Kerryn Boogaard Kerryn Boogaard
Beverly Goldsmith Beverly Goldsmith
Zoe Bingley-Pullin Zoe Bingley-Pullin

Hot, fruity goodness without the fuss:

A crumble is a pie without the fuss of a crust.
Date: August 15 2012
Editor Rating:

This humble cousin of upper-crust pies and tarts melds fruit and a few pantry staples into a sweet and tart old-fashioned dessert that's hard to resist.

Americans call it a crisp. We call it downright delicious.

All those hot fruit juices bubble up into the buttery, sugary topping as it bakes to create sophisticated flavours that are mouth-watering and good.

Crumbles are so easy to assemble. Mix fruit, sugar, lemon juice and tapioca and pour into a deep baking dish.

Sprinkle on a crumbly topping to create a one-of-a-kind dessert. Change up the fruit, using whatever is on hand. Mix in apricot and/or pineapple juice to lighten up an otherwise heavy filling. A mix of fresh and canned cherries produces excellent results. Firm pears are an unexpected surprise. Add a few tablespoons of apricot jam to deepen their flavour.

Use whatever thickener you have on hand. Flour will do in a pinch. Even better is arrowroot or cornflour but quick-cooking tapioca is my standby. It produces a clear filling that lets the fruit flavours shout and the brightly coloured fillings shine. Swap brown sugar for white sugar or use a mix of both in the topping or the filling. Sprinkle in a little cinnamon, nutmeg or cloves into the topping. A teaspoon of each are all you'll need. Add a dash of spice to the filling. Or don't. This rustic dessert takes kindly to improvisation and is kind to the hostess because it comes together effortlessly. And if at first bite it's a little too tart, make room for ice cream. A tart crumble and vanilla ice cream are heaven in a bite.

Change up the topping: Try rolled oats or ground nuts; just butter, sugar and flour work great; and finely chopped nuts in a butter-flour-sugar topping are wonderful because they toast during baking and provide flavour and texture.

Pop it in the oven for a bit. When those delicious fruit juices bubble up over the filling, you know it's done. There's no guesswork here, like with a pie filling under a crust.

Resist the urge to eat it hot out of the oven - the juices need to thicken and set. And if you're lucky enough to have leftovers, you'll be rewarded with flavours that are even better the second day.


Makes about 2 cups, enough for a 25cm pie plate or 1 to 2-litre baking dish.


2/3 cup granulated sugar

7 tablespoons butter, room temperature

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 cup chopped walnuts, pecans or almonds

1/2 teaspoon each cinnamon and nutmeg


Combine all ingredients and crumble with your fingertips. Spread mixture over prepared fruit in buttered baking dish and bake as directed.

This recipe is from Easy as Pie, by Susan G Purdy.



3/4 cup flour

1 cup packed light brown sugar

1 1/2 cups rolled oats

6 tablespoons salted butter, softened


Combine dry ingredients in a bowl and mix. Add butter and mix by hand until butter is incorporated. Spread over fruit. Bake until top is golden, 40 to 45 minutes.

This recipe is from The Hamptons: Food, Family and History, by Ricky Lauren.


Serves 9


3/4 cup sugar

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup almond meal

3/4 cup butter, softened

6 tablespoons sliced almonds, divided


Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl, except 3 tablespoons of the sliced almonds.

Add the butter and rub with your hands until the mixture turns crumbly. Sprinkle topping on fruit and scatter the remaining sliced almonds on top.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake 40 minutes or until fruit is bubbly and the topping browned.

This recipe is from Plenty: Good Uncomplicated Food for the Sustainable Kitchen, by Diana Henry.


Use this recipe as a starting point for the fruit filling in crumbles, just adjust the sugar to suit the sweetness of the fruit.


5 to 6 cups peaches (can use canned sliced peaches, drained)

Juice of 1 lemon

1/2 to 3/4 cup granulated sugar

3 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca


Combine filling ingredients. Sprinkle with a crumble topping. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes.



Serves 6


4 cups frozen blackberries

1 1/2 to 1 2/3 cups granulated sugar

3 tablespoons cornflour

1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar

2 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon quick-cooking tapioca


In a heavy-bottom saucepan, combine berries, sugar, cornflour, vinegar and 2 tablespoons water. Mash the fruit slightly. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, just until mixture nears the boiling point. Remove from heat. Stir in tapioca. Top with chosen crumble topping and bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes. The cider vinegar softens the seeds.

This recipe is also from Easy as Pie, by Susan G Purdy.

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