Sunday, July 07, 2013

A Proper English Crumble

Many years ago, when I lived in Salt Lake City, Utah, my friends and I used to get together on Sunday evenings for a potluck and parlor games. For one particular gathering, one of the attendees, a lovely Englishwoman named Sarah--a professor and dialect coach in the Theatre Department at UU--prepared the most wonderful fresh raspberry crumble. Unlike our American crisps that tend to have oats and/or nuts in the topping, an English crumble has a sandy, shortbread type of topping that is just PERFECT with berries, tasting similar to a linzer cookie.

I am still friends with Sarah (thanks to reconnecting on Facebook), and I asked her if she remembered the recipe, and as it's an old family favorite, she was able to explain how she makes it. However, her amounts were estimations (as she does it by eye and feel) and by weight instead of volume, so I had to do some mathematical calculations and experimentation. I also did a bit of online research to see if there was a common wisdom about the proportion of ingredients, and it seems like it's half as much sugar and butter as flour. However, I tried that, and it wasn't sweet enough to my liking. I prefer to up the sugar to about 75% of the amount of flour. The other important tip from Sarah is that you need a very thick layer of the crumble, so that the fruit juices don't bubble up and submerge the topping. Keeping these things in mind, here is my take on a triple berry crumble, in the English style. I believe I am now ready for the deluge of ripe summer fruit!

Triple Berry Crumble

6 cups berries (I used Wyman's frozen raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries)
1/2 cup sugar
2 heaping tablespoons corn starch
juice and zest of a lemon
1 tablespoon frozen orange juice concentrate
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups flour
2 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups butter (3 sticks), cut into small pieces

Preheat the oven to 350F.
Gently mix the frozen berries with the sugar, corn starch, zest and lemon juice, orange juice concentrate, and vanilla. Set aside while you get on with the cumble.
In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, and salt, then add the pieces of butter. Rub in with your fingertips until the butter is well-distributed and the dough feels sandy (if you squeeze some of it, it should just hold together--like shortbread). 
In a 9x13 baking dish* sprayed with cooking spray, pour in the fruit mixture and even out with a spatula, then add all of the crumble on top. Spread it out evenly with your hands, then pat it down lightly, but don't compact it.
Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for about an hour and fifteen minutes or until the topping is golden brown.
*This makes a party-sized crumble. Feel free to cut the amounts in half and bake in an 8x8 dish.


1 comment:

Ines said...

This is fantastic!