How To Make A Basic Crumble

Feb 27, 2019 | desserts, Recipes

What is a crumble

A crumble is a baked dessert with a fruit base and an oat topping. The fruit can be any number of things from apples to pears, peaches to blueberries.

I love crumbles for three main reasons. They are easy to make. They’re versatile. And, they are delicious.

As I said, a crumble is made up a fruit base and a oat topping. That’s really it. So, let’s take a look at these two elements separately and then we can put them together.

The Oat Topping

The topping of a crumble is really what gives the dessert it’s name. It is a “crumble” topping. Which is essentially just a light granola.

The base of this topping is oats, brown sugar, flour, and butter. To this, seasonings like cinnamon and nutmeg are often added as well as a pinch of salt.

A quick Google search of apple crumble recipes will show you that there is no one way to make a crumble. Every site has different recipes and different ratios. My preference is three parts each of oats and flour (I always use gluten-free for both), four parts brown sugar and then two parts butter.

Ratios

If you don’t fully understand the ratio here is how it may look for a large pan of crumble:

  • 3/4 cup oats
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 softened butter

For smaller pans of crumble the ratios stay the same but the volumes change.

  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp oats
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup of softened butter

This second formula looks a bit odd. So what’s important to keep in mind is that this doesn’t have to be perfect. If you add a little less oats and flour or a little more it’s not going to make too much of a difference. With that in mind you could easily change the above recipe to:

  • 1/3 cup oats
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup softened butter

In this formula the ratio of oats and flour to sugar and butter is slightly off. However, it’s not going to have that much of an effect. That’s another reason why I love crumbles. Precision isn’t necessary.

Other Ingredients

To the basic crumble recipe spices like cinnamon and nutmeg can be added. So to can a bit of lemon or orange zest and of course, a pinch of salt. The amounts of these ingredients really comes down to personal preference. Generally, for a full batch of crumble I would say:

  • 1/2 a tsp of cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp of nutmeg
  • a pinch of salt.

If opting for citrus zest, use zest from half the fruit. For the smaller portion, half all the ingredients.

How to make the crumble topping

Making the topping is a fairly straight forward process.

  • Put all the ingredients in a bowl and using your hands rub the mixture together, or use a pastry blender.
  • Do this until all the butter has been incorporated.
  • As the name suggests, the topping is going to be crumbly.
  • Wrap the bowl and put the crumble topping in the fridge until you are ready to use it. It can sit in the fridge for a few days, and freezes well.

The Fruit Base

The base of the crumble is made of fruit that is usually tossed with a mixture of cornstarch, spices, and sugar. The fruit, as I said in the opening can be almost anything. And again, that’s what makes this dessert so great.

Cornstarch

The reason we put cornstarch in the fruit base is because it captures the juices that come out of the fruit and thickens it into a sauce. Flour can be used to do this but I find cornstarch much for effective.

The amount of cornstarch you use is determined by the size of the crumble you are making and the fruit you are using. Peaches and blueberries are going to require more cornstarch than an apple as they have a higher moisture content.

For a full sized apple crumble I would likely only use 2-3 tsp of cornstarch where I would use 1-2 tbsp for blueberries.

Keep in mind the more cornstarch you added the thicker the sauce for your fruit crumble will be and the more the fruit will stay together.

Sugar

Often a bit of sugar is added to the fruit. This has three purposes.

  1. It obviously adds sweetness.
  2. It will lightly caramelize while cooking which will add to the sauce.
  3. It will draw more moisture out of the fruit providing more sauce.

The amount of sugar you use is largely based on personal preference. However, I suggest going fairly light here. You don’t want the fruit to be too sweet. 2 tbsp for a large crisp and 1 tbsp for a small crisp should be plenty.

Seasonings

Just like with the topping, a bit of cinnamon and nutmeg can be added for flavour. However, it is important to remember that if you are adding spices to both the base and the topping of the crumble they can very quickly become overpowering.

I suggest either only using spices in the topping or the base but not both. Of course you can spice both just go light on it.

Citrus

For fruit like apples and pears a bit of lemon juice is often added to prevent the fruit from oxidizing while you are working with it. It also adds a bit of acid which will make the flavour “pop”. I always like to add a bit of citrus zest and juice to my fruit base for this purpose.

Basic Fruit Base Recipe for a large crumble

  • 4 cups of fruit (blueberries, peeled and sliced apples or pears, peaches, or strawberry and rhubarb)
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1-2 tbsp cornstarch (more for wetter fruits like blueberries and ripe peaches)
  • zest and juice from 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 pinch of cinnamon
  • 1 pinch of nutmeg

All these ingredients get tossed together until the fruit is evenly coated.


Putting the crumble together

To put the crumble together you first want to butter a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish. Add the fruit mixture to the dish and spread evenly. Cover the fruit with an even layer of the crumble topping.


Baking the Crumble

The optimal cooking temperature for crumbles seems to be about 375°f. This temperature allows the fruit to cook without burning the topping. The crumble is going to need to bake for between 40 and 60 minutes.

Once the fruit is soft, the edges are bubbling, and the crumble is golden brown it can be taken out of the oven.

It’s best to place the crumble on a sheet pan in the oven. This will collect any overflows that may occur during cooking.

It is best to let the crumble cool for 15 – 45 minutes before serving it. This will give the sauce time to set a little bit.

Serve the crumble with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.


Conclusion

I can’t emphasize enough how great this dessert is. It works all year round and will always please. It can be made in a big dish or even individual portions and frozen.

If you haven’t really played around with crumbles, you should. They will be your new go-to dessert.

2 Comments

  1. Janna Wachter

    Comment
    I made th crumble yet again. This time I saved half for my next crispy with the wormy apples I’ve been rescuing from the orchard outside my partner’s place. I’m keeping the parking lot free of squished apples! I’d send a pic of the crisp but couldn’t. Trust me, lovely and delicious.
    Thanks again for my go to for crisps.
    your fan,
    Janna Wachter
    West Seattle

  2. Chef Ben Kelly

    Hello Janna, I’m so glad that you like the crumble! And, I’m happy to hear that you are keeping all those apples safe from being squished.
    Thank you for your message Janna, I really appreciate it.
    Have a great day!

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