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Eric Akis: Fruit crumble a crowd-pleasing summer treat

In this easy dessert, a fine mix of B.C. summer fruit is baked topped with a buttery, crumbly topping
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B.C. berries and stone fruit combine in this crumble all ages will enjoy. ERIC AKIS

Some of the easiest summer desserts are the most pleasurable to eat, such as crumbles and crisps — made by setting fresh fruit in a baking dish and topping it with an inviting mixture that turns golden and crumbly or crisp when baked.

Although the terms crumble and crisp seem to be used interchangeably, and the fillings for them are similar, the difference lies in how they are topped.

For example, in most recipes for crumbles, a streusel-like, buttery, sugar-sweetened flour mixture is distributed over the fruit filling in the pan. During baking, the flour melds with the melting butter and sugar, creating a crumbly topping that splendidly enhances the hot, bubbling fruit below it.

Many recipes for crisps also have sugar, butter and flour in the topping for them, but a generous amount of rolled oats are also often mixed in. That ingredient, when baked, creates a crisper topping, hence the name.

My recipe for summer fruit crumble sees a mix of fresh B.C. grown berries and cubed stone fruit deliciously topped and baked with the streusel-like mixture noted above. It can be served warmed or room temperature in bowls, topped with whipped cream, ice cream or yogurt. If you’d prefer to make an oat-rich summer fruit crisp, see Eric’s options.

Summer Fruit Crumble

A fine mix of B.C. summer fruit is baked topped with a buttery, crumbly topping, hence the name.

Preparation time: 25 minutes

Cooking time: 40 to 45 minutes

Makes: six servings

For filling

3 cups whole and/or sliced fresh berries, such as strawberries, raspberries and blueberries

3 cups cubed stone fruit, such as apricots, nectarines and/or peaches (see Note)

1/4 cup packed golden brown sugar

1/3 cup orange juice

1 Tbsp lemon juice

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

• pinch ground nutmeg

2 Tbsp all-purpose flour

For topping and to serve

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup packed golden brown sugar

• pinch salt

1/2 cup butter, cut into small cubes and brought to room temperature

• whipped cream, vanilla ice cream or thick yogurt, to taste

• mint sprigs or edible flowers, for garnish (optional)

Place filling ingredients in a mixing bowl and use a spatula to gently combine. Spoon filling into an eight-inch square baking dish. Preheat oven to 350 F.

To make topping, combine 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup brown sugar and salt in a second mixing bowl. Add the butter and, with a pastry cutter or your fingertips, very thoroughly blend until the mixture resembles moist breadcrumbs. Evenly spread the topping on the filling. Bake crumble in the middle of the oven 40 to 45 minutes, until the topping is golden brown and filling is bubbling.

Serve crumble warm or at room temperature in bowls topped, to taste, with whipped cream, ice cream or thick yogurt, garnished, if desired, with mint sprigs or edible flowers.

Note: I cut the stone fruit into 1/2- to 3/4-inch cubes. If adding peaches to the crumble, remove their skins before using. To do so, cut a small star into the blossom end of each peach you want to peel. Plunge peaches into boiling water one to two minutes, or until the skins start to loosen. Set peaches on a plate, cool a few minutes, and then slip off the skins.

Eric’s options: If you’d prefer to make summer fruit crisp, don’t make the crumble topping above, instead place 1 cup large flake rolled oats, 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, 3 Tbsp packed golden brown sugar, 1/4 cup room temperature butter, 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon and a pinch each ground nutmeg and cloves in a mixing bowl. Now mix and work with your fingers until very well combined. Sprinkle and distribute this crisp topping over the fruit filling. Now bake and serve the crisp and as described for the crumble above.

eakis@timescolonist.com

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.