Although not a massive pudding eater, preferring instead the savoury world of crisps and dips and cheese and biscuits; I do enjoy the odd home made sweet, and my favourites are crumbles. Apple made with half mush and half big chunks, plum with oats sprinkled over the crumble mix, rhubarb to celebrate the first fruit of the year, and damson. Damson has to be the best doesn’t it? The pools of deep pink juice oozing out over the crumble topping; the intense tartness counteracted with crisp sugary crumbs. And it’s always a treat, as the damson season’s so short, and damsons are quite hard to get hold of. When they arrive, it’s the real start of autumn, where you can probably put the flip flops away, and dust down leather boots and big coats. I got mine at my local market, and this year I’m going to go back and buy them by the bagful to cook and freeze for winter-long damson crumbles.
I’ve had a few disasters with crumbles. I’ve burnt the top through too high an oven setting, and added too much fruit and not enough crumble to another. But the most difficult thing to get right is the gooey soggy / crisp ratio isn’t it? My mum makes amazing crumbles, but over the years it’s been very hard to get a recipe out of her – ‘oh I just do it until it feels right’, ‘I’m not sure how much – just until it looks right’ are popular responses. So I had a look here where the Guardian aspire to perfection. But it wasn’t quite right – their version for me is too claggy – I want a more crisp top especially with damsons, whose molten juices soak into the flour so easily. I’ve tried a few oats, as they soak up the juice – but it feels like cheating.
So I’m afraid to say – the last few crumbles (raging successes, if I say so myself) have been mixed, rubbed and crumbled until they just look right. I know.
But here’s a guide, to make a crumble with fairly sharp fruit, and a very sweet, crisp topping. I make it in quite a small dish (about 20cm by 15 cm) so that the layer of crumble is quite thick.
For the fruit:
800g plums or damsons
3 tbsp golden caster sugar
For the crumble:
100g plain flour
200g butter (plus 25g more, sliced and laid over the top of the mix before it goes in the oven)
150g golden caster sugar (plus a little more to sprinkle over the top to crisp up in the oven)
- Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees.
- Wash the fruit and put it in a pan with the sugar. Simmer until all the fruit has squashed (about 5 minutes).
- Leave to cool, and then remove the stones by hand. (This is optional, but the result is so much more eatable). Pour the mixture into a buttered oven proof dish.
- Put the flour and the butter in the food processor and whizz up. (you can also rub the butter in by hand if you like). Stop when it turns into tiny little balls. Some will be larger than others, and you want to leave them like this so that you get a nice variety of crisp crumbs at the end.
- Stir in the sugar and pour the mix on top of the damsons.
- Cook for 35-45 minutes in the oven at 180 degrees.