Everyone who knows me would be surprised that my first entry in the desserts section of my blog is not chocolate! Well, it's because until now I had not baked a crumble (and a cobbler, but more on in a future post). A crumble is not just a post-meal dessert. It's versatile enough to be eaten as a scrumptious breakfast or a hearty snack. So you'll find it under my breakfast and snacks section too.
If you'd have read my vegetarian shepherd's pie post, you'd understand how much I have been enticed with English baked goodies. My sweet tooth is more prone to western, and especially European desserts than the Indian mithais. Thus, the second thing (first was chocolate cake, duh!) that I learned to bake was a crumble. This rhubarb and strawberry crumble has my heart, and if you read further you'll know more on
what I've done differently with this crumble.
Rhubarb is my latest fascination. I had never eaten it until I came to Canada, and my knowledge of the association of rhubarb with spring had been limited to seeing it in pictures (the famous one being Henry Clark of Skagway holding a yardstick to show the size of his large rhubarb in the Clark farm) or reading about it. Until we moved to Whitehorse from Toronto, I never knew rhubarb was so celebrated in Alaska and that it was a gleam of hope for the Klondike gold rush enthusiasts who had little access to fresh produce.
The name crumble for the baked fruit desserts originates in England, and a crumble is quite similar to a crisp. A traditional crisp has oats in it while a crumble does not. Over time, both these names have been used interchangeably for baked desserts made with fresh fruit layered with a streusel-like topping, a crumbly mixture of flour, butter and sugar.
How is this crumble different from the so many crumbles out there?
To be honest, I can't say no one else would have thought of this or if my rhubarb strawberry crumble is one of a kind. What I can say is that I followed my gut and tried to experiment with the typical crumble topping. I did not have rolled oats (usually used in crisps), and I wanted to add something nutty. So, I used flaked almonds. As I love the smell of cardamom in Indian sweets and Indian masala chai, I felt sure that adding it to a non-Indian dessert wouldn't be a failure. I have also used a tiny bit of fennel seeds in the rhubarb strawberry mix as it produces a nice aroma while the fruit (strawberry) and vegetable (rhubarb) bake and melt.
Will making a crumble take a lot of time?
I don't call myself a baker. I'm still learning to bake, and if I say that it's one of the easiest and fastest things to bake, you've got to believe it! A crumble does not require a cake or cookie like batter. You're simply cutting and rubbing off flour with chunks of cold butter, and then mixing sugar into it. No cooling, no folding! You get the picture.
What fruits can I use to make a crumble?
All pulpy summery fruits make amazing candidates for a crumble. Rhubarb, strawberries, stone fruits, raspberries, mangoes—the possibilities are endless. I have made a crumble with a single fruit and a combination as well, and every time it comes out delicious.
Can I eat a crumble as is or do I need to serve it with something?
More than me, my husband is a big crumble fan. And, he loves to have it as is, add to his cereals and even with yogurt. You can also have it with fresh custard or a scoops of ice cream.
I made a big batch of the crumble for two people, my husband and I. So, we enjoyed the out-of-the-oven crumble with some egg-less almond milk custard (wait, you want the custard recipe too? coming soon...promise!), and the leftovers with our breakfast cereals the next day.
What is that one tip to make a good crumble?
There are three. From what I have learnt, I can say that whatever quantity of flour you take to make the crumble topping, take at least half the quantity of butter. Make sure your butter is cold and while you rub it into your flour, do not make tiny bits of all the butter pieces. Let some them remain chunky, and those are the ones that lend a nice texture to your crumble.
For the fruit mix:
3-4 long fresh rhubarb stems
1 cup fresh strawberries
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1/2 to 3/4 cup of Golden sugar
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
2 tsp cornstarch
For the crumble mix:
1 and 3/4 cup (about 225 gm) all purpose flour
1/2 cup (100 to 110 gm) unsalted grass fed butter cold
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 pinch of salt
2 tbsp flaked almonds
1/2 tsp cardamom powder
Setup the oven:
Preheat oven to 400ºF and grease an oven safe dish or casserole with butter.
Prepare the fruit mix:
Chop the rhubarb into 1-inch pieces and dice the strawberries lengthwise.
In a large bowl, add all the ingredients mentioned under fruit mix.
Toss everything together and then transfer into the prepared dish.
Make the crumble mixture:
Cube the cold butter and toss it with the flour. Use your clean fingertips to rub the butter cubes into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs, but make sure to keep some chunks of butter large.
Stir in the rest of the ingredients without overworking the flour and butter to ensure the crumble remains crispy.
Bake the crumble:
Add the crumble mix over the rhubarb strawberry mix by gently sprinkling and throwing motion. Do not press the crumble mix on top of the fruit mix. Note: The idea is to loosely top the fruit filling, like a layer of breadcrumbs over the fruits.
Place the dish on a baking tray if your dish is filled too much to the top. This will ensure the drips from the bubbling fruit mix don't spoil your oven.
Bake for about 30 to 40 minutes or until the crumble turns golden and the filling is bubbling away.
You can serve the hot crumble with cold ice cream or yogurt or let it cool a bit and top it up with warm custard or just spoon it up as it is. I'm in heaven already writing about it. You must make it soon to experience this joy!