I was lucky enough to get myself down to Andy’s Orchard last week to pick up some peaches. Pim Techamuanvivit‘s photos of his fruit (which she uses for her amazing jams) were just too tempting so I bundled the boys in the car and headed down to the farm shop to taste for myself. Andy hand picks fruit when it is perfectly ripe and nothing like the rock-hard peaches and nectarines I’ve been used to buying at the supermarket in the past. The problem is, eating this fruit is a little like flying business class. Once you’ve had a taste you are spoiled, and set for disappointment, forever. Fortunately, peaches are cheaper than plane tickets so I can actually indulge myself (unlike my dreams of business class which go un-requited unless I get a free upgrade – unlikely with my two boys).
I’ve talked before about the joy of eating seasonally. This fruit is just the perfect example of that. The time frame in which you can get them is short but when you taste something as amazing as this, produced with care and love, with the juice running down your arm as you lean over the kitchen sink (yes, that’s how I eat them) there really is nothing like it. My previous barometer of good nectarines and peaches had been what I’d tasted on holidays in Italy and France but they didn’t compare to these beauties. Anyhow, you can see I got myself in a bit of an excited fluster about these peaches so I did what any seasoned shopper would do and bought as much as I could carry.
You can’t beat eating fruit like this as it is, but, as an attempt to stretch that feeling past the end of the season, I decided to chop up much of the crate I bought to freeze. I know when I’m in the depths of winter and appled-out, I’ll grab a bag of these sliced peaches and feel the sun again. And, I know that I’ll be topping porridge and making crumble with those frozen peaches because the crumbles I made with the fresh ones were beyond. See there is a crumble recipe coming after all that chat.
Crumble is, I think, a lazy man’s pie. I actually prefer crumble to pie – controversial in these parts I know. I can also kid myself that it is healthier, but really, health plays no role in why I love it so. Once you have knocked up a couple of crumbles you won’t even need to measure any more, they are very forgiving and un-precise, unlike many baking recipes. They are a great recipe for kids to master and were one of the first things I made when I was little. When I was growing up it was always home-stewed apple (chunky apple sauce) or rhubarb under the crumble but as I’ve got older I’ve veered towards roasted plums and, now, peaches.
Before I (finally) give you the recipe I must impart the important English rule of how to eat crumble: Hot crumble with vanilla ice cream. Cold crumble with hot custard. The contrast of cold and hot is just the final bit of perfection, especially at the end of a lovely Sunday roast dinner.
I know not everyone can get hold of these peaches (although he does ship them) so please just buy the best you can find locally, or pick whatever fruit is in season and delicious near you. Some of my faves are blackberry and apple, apple and raspberry, roasted rhubarb and stem ginger, roasted plum or straight stewed apple.
Crumble freezes brilliantly so knock up a couple at a time then you always have one ready to go.
To make enough for 4-6 people
Use an ovenproof dish, Pyrex, metal or ceramic. Something that will hold your fruit and have a couple of inches left to fill with crumble on top. If volume works for you, the dish I use holds 1.5 liters (48oz / 6 cups) water. I prefer something pretty shallow so you get a nice ratio of crumble to fruit. A lasagna dish is great.
180g (2 cups) rolled (old fashioned) oats
125g (1 cup) plain or all-purpose flour, I use whole grain spelt but any will do
100g (half a cup) soft brown sugar (brown isn’t essential but it adds an extra depth of flavour)
115g (1 stick) butter at room temperature
a generous pinch of sea salt
Your choice of fruit (see above). If I have lovely soft, ripe stone fruits, I just slice them and don’t pre-cook them. If my fruit is a little hard (like rhubarb or most supermarket plums etc) I half them and remove the stones then roast them under a tight foil lid in the dish I’m going to make the crumble in until they’re soft, around 20 mins at 200C or 400F.
In terms of quantity, I used 4 huge peaches in my crumble so picture that and adjust to suit your fruit size.
1. Precook fruit if necessary (see above)
2. Heat oven to 160C (320F)
3. Slice fruit (skin and all, but no stones!) into your cooking dish. Leave at least 2 inches of space for the crumble to go on top.
4. Measure all dry crumble ingredients into a separate bowl and stir to combine
5. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients then use the ends of your fingers to rub it in. Think of ‘tickling’ the crumbs and butter to mix the butter into the dry ingredients – as you would to make scones. Using the ends of your fingers to gently pick up a handful of crumbs then rub your finger tips together as you let the crumbs drop back into the bowl so that the butter breaks up and becomes combined with the dry ingredients. You will not get the mixture completely smooth and bump free. You’re aiming for a squishy breadcrumb texture – not as well combined as a cookie dough but with a few squidgy bits in places.
6. Scatter the crumble mixture on top of the fruit, don’t pack it down otherwise you will have a dense crumble. I like around an inch and a half of crumble on top of my fruit. Any leftover crumble mixture can be frozen and used from frozen to make a mini – crumble in a ramekin when you need a quick solo dessert. At this stage, if you’re making ahead of time, the whole crumble can sit in the fridge for a day or can be frozen – be sure to bring it back to room temp before cooking if you do that.
7. Place the dish on a metal tray (as some of the fruit may bubble up and over when cooking) then cook for 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown and starting to brown a little more in places and you see the fruit juices start to bubble up around the sides of the topping. Depending on the size of your dish the cooking time will vary so check after 20 minutes then every 5 minutes after that.
8. When it is ready, remove from the oven to cool and wait half an hour (or up to a couple of hours) before serving to allow the fruit to cool a little and the crumble to soak in some of the yummy juices.
9. Serve with ice cream or custard (see above for my rules). Leftovers are delicious for breakfast with yoghurt.