Would you like a spoonful of my dessert?
Desserts in England? Are you sure? Mais que oui, et des meilleurs. (Of course and some of the best) The challenge was launched by both Sam and JamFaced when they decided to organize What is for Pud?, in other words make an English dessert and show it off on St George’s Day.
How to achieve this? So many possibilities, yet I feel stuck to one single idea. I could say that because P. is Irish, hence his mum and grand-mother have a British heritage, I might be in good hands. But no, I am told the entry has to be fully English. No Irish, Scottish or Welsh. And I own no English cuisine cookbooks! All I have is memories and experience of English desserts from my times and visits to England. And it all started when I was 12 on my first trip alone to England, when I ate my first crumble.
When I was 12, I went to England for the first time. And what a discovery that was. I remember walking in Heathrow airport with my name tag around my neck, following the air hostess as she would accompany any young travellers travelling alone. I was so scared but was not showing it! Heathrow was such a huge place. I was on my way to stay with my brother’s pen friend (since my brother did not want to go, I did). My first time on a plane. My first time travelling outside France alone. My first time homesick, and I still remember my pen friend Liz asking me “Betty, tou as la mal dou pais?” (tu as le mal du pays, are you homesick?, and yes people called my Betty then). And my first time speaking a language which sounded as if the people speaking it were swallowing every two syllabes down their throat. All I could hear was a mumble with an emphasis placed on every two syllabes. I had learned English at school but that language I was hearing was something totally new to me.
I got the full first English experience: I discovered London with its bridge and tower, driving on the left, people really queueing and getting in lines to do anything, and I saw punks for the first time. In shop windows, I could see mugs everywhere with Charles and Di drawn on them, I drank my first cup of tea (terrible for me with milk and honey as I both hated those then), I discovered Branston pickles and sweet salad dressings, I ate my first jacket potatoes with prawns and Island Sauce in pubs (and boy, I loved those) and I discovered crumbles!
Of the many trips taken to England, between the first time at 12 when I stayed with the Reeces in Reading, to my early 20s when I spent summers in Bournemouth, Porthcawl, and Workington working as a language class assistant, to today when I go to London for leisure to visit all my expat or Rosbif friends, crumbles remain a highlight of my trips. I still remember every single crumble eaten at my various host families. Mrs Reece’s was great and simple: apple but Paul’s mum’s was to die for: rhubarb and strawberries with homemade custard (Birds , non merci, no thank you very much!) or cream. We had crumble every night as I special requested them!
And so in 1981, when I returned from my first trip to England, I came home as a very happy young girl that had just discovered a new eating world: I was also determined to share it and decided that I would make crumbles for my parents and my brother. Since then, crumbles have stayed a favorite dessert of mine.
Is the name of a simple topping spread instead of pastry on fruit pies with no bottom crust. A crumble can be compared to a sweet pastry with no water. Usually the ingredients are sugar, butter, flour and some spices if used, but today, there are many variations. However the process stays the same: the butter is cut in the dry ingredients and mixed gently, hence the crumbly texture once cooked, giving the name to the dish. In Germany, Streusel comes close to the texture of a crumble, hence the idea that crumbles inspired the creation of Streusel (less flour however comparatively).
I know I am not making a very original dessert here. I am sure e.v.e.r.y.o.n.e knows crumbles, or has made one. But I simply have a very strong emotional attachment to crumbles as they bring back tons of fantastic memories of my many times spent in England. If you need an easy every day dessert, this has to be one.
For my crumbles, I usually use fruits rouges such as strawberries, cherries, any red berries, or rhubarb or plums.
While growing up, we had tons of red berries bushes, plums trees and rhubarb in the garden, so I had a lot of practice making crumbles for family dinners. Then I like to add nuts to the more traditional flour + sugar + butter association. A nutty crumble with tons of colours and zest!
- 14 oz fresh strawberries (or 4 medium sized plums)
- 1 oz (1/4 cup) whole almonds
- 1 oz (1/4 cup) unsalted pistachios
- 3 oz minus 1tsp cold butter + butter for molds
- 2 oz (1/4 cup) raw coarse Cane sugar + more to sprinkle on fruit
- 2 oz (1/4 cup) flour
- Preheat your oven at 400 F (200 C).
- Wash the strawberries and slice them.
- Place them in greased molds and sprinkle sugar on top.
- Chop coarsely the pistachios and almonds.
- Mix together with the flour, sugar and butter. Do not work the crumble too much.
- Place on top of the fruit and place in the oven. After 10 mns, reduce the heat to 375 F and continue to cook for 20 min.
Serve lukewarm, plain (I prefer it this way) or with cream, or crème anglaise since we are in Angloland! When we have crumble, it does not last long at all!
