I like to bake cakes, but what I really like to eat is pie. And though I’d be the first to tell you that pie Isn’t That Hard to Make, sometimes (just about any evening during a hot and sticky summer) you just want dessert with the smallest amount of effort possible. This is it. You don’t need any special equipment, you don’t need to wait until the ingredients are the perfect temperature. Just chop, mix, bake and eat. Come to think of it, this crumble is the perfect recipe for a vacation, when you’re cooking in an unfamiliar and perhaps poorly equipped kitchen. It’s also perfect when you have an eager helper whose enthusiasm eclipses his coordination. It’s a great stand-in for pie because the crumble has the quality of short pastry rather than the fluffiness of a biscuit topping. One evening I threw it together with some overripe peaches just as we were getting dinner on the table, and it was ready by the time the plates were cleared.
The recipe comes from Jamie Oliver, the Naked Chef, and it’s everything that’s best about his recipes. It highlights fresh ingredients, it’s simple, and it accommodates variation and experimentation. It’s just a formula, and you plug in the variables. (Pardon my unlikely math analogies.) Try it–you can’t go wrong.
As you can see, my helper and I used strawberries and rhubarb, and brown sugar on the fruit. I almost always substitute half the flour with oats. I’ve used whole wheat pastry flour instead of all-purpose flour. Some fruits might welcome a bit of lemon juice or zest, or maybe a bit of ginger or cinnamon.
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup butter, cut into small chunks
1/3 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 lb. fruit, washed and prepared
3 T. sugar
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Mix up the crumble ingredients however you like–in a food processor, a mixer, with a spoon, or–my favorite–just rub the mixture between your fingers until the butter is evenly distributed. Put the fruit into a shallow ovenproof dish and sprinkle with the sugar. Spread the crumble over the fruit. (I like to squeeze the dough into little clumps, but that’s just me.) Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the top is golden and the fruit is bubbly.
Serve with ice cream or whipped cream or yogurt (and call it breakfast).