>> Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Cherry crumble. It sounds pretty and wholesome. Like something they make in the southern states of America in the kitchens of big white houses with verandas and winding, tree-lined driveways. Though actually they make cobblers or crisps in America don’t they? Are crumbles more English? I’m not sure. Anyway, let’s not ruin the image in my head with practicalities!

I have a confession to make. I made this twice. The first time, the day after Fruitcamp; I photographed it, we ate it and found that it didn’t have enough syrup and the cherries were lost within the mountain of topping. Take two; I adjusted the cherry/crumble ratio, added extra water to the cherries and was rewarded with a more satisfyingly juicy dessert. It’s important to remember with crumbles that the topping absorbs at least a 1/3 of the liquid present in the fruit mixture. If the fruit you’re working with doesn’t give off a lot of juice, you’ll have to add a little extra to compensate.

Cherries are a little difficult to cook or bake with. They just don’t really hold their ground when exposed to heat. Basically they lose their magic, their essential cherry-ness. The best way to serve them is the simplest: in a white bowl, freshly rinsed and shiny.

If you’re lucky enough to have an abundance of cherries and eating them fresh is losing it’s appeal, then using them in baking or jam is a good option. This crumble is very light and the cherries remain juicy and plump. A scoop of plain vanilla ice cream or some cream poured on top finishes it off nicely.

Having never cooked fresh cherries this way, what I found really interesting was how the cooked cherries developed a flavour which was distinctly like that of imitation cherry. If you've ever wondered where they derived cherry flavouring from, then this must be it: cooked cherry. Distinctly almondy, almost overly sweet.

The next time we’ve got a bowl of fresh cherries on our kitchen bench I don't think they'll be making it into the oven. They’re just too good to mess with. But come winter when we want a brief reminder of the summer just been, I might pull out some jarred cherries and give this recipe another whirl.

(adapted from the Times website, from a recipe for Apple and Pear Crumble by Jill Dupleix)

450g fresh cherries
25g caster sugar
2/3 cup water


50g butter, chilled
75g plain flour, sifted
35g unrefined demerara sugar (I used golden caster sugar because I read the recipe incorrectly... but demerara or raw sugar creates a much crunchier and more interesting topping. If doubling: add 75g.)
35g ground almonds (If doubling the recipe: add 75g)
pinch of salt

Heat oven to 180C/Gas mark 4. To make the crumble, cut the butter into tiny cubes and rub lightly into the sifted flour with your fingertips. Alternatively, briefly whizz the sifted flour and butter in the blender or food processor until crumbly (although the manual method will give you a crumblier crumble). Stir in the sugar and almonds.

Wash, halve and destone the cherries. Lightly toss with caster sugar and pile into a lightly buttered small ovenproof dish, levelling out the top. Spoon over the water.

Spread the crumble topping evenly and generously over the fruit, and bake for 50 to 60 minutes until the fruit is bubbling hot and the topping is golden.

Serve warm with cream, ice-cream or custard.
Serves 3-4.

If you have more fruit or are cooking for a few more people, just double the recipe. (See notes in the ingredients list above.)


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