Published On: Thu, Jul 2nd, 2020

This Is the Secret to the Crunchiest Fruit Crumble

I learned the secret to making the best, crunchiest fruit crumble over two decades ago. And I subsequently ignored it.

A pastry chef friend shared the technique. Instead of sprinkling the raw crumbs on top of the fruit, where they absorb the juices and turn a little mushy on their undersides, he spread them out in a pan and baked them separately, until crisp and cookielike.

When fruit and topping finally meet, the crumbs are much better able to hold their own. The parts touching the syrupy filling may get slightly soft, but the rest of the mound becomes an irresistible, audibly crackling crust.

I didn’t have a very good reason for ignoring this smart move for so long. Somehow, that extra step just seemed cumbersome. Plus, traditional fruit crumbles are stupendously delicious, even if the topping is a little squishy. It had never been a priority to experiment with something already so satisfying.

This year felt different. I had more time around the house (like, all my time) to play around with methods like baking crumble topping separately.

So I did. And I’ll never go back. Spreading the crumbs out on a baking sheet and popping them in the oven for 15 minutes adds only a small amount of work.

The payoff is huge. Most of the topping stays discrete, rather than melding into the filling, offering a crunchy, cinnamon-scented contrast to all that jammy fruit.

Even better, the sugared fruit still bubbles up as it bakes, pooling into gloriously sticky puddles amid the pebbly crumbs. And it’s a perfect vehicle for ice cream or whipped cream, which melts into a sauce, especially if you serve the crumble warm.

As with any crumble, you can use whatever fruit you’ve got on hand, even frozen fruit, though the juicier, the better.

Then, make sure to bake the crumble long enough so that the fruit filling comes to a profuse simmer at the edges of the pan. This shows that the cornstarch has been activated enough to thicken the juices, turning them supple and silky.

You can bake the crumbs a couple of days ahead, but the crumble is best baked on the same day you serve it. That’s when the topping is at its crispiest — which is, after all, the point.

Recipe: The Crunchiest Summer Fruit Crumble

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