Never in a million years did I think that I would need to consult a recipe for a crumble. I have, after all, been making crumbles for about sixty years, ever since I first started helping my mum to make the Sunday dinner.
Crumbles in those days were very basic, either apple or rhubarb, using Bramley cooking apples bought from the greengrocer van that came round on Friday evenings, or rhubarb from the rhubarb patch at the top of the garden behind the greenhouse. At the right time of year there would be wild blackberries to add to the apples.
They would be made the same way as pastry, half fat to flour, usually margarine, rubbed in by hand. There were no embellishments, just fruit and crumble topping served with Bird's custard. They were not fancy, just plain home cooked fare.
I made my crumbles like this for decades and always had some block margarine in the fridge for that purpose. When I got my first food processor I made my pastry and crumble mix in that which saved a bit of time.
Latterly I have become extremely lazy. Fruit chucked into the bottom of the dish with - quelle horreur - shop bought crumble mix on the top. Maybe sprinkled with a few flaked almonds.
With friends coming round for supper I had decided to make a crumble and thought it was time I should up my game. Hence the hunt for an actual recipe and the first one I liked the look of is by Mary Berry which you can see here. The main difference is that the proportion of butter to flour is greater than half and the sugar used for the topping is demerara. I had plenty of time so even rubbed the butter into the flour by hand!
A crumble is a popular dessert in restaurants in this part of France I had noticed that the topping is often fairly thin, sometimes barely covering the fruit layer. Quite different from my home made crumbles which had a good thick layer of topping. Having decided to use a small bag of my cinnamon baked plums (see here) from the freezer, I supplemented it with a few apples and then wondered if the quantity of crumble in the recipe might be too much. So, I made 1½ times the quantity, used half and put the other half in a bag in the freezer ready for another day.
It was lovely, deep golden and fudgy and the demerara sugar sprinkled on top gave it quite a sparkly, glamorous appearance. This is the way I will be making my crumbles in future.
For the fruit layer
About 12oz plums
2 tblsp soft light brown sugar
a sprinkling of cinnamon
3-4 eating apples
For the crumble topping
9oz plain flour
6oz cold butter, cubed
3oz demerara sugar (plus extra for sprinkling)
*I have used imperial weights, i.e. ounces instead of grams, because that was easier when calculating the increased quantities compared to the original recipe!
Preheat the oven to 200° C / 180° fan / gas mk 6 and butter a suitable shallow baking dish. Mine was about 20cm square.
My plums were ready cooked and in the freezer (see text) but if you are using fresh plums, wash them, cut in half and remove the stones then cut into quarters. Put into a large saucepan with a tblsp of water, the brown sugar and cinnamon. Peel the apples, slice them straight into the pan with the plums (discarding the cores) and cook gently until just soft. Add a little more water if necessary and stir often. Set aside to cool while you make the crumble topping.
To make the crumble topping, put the flour, butter and sugar into a large mixing bowl. Rub together using your fingertips until you have the appearance of breadcrumbs. A few larger clumps will be fine.
Tip the fruit into the baking dish and spread it out evenly. Sprinkle roughly half of the crumble topping over the fruit and bag the other half for the freezer.
Sprinkle a little extra demerara sugar over the top and bake for 20 minutes.
Then lower the oven temperature to 180° C / 160° fan / gas mk 4 and continue baking for a further 20 minutes by which time the topping should be golden brown and the fruit bubbling slightly at the edges of the dish. Keep your eye on it and check after 10 minutes to make sure it's not overcooked or burning.
Serves 6 portions. Plus the extra crumble mix which is frozen for future use. Thaw at room temperature for an hour or so before using.
Update: I have since made the crumble using the food processor instead of rubbing in by hand, stopping before the crumbs were completely even in appearance. In other words, left a few lumpy bits. It was just as good!
I feel compelled to mention here the plate!
At our local déchèterie (council tip or recycling centre) there is a large table where people can put unwanted items that are still good. You can simply help yourself. There were huge piles of crockery the other day and tea plates like this are very useful for the larger gatherings that I sometimes host, or to lend out to others for theirs. They are very pretty so I took six of them.