I am very optimistically calling this a spring fruit crumble, writing as I wait for snow to fall again today. This is the type of baking that pushes me through the last weeks of gray, when I’m tired of apples and bananas and yearning for summer farmers’ markets. I should call it a “ready for spring fruit crumble”… but that is just too wordy.
When fresh fruit is in season, I freeze recipe-sized portions (2 to 4 c. at a time) for exactly this kind of use. A crumble uses about 8 c. of fruit, and nearly any combination you can think of will work, all fresh, all frozen or a mix. (Working with frozen fruit, measure the portion frozen, and then thaw, or thaw completely and include some juice in the measurement. That’s why the premeasured portions are so handy!) To choose the fruit, imagine what you might find in a pie: rhubarb; all manner of berries; stone fruit like peaches, plums and cherries; apples; or pineapple. My rule of thumb for creating a mixed fruit combination is sweet + sweet + tart; here I used fragrant fresh pineapple, strawberries I know to be sweet as honey, and a precious bag of local rhubarb. If your combination is all sweet, you can even play with the amount of sugar, starting with 1/2 cup. You can also experiment with spices here; again, I recommend using pie recipes, or other recipes with baked fruit, as a guide. If your combination is primarily stone fruit, try using nutmeg instead of cinnamon, or 1/2 tsp. of each. My combination of fruits below would also work with ginger, or a mix of cinnamon and ginger. A mix of apples and berries works well with cardamom. You have some latitude to experiment, and can really customize the recipe to suit your preferences. And last but not least, the crumble is a simple butter streusel topping from The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book; I find it works consistently and tastes delicious.
A bowl of warm crumble is a welcome break from the cold of late winter, a preview of all the good sweet fruit that is just around the corner.
Spring Fruit Crumble with Strawberries, Pineapple & Rhubarb
For the fruit:
- 3 c. rhubarb, fresh or frozen, cut in 1/2 – 1″ pieces
- 3 c. fresh pineapple, cut in chunks
- 2 c. strawberries, fresh or frozen, halved or quartered if large
- 2/3 c. sugar
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 2 T. cornstarch
For the crumble:
- 1 c. flour
- 3 T. brown sugar
- 1 T. sugar
- 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
- 6 T. unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ cubes, at room temperature
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, salt, cinnamon and cornstarch. Add the fruit, starting with your least-juicy fruit, and toss until all the fruit is coated. If it’s all or primarily fresh fruit, you should notice the juices starting to come out. Pour the mixture into a 12″ pie plate or a large ovenproof dish.
To make the crumble, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the cubes of butter and use a fork, pastry blender or your fingers to work the butter into the dry ingredients. Stop when the butter is well distributed, in pea-sized pieces. If you are using your fingers, be careful the heat of your hands doesn’t melt the butter.
Pour the crumble onto your prepared fruit and spread out evenly. Bake for 40-45 mins., until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is golden brown. If your mix includes apples or rhubarb, use a fork to make sure those harder fruits are tender. Cool slightly before serving warm, with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, or plain. This crumble is also wonderful served cold with Greek yogurt, a decadent breakfast/brunch treat.
Leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.