As you might know if you peruse this website regularly, I am a big fan of pie and pie-related things. Under the latter category: the fruit crumble. There’s really no better way to use up your blueberry-picking bounty or the multitude of apples from that recent orchard excursion. There are as many crumble recipes, though, as there are pear varietals: Yours is probably great, because it’s a crumble, but what about one that’s really exemplary?
Search no longer, because here it is. It comes to us from Shelley Young, founder of The Chopping Block, a cooking school and retail store in Chicago. Shelley is friends with my husband. And she’s a really good friend to have, the kind who brings astonishingly good white wine from Aldi for dinner, as well as desserts that grown-ass adults will wrestle over.
The last time we saw Shelley, she brought this amazing blueberry crumble, so I soon hounded her for the recipe. As gracious as ever, she not only provided it, she tossed in a few tips she’s amassed over the years to make her crumble stand out amongst all crumbles (she calls it a crisp, though; I’m calling it a crumble).
First off: ingredients. She says she likes to use equal amounts of white and brown sugar in the topping—brown sugar for richness, white sugar for crispy-crunch. She also sways between oatmeal and nuts: “I don’t always do oatmeal, I just like the texture sometimes. Same thing with nuts, sometimes I use them sometimes I don’t.”
Once you’ve mixed everything together for the topping, make it in the food processor to keep the butter as cold as possible. “That way it doesn’t turn to mush from my warm hands but keeps more of a crumbly texture.” She likes to “squeeze the topping in my hands quickly to create big clumpy chunks; I think everyone likes those.” Then she places these clumps around instead topping the whole pan with the filling, which leaves openings between the topping for the steam to escape and keeps “the fruit filling from bubbling all over the topping and making it soggy.”
Finally, pay close attention to the ratio of filling to topping. Shelley usually likes about 2 to 3 inches of fruit at the most in the bottom of the pan. That ratio “keeps the filling from bubbling over the top of the crispy topping so it stays crunchy, but also because people like a good amount of topping to their fruit in my experience.”
The crumble Shelley brought to our dinner was blueberry, and she credited its deliciousness to an exceptionally great blueberry crop. Yeah, but it was also about the topping, and the cooking method. I tried to replicate it with some blueberries, raspberries, and apples, but take it from me: Everything’s just going to taste like blueberries anyway. Still, it tasted awesome and everybody in my office devoured it gleefully. I bet this would also be great with any type of pears, maybe dotted with some dried apricots. Really, I can’t wait to put together a multitude of different fruit combos, as long as they’re baked beneath this topping.
Makes 6–8 servings
For the topping
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 7 Tbsp. unsalted butter, chilled, cut into small pieces
- 1 cup chopped nuts and/or oatmeal (optional)
For the filling
- 6 cups fruit, peeled, pitted, or cored (apples, peaches, pears, berries, etc., or a combination) and cut into 1- or 2-inch chunks
- 1/4–1/2 cup sugar
- 3-4 Tbsp. cornstarch or flour
- 1/2 lemon, freshly squeezed
Combine flour, sugars, spices, and salt in a food processor or large mixing bowl. Add butter and process until crumbly. Add nuts and combine briefly. Place in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Combine filling ingredients in a bowl until thoroughly mixed. Transfer to a large buttered baking dish so the fruit is arranged in a thin layer.
Sprinkle topping evenly over fruit. Bake at 350 degrees F until filling is bubbly and top is brown, about 40 minutes. (Shelley says once the filling is hot in the center, “that’s how you know it’s done.”) Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream or ice cream.