It looks like Irene will have calmed down quite a bit by the time she reaches us, but even so, the high winds of a strong storm are bound to bring down trees and branches, and whenever that happens, the electricity tends to go out. Forget batteries and bottled water—I’m doing some emergency preemptive baking so we’ll have something to sustain us while we watch the rain pound down.
First it’s a quick pear and plum crumble to use up some of the fruit that’s somehow managed to escape being baked already. I know what you’re thinking—hasn’t she made about a dozen crumbles already?—well, yes I have, but I’m trying to show you how versatile they are, and remember the Mario Batali clip about scorpacciata? That applies to crumbles, too. Pretty soon I’ll be ready to move on. But not just yet.
Beautiful pears are starting to show up in the stores, but all by themselves they can be a little bland, so I added in a couple of plums for color and a punch of flavor.
You know the drill by now…the base formula for a crumble topping requires a cup of flour or flour-like substance, 5 tbsp sugar, a pinch of salt, 1/2 tsp of spice, and a 1/2 cup nuts. Then you’re going to rub in 6 tablespoons of soft butter with your hands until the dough is crumbly. For the fruit part I usually don’t add anything but maybe a squeeze of lemon or a touch of flavoring like vanilla or almond extract. If the fruit is extra tart I’ll toss it with a little brown sugar. You can add in a bit of flour for some thickening, but I usually don’t. I like the runny fruit juices.
This master formula can vary in a million ways. The flour can be part oats, part wheat germ, part whole wheat pastry flour, corn flour, whatever floury stuff you want to use. The spices and nuts can be shuffled any way you like. The butter is pretty standard, but even that can be fiddled with. Today I used:
- 1/2 cup of ground almond meal for half of the flour.
- dark brown sugar
- sliced almonds
- 6 tbsp soft butter
- ground cardamom*
I peeled and sliced 3 pears, and sliced 2 plums and added them to my baking pan. I added the juice of 1/2 lemon, and that’s it. I topped the fruit with my crumbly dough and baked at 375 for 45-50 minutes. This crumble serves 4, but you could double it and bake in a 9×13 pan or any large shallow baking dish.
These fruit crumbles have temporarily overtaken muffins and scones as my morning ritual. I’m sure something else will come along eventually to take its place, but until the summer and fall fruits slow down, this is my go to treat.
The first raindrops have just started and we’ve already pretty much decimated the crumble….
* Ground cardamom is an exotic cousin of cinnamon, and even though you’re probably familiar with it in Indian cooking, ground cardamom is also used in baking. Cardamom has a beautiful silvery color and it adds a subtle, pleasantly unfamiliar note to baked foods. You can combine it with cinnamon if you want to.