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square of delicious rhubarb-apple buckle

A buckle is a dessert that demands you invent new adjectives. Is it a pie-y crisp? Or a crisp-esque pan pie? Do you work “cake-y” into the mix? However you choose to describe your buckle, it’s very nice to have both pastry crust and crumb topping involved, and we haven’t even begun to consider the fruit filling. You can buckle with any number of fruits: blueberries, strawberries, apples, peaches, rhubarb, or a mix of fruits like I did. How nice to have different textures, flavors and tartness in each bite.

With a lovely pile of rhubarb (I was tempted to stack it like kindling) in the kitchen, I tried a buckle I’ve been thinking about for some time. I wasn’t interested in making a cake, didn’t have quite enough for a proper pie, so it seemed like just the right recipe for me. After a good experience with blueberries some years ago, I had been curious about further buckle experimentation; I adore the name, and hoped the treat resulting from my experiments would be as nice as its moniker. I was not disappointed. Without making it precious, a buckle feels old-fashioned and homey, with its combination of simple pastry crust, bubbling fruit and buttery crumble. It’s easier to make than a pie or cake, but has such interesting elements that it seems fancy. If you have fresh fruit, wonderful– your imagination is the limit for what you put into the filling. (Most recently, and pictured, I used a sweet-tart mixture of fresh rhubarb and Pink Lady apples; the blend provided complimentary but contrasting flavor and texture.) If you don’t have fresh fruit, consider using that last pint of peaches, plums or apples you put up last summer: I love using my precious pie plums. The golden brown crumble with pretty fruit peeking out, stained glass window-style, is nice to look at– and let’s talk about the taste. If you’re not a fan of butter, this is not the recipe for you. Each bite is first buttery, then sweet-tart from the fruit, then buttery again. You can add ice cream to the mix, but it doesn’t need any.

I’ve always been a fan of cobblers (I won’t pass up my opportunity to make one with the first blackberry harvest this year) and have recently gained confidence in my pie-making skills, but for now I am leaning heavily toward a Buckle Summer. It sounds fun and will taste even better, so what’s not to like? Here are my recipes for both fresh and canned fruit fillings, with crust and crumble enough for TWO 8″ buckles. ‘Cause you will want two. Let us know in the comments what you have used (or plan to use) in your own buckles. Here’s to Buckle Summer!

fresh apple-rhubarb buckle (top) and pie plum buckle (bottom)

Crust and Crumble for TWO! 8″ Square Buckles (adapted from Alexandra Cooks and Martha Stewart)

For the crust for TWO buckles:

  • 1 1/2 c. flour
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 8 T. unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 3 – 4 T. cream

For the crumble for TWO buckles:

  • 1 c. flour
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 6 T. unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into small pieces

To make the crust, whisk the flour, sugar and salt together in a large bowl. Using a pastry cutter, two forks, two knives or your fingers, work the cold butter (keep it refrigerated, already in pieces, until just before you need it) into the dry ingredients until you have evenly-distributed pea-sized pieces throughout. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks with 3 T. cream and add to the other ingredients. Use your hands to mix until the dough just holds together; add the final 1 T. cream only if necessary, if your dough is too crumbly. Form a ball and wrap in plastic wrap (or a tea towel if you prefer) and refrigerate for at least one hour.

To make the crumble, whisk the flour, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon together in a medium bowl; use your fingers or a pastry cutter, etc. to work the butter into the dry ingredients until you have evenly-distributed pea-sized pieces. Refrigerate the crumble until you need it.

rhubarb-apple buckle

For a fresh fruit filling for ONE buckle:

  • 4 c. diced, peeled (if applicable) fresh fruit (pictured: 3 c. rhubarb and 1 c. Pink Lady apples)*
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 T. lemon zest

Combine all the ingredients and macerate at room temperature for at least 30 mins., or until crust and crumble are ready.

pie plum buckle

For a canned fruit filling for ONE buckle:

  • 1 pint of fruit in light or heavy syrup, drained (pictured: plums in light syrup)
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest (optional)

Reserve the syrup for another use, if applicable. I use mine to flavor plain yogurt, or add it to a smoothie.

To assemble your buckles:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line TWO 8″ square baking pans with parchment, leaving an overhang on two sides of each pan if you plan to remove the buckles and cut them into squares. Remove the crust from the refrigerator and cut or break it into two equal amounts. Place one half between two pieces of parchment or wax paper and roughly shape it into an 8″ square. You do not need to be precise. (Alternately, you can flatten and shape it with your hands in what I call “pizza in the air” style.) Perfection is not important here; it is a forgiving, malleable dough and you can patch it, as necessary in the pan. Place the crust into the pan and use your fingertips to press it into the corners and out to the edges of the pan evenly. Repeat with the second crust.

Spoon your fruit filling over the crust, making sure it covers the crust evenly out to the edges of the pan. If you are working with macerated fresh fruit, scrape any juice and sugar left in the bowl over the fruit. Repeat with the second buckle.

Remove the crumble from the refrigerator and divide (you can eyeball, no need for measurement) in half. Sprinkle half over the fruit filling in your first pan, making sure to spread some out to each edge and corner. Use the remaining crumble to top the second buckle. Bake for 35-40 mins. Halfway through, rotate the buckles so they brown and cook evenly. Remove from the oven and cool before serving. Garnish a warm bowl of buckle with ice cream, or cool completely, cut into squares, and eat plain.

Notes: Of course, you can make one buckle at a time. Just make a half recipe of crust and crumble and choose one filling. You will need one 8″ square pan and the cooking time will be the same. Or, use a 9″ x 13″ baking pan for a full recipe of crust and crumble and *double* one of the filling recipes (8 c. fruit, etc.).

*Some possible fresh fruit combinations: blueberries with peaches; a mix of strawberries, blackberries and raspberries; plums with cherries. Any berry or stone fruit should work beautifully, alone or in combination with another fruit, or two. Just keep the total amount of diced fruit to 4 c. and you should be a-okay!