Welcome Apple Season with a Humble Crumble

Isn’t it funny how some days you can be humming along, getting all sorts of things accomplished with nary a thought of fruit crumble, and then someone drops off a bag of Dudley apples from Hauser’s Superior View Farm in Bayfield, Wisconsin, and casually mentions they’re supposed to be good baking apples, and suddenly, you can’t get crumble off the brain? Not even for one minute? Not even for one second?

A few days ago, a long time friend of my mom’s paid me a visit. Gretchen is the closest thing I have to a fairy godmother, and any time she flies in from Michigan to see her mother, the sweet Grandma Bunny, she pops over to drop off some trinket or treasure she brings back from Bayfield, Wisconsin, which in her mind rivals Lake Harriet as one of the best places on earth. There have been little beaded baby moccasins, gorgeous hand-blown glass pen holders, and beautiful children’s books about Lake Superior, animals of the upper midwest, and scat identification. And, there are always brochures. Lots and lots of brochures. I think Gretchen is tickled by the fact that I ended up living blocks from the place where she grew up and would like us to vacation blocks from where she vacationed as a girl as well.

I would like to thank Gretchen for the apples (and I promise we will go to Bayfield soon!) because not only are they delicious on their own, they make a mean crumble, if I do say so myself. I think crumbles are fantastic, mostly because they are a dessert that comes together like a savory dish, where you really can add a dash of this and a sprinkle of that and a handful of this and get away with it. Perhaps it’s self serving, since I’m such a sloppy and impatient measurer, but I can’t think of another dessert as humble and homely that tastes as sublimely satisfying. It’s really hard to mess up a crumble and that, my friends, is a beautiful thing.

This recipe is basic and no frills, but it’s delicious. I usually double the amount of the topping and freeze it in different size Tupperware containers, so it’s a snap to throw a crumble together should some fruit come rolling through my door. Sometimes I need to make crumble for a crowd and I use the whole amount, but just as often, I’ll make a mini crumble for two, because, honestly, what can be cuter than a mini crumble for two? (Sadly, I think the mini crumble for two may be a thing of the past since my two oldest kids discovered they now love crumble.)

Aside from when I use rhubarb, I’ve lately been omitting the sugar from the fruit portion of the crumble. For my taste, the topping is sweet enough, especially if you’re going to be dolling it up with a little vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, or crème fraiche. I also like the fruit to have a bit of a bite to it, so I cut it in larger wedges, as opposed to the thin slices called for in many recipes. It also helps to use a firm fleshed apple like Dudley, Cortland, Jonathan, Honeycrisp or Grannysmith. If I’m buying at an orchard or farmers market, I ask the grower about the best baking apples because I love to hear their enthusiastic and lyrical descriptions. The crumble pictured above contains a small palm full of frozen blueberries from when we went blueberry picking this summer, and I love the color they add. (Note to self: pick and freeze way more blueberries next summer.)

I’ve experimented with all sorts of combinations of berries, stone fruits, rhubarb and apples and never made a bad crumble. I’ve also thought about adding almonds or ginger to the topping, but I haven’t. I'm not sure why. I suppose I just like my crumble... not fancy.

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Apple (and a tiny bit Blueberry) Crumble

For the fruit:

5 - 7 good baking apples, peeled, cored and cut into wedges

small handful of blueberries

juice of ½ lemon

2 Tablespoons granulated sugar

¾ teaspoon cinnamon

For the topping:

2 cups quick-cooking oats

2 cups lightly packed brown sugar

1 cup flour

½ teaspoon salt

2 sticks plus 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter

1. Mix topping ingredients with your hands until butter is incorporated and it looks like crumble topping.

2. Place fruit mixture in 9 x 11 baking dish, top with crumble, and bake at 375 degrees for 35 - 40 minutes. Cool for 30 minutes.



Gabriela Lambert is a frequent contributor to Simple, Good and Tasty. You can also read more of her writing on her blog