Never-fail Crumble Recipe

Friday, August 08, 2014

You know those recipes that manage to be fool-proof, fail-safe and crowd-pleasers all at once? The kind that you can whip up with your eyes closed on demand, with whatever ingredients you can manage to find in your fridge? Those recipes fall into two categories, savoury or sweet. While the savoury recipes tend to be a little bit easier to master because they rely largely on taste and less on exact measurements, there are few sweet recipes that are just as easy and simple. Crumble is one of those recipes I turn to when in need of a dessert fix but can't be bothered to grease and line a cake tin and break out those handheld electric beaters. It's easy to adapt to any kind of fruit, and requires little preparation or washing up.

Whenever Granny Smith Apples come into season (and by that I mean sold at a cheap price), this is our go-to recipe that is ideal for cool Autumn and Winter nights.  The great thing about this recipe is that it also works beautifully with Summer fruits like nectarines, raspberries and blueberries.

What I love most about crumble is the oaty, crispy, crumbly top that collapses as soon as you sink your spoon in it, providing a buttery, satisfyingly crunchy blanket over a soft, tart, fruity fiiling. And, unlike cake or pie, crumble does not rely heavily on flour or sugar. The main ingredient here is oats, which provide the chewy texture and toast wonderfully in the oven, and fruit. And, well, who needs a cake full of sugar and butter when you can have a dessert made of 50% fruit? We like to substitute plain flour for wholemeal plain flour to up the goodness a little.

Butter, flour and sugar is crumbled with the hands (an all important step) until sandy and breadcrumb-like, then mixed with lots of oats. The mixture is sprinkled on top of lightly stewed apple, cooked with a hint of cinnamon and sugar and baked in the oven for half and hour or a little more.

What you get when you take the lovely dish (or dishes) out of the oven some time later after impatiently hovering by the oven door for said half and hour is a golden, bubbling layer of crumble concealing a soft, tart apple mess. The corners are caramelised and deliciously brown, the oats forming a flat barrier that plays peek-a-boo with the fruit underneath.

Don't worry too much about the quantity of fruit you'll need to prepare to match the quantity of crumble, this recipe generally fills two to three half a litre baking dishes. Feel free to substitute any fruits in season for the apples. I like nectarine and blueberry, apple and raspberry and apple and rhubarb. With berries and stone fruit you generally don't need to precook them, they get soft easily in the oven. Add rhubarb to the apple in the final 2-3 minutes of cooking (3-4 stalks will be enough) before piling into a baking dish.

Apple Crumble Recipe
Serves 6-10

Basic Crumble:
  • 125g unsalted butter, cold and cubed
  • 1/2 cup plain or wholemeal plain flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup oats
Apple mixture:
  • 5-7 Granny Smith Apples, peel, cored and chopped into 2-3 cm cubes
  • 2 tablespoons caster sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup water
  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcium (fan-forced).
  2. Place all ingredients for the apple mixture into a medium sized saucepan and cook on medium heat for 8-10 minutes or until slightly soft but still holding shape. Once cooked, place in two to three small half-litre baking dishes or a large pie/baking dish.
  3. Meanwhile, place butter, sugar and flour in a medium bowl. Using your fingers, crumble the ingredients with the fingertips, lifting in a upward motion, until the mixture is sandy and resembles large breadcrumbs. Mix in oats. 
  4. Using a spoon or your hands, transfer the crumble on top of the softened and cooled apples, pressing down lightly and ensuring all fruit is covered by the oat mixture.
  5. Bake in oven for 40-45 minutes or until golden and bubbling. 
  6. Serve hot with vanilla ice cream and enjoy!

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  1. Hmmm I definitely haven't eaten enough crumbles this winter. Will have to rectify this as a matter of urgency! Loving your recipe too - the topping is definitely the most important part.

  2. Dear Maddie,

    Your crumble looks like a beautiful winter recipe. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thank you ChopinandMysaucepan! It's such a versatile, simple recipe. One of my favourite desserts!