I LOVE crumbles! My mother made rhubarb or blueberry or apple. VERY good! Our topping was 1 cup flour, 1 cup brown sugar, 1/2 butter. The filling was any fruit pour on top with sugar (the amount depends on the sweetness of the fruit) mixed with cornstarch (to thicken). We added pats of butter (and a few drops of water to the apple crumble). I always doubled the topping because I liked that part the best. I’ve never thought of nuts, but next time I will add them! For the recipe, merci! Tres bien!
Hello Bea, I’m selling strawberies “Plougastel” in my shop.. and this is a very good idea for the unsold pieces… my son adore the crumble..thanks for the idea.. this is the first recipe i got with the pistachio. Bon Dimanche Bea!
Just very busy here!
Crumble is not my favourite dessert but yours looks incredibly good!
à la fraise, il n’est pas non plus mon préféré mais je ne resite pas une seconde au tien.
j’ai oublié, j’ai aussi vu mes premiers punk à Londres d’ailleurs tu en vois encore aujourd’hui alors qu’à Paris je n’en ai pas croisé depuis un siècle.
a tester! parfait en ce moment..!!
J’ai adoré ton article! Ton récit, les photos, la recette!! Bravo 🙂
Je me demandais justement quoi faire de cette barquette de fraises qui traine dans mon frigo… hop en dessert ce midi : ton crumble aux fraises !
What a wonderful story! I can just picture you as a little girl walking through Heathrow. Your description is so vivid. And your crumble looks delicoius. By the way … I have the same pie plate!
First, yes I would like a spoonful of your crumble! Second, this looks like the best crumble I’ve ever seen. I love that you make crumble with just red fruit. Third, as the English would say… brilliant!
fantastic post, thanks bea. Good job you didn’t come to my house for crumble – my mum used to put BRAN in the topping to help us get our fibre, pah! I was the crumble-topping maker from a very early age
I love crumbles, but I’ve never had a strawberry one – looks fab!
I just made a crumble myself, it is one of my favorite dinner party desserts to make in France. When I arrived in 1990 it was considered very exotic, but now most French people have tasted them before. I was surprised to see young rising cooking star Cyril Lignac feature it as a recipe in some cooking magazine a few weeks ago, as if he had discovered them or something!
SUPER GENIALE BEA !!!
Thanks a very BIG LOT for the French Version.
Béa est un amour pour nous les nuls en anglais.
Me voilà motiver pour faire un énorme effort pour conserver tes recettes en version billingue. (Français-Anglais)
Toujours de superbes photos pour nous mettre en apétit, ainsi que des explications claires et simples pour notre plus grand bonheur.
Yes, I WOULD like a spoonful of your dessert…
Toi aussi, la famille anglaise quand tu étais petite, hein? Pour être honnête je n’ai pas de si bons souvenirs de la mienne, et je n’ai certainement jamais eu droit à des crumbles… Plutôt beans à chaque repas, sans dessert… Et la mère assise sur une espèce de bouée en plastique chauffante pendant qu’elle regardait la TV, au moins 18h par jour sans même me gratifier d’un bonjour le matin quand je sortais le matin du placard qui me servait de chambre… Je sais que j’avais été particulièrement malchanceuse cet été-là…
Mais bon, quoi qu’il en soit maintenant j’ai envie de crumble, j’adore ça !
I want more than a spoonful Bea, I want a whole one please!! 😉
I’ve never had a strawberry crumble, although lots and lots of apple crumbles!! The strawberries probably wouldn’t last long enough around here to make it to the pie dish…hehehe
Looks absolutely beautiful! And I think of strawberries as a quintessentially English fruit as well (don;t they always serve strawberries and cream at Wimbledon?), so it’s a great match. Enjoy!
You’re lovely, Bea! All I ever hear is how terrible British food is. This is a wonderful tribute. 🙂
Thanks all for your nice comments! And thanks to you Sam and JamFaced to have organized it. We love good reasons to cook yummie desserts!
Plougastel strawberries! Miam miam!
I think next time, I have to make a rhubarb crumble as I just love rhubarb!
Love your play on words Rachel, ahahah! A great match indeed! Ah Wimbledon, I used to sit in front ot TV all the time to watch the games!
Sam yes you are right, I have not heard this word “Brilliant” in a while!!!
Liza, qu’est-ce que tu me fais rire! J’imagine en fait tout a fait ce que tu decris car je l’ai aussi vecu parmi mes nombreuses familles d’accueil!!
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What is the basic recipe for crumbles? I want to make it to put on top of a coffeecake. Simple small little balls of butter, sugar and flour. How do I make it?
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