Chocolate is my default dessert mode. I eat enough berries, peaches, apricots and plums out of hand in the summer that I never feel a great urgency to use them when I’m baking. But then something like this Summer Fruit Crumble comes along and I’m reminded how delightful it is to incorporate some of the season’s best fruit into a simple, comforting treat.
A blueberry crumble from the late, great cookbook author Maida Heatter caught my eye. Blueberries are wonderful, of course, and you won’t go wrong if you only use them. My favorite rendition, however, was a mixed berry number, with blueberries, blackberries, cherries and raspberries. Peaches were quite nice, too, if a little soupier. The bottom line - use whatever you like or have in excess.
Be sure your butter for the streusel-like topping is cold. Chilling the butter is extra insurance against it melting into the rest of the ingredients as you work it in with your hands. That way, you get enticing nuggets of topping (large crumbs are not only good, but encouraged) rather than a cohesive sand. The end result is crunchy and a little rich and, true to Heatter’s promise, stays crisp well after the crumble comes out of the oven. Nuts (again, take your pick) add an extra layer of texture and flavor, but feel free to leave them out if you prefer, for allergy or any other reasons.
Ideally, you’ll be making this in an 11-by-8-inch baking dish, with sides at least 2 inches tall. If that’s not in your cabinet, try for a similar dish whose volume is at least 2 quarts. We also tested this in a 9-inch square dish, which may require a few more minutes of baking time. A ceramic or other non-glass dish is preferable, because they can tolerate being run under the broiler, which helps brown the topping. If glass is all you have, you can use it, but skip broiling. The crumble will still be attractive and delicious.
A dessert like this naturally calls for being served with ice cream, heavy cream or whipped cream - and a healthy dose of summer sunshine.
SUMMER FRUIT CRUMBLE
Active: 30 minutes | Total: 55 minutes
6 to 8 servings
This all-American fruit dessert is classic, comforting and easy to customize and assemble. The recipe takes especially well to summer fruit. Use a single variety or a mix.
Recipe notes: The unbaked crumble can be covered and refrigerated for up to a day in advance.
FOR THE FRUIT
Unsalted butter, for the baking dish
1/3 cup (77 grams) packed light or dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons (30 grams) flour
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 cups fresh fruit, such as blackberries, peaches, raspberries, blueberries, plums, cherries or apricots (pitted and coarsely chopped or sliced, as needed)
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
FOR THE CRUMBLE
1/2 cup (70 grams) flour
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, preferably freshly grated
1/4 cup (49 grams) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (111 grams) packed light or dark brown sugar
8 tablespoons (4 ounces; 1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (56 grams; do not use quick-cooking or instant)
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1 cup toasted nuts (about 4 ounces) of your choice, such as pecans, almonds or hazelnuts, chopped (optional; see NOTE)
For the fruit: Generously grease your baking dish with butter.
Combine the brown sugar, flour and cinnamon in a mixing bowl. Add the fruit; use a flexible spatula to gently toss together. Transfer the mixture to the baking dish, spreading it evenly. If there is any remaining sugar mixture at the bottom of the bowl, scatter it evenly over the fruit, then drizzle the lemon juice evenly over it. Wipe out the bowl, because you’ll use it for the next step.
For the crumble: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Whisk or sift together the flour, nutmeg and granulated sugar in the same mixing bowl. Add the brown sugar, stirring to incorporate. Add the butter; use your fingers, a pastry blender or two table knives to quickly work the butter into the dry ingredients until it resembles coarse crumbs (not too fine). Stir in the oats.
To assemble, scatter the nuts, if using, over the fruit. Then scatter the crumble topping evenly over the top.
Bake (middle rack) for 25 to 30 minutes, until the fruit is bubbling at the edges. Switch the oven to broil for a minute or so to further brown the crumble topping a bit - watch it carefully to avoid burning.
Serve warm, or at room temperature.
NOTE: Toast the nuts in a small, dry skillet over medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes, until lightly browned and fragrant, shaking the pan to avoid scorching. Cool completely before using.
Nutrition (based on 8 servings) | Calories: 330; Total Fat: 12 g; Saturated Fat: 8 g; Cholesterol: 30 mg; Sodium: 0 mg; Carbohydrates: 56 g; Dietary Fiber: 5 g; Sugars: 38 g; Protein: 3 g.
Source: Adapted from “Maida Heatter’s Book of Great American Desserts,” by Maida Heatter (Alfred A. Knopf, 1985)