!) fingertips the plain flour, light brown sugar and butter or butter spread cubes until you get a sandy texture. This will take a few minutes. Some Englishwomen rub the flour and butter together first, then add the brown sugar, rubbing the three ingredients together again until well incorporated.
6/ Sprinkle the crumble topping evenly all over the fruit, ensuring you reach the edges of the dish.
7/ Place the crumble in the oven and bake for 30 – 40 minutes. Check after 30 minutes and see step 8 to determine whether it is done. The length of time depends on the type and the ripeness of the fruit.
8/ The crumble will be done when the fruit and juices boil rapidly underneath the crumble topping. The crumble topping should be golden brown. N.B.: If the fruit begins to ‘weep’ along the outer edges of the dish, the crumble is definitely done. Try to avoid this, although it is a common occurrence with frozen fruit.
9/ Remove the crumble from the oven and place on a trivet or chopping board to cool for approximately one hour. Hot fruit is bad for the digestion.
10/ Spoon into dishes and serve with vanilla custard, crème Chantilly or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
11/ To store, cover and leave in a cool place (larder or refrigerator). To serve the next day, remove from your cool storage space and allow it to reach room temperature. Do not reheat, otherwise the crumble topping will melt and become soggy.