If there are two camps — the pie camp and the crumble camp — then I think it is fair to say I am very much team crumble. Do I love pie — making it, sharing it, eating it, etc? Why, yes, and if it is a la mode, well then all the better. But what I really love is when softened, lightly sweetened, perhaps spiced, fruit is topped with a buttery sugary crown (no oats, please) and served up warm in big scoops in deep bowls (with a dribble — or several — of cold heavy cream), which is what you get with this apple cranberry crumble.
I think I am partial to crumbles for a number of reasons. First, there is almost no other sweet that is easier to assemble, and who doesn’t love that? A simple treat that takes almost no time to throw together. Now, it is indeed true that when making an apple crumble, as I have done here, the process of peeling and coring can just be the tiniest bit laborious, but simple is still very much the name of the game. Second, I love a crumble because, at least historically, they are made from butter and sugar and flour (oats need not apply), while a crisp, on the other hand, typically has oats in the topping (the name refers to the oats actually “crisping” up while baking). I have nothing against oats, I promise, but I don’t want them interfering with my butter and (brown) sugar crown blanketing my fruit. And honestly, oats in a crisp topping always make me think that some health-nut is trying to pull a fast one on me — ridiculous, I know, but what can I tell you? I must have had a bad experience with an oat-topped crisp as a child . . .
Third, to me crumbles are texturally perfect — soft, sweet fruit topped with browned crispy crumbs of butter-y goodness is kind of all I ever want in a dessert, and maybe in life. This particular crumble is made from apples and cranberries, as tis’ the season, and all that. I used Granny Smith in this apple cranberry crisp, as I love their tartness alongside the sweet topping. I also added a cup and half of cranberries, for color and tang. I like a crumble made from brown sugar and Turbinado sugar, rather than granulated, as the brown offers up molasses/caramel notes and the Turbonado provides crunch. I season my apples only a bit, with cinnamon and nutmeg (and salt), so the apple flavor isn’t muted, only enhanced. I think a good crumble topping requires a couple of things: cold butter, a proper flour to sugar to butter ratio (here we have the same amount of flour and sugar and a bit less butter), a rest in the fridge to firm up, and a deliberate crumb-making process — I do not just sprinkle the crumble atop the apples, I spend time forming each “crumb” and I like a large crumb, in case you were wondering. Not sure I can convert you to team crumble or not, but might I suggest you take a stab at this one, as no matter your team affiliation, I think you will be pleased. This apple cranberry crumble recipe can be found here.
The recipe originally appeared in the October issue of Main Street Magazine.