Yes, it’s June. It’s strawberry time. (Does that mean that July will be raspberry time? You bet!)
The year we moved into our house we planted a strawberry patch, and finally we have a decent harvest. This coincides with Little e’s first toddler summer and wanting to explore/taste everything in the garden. Strawberries hold great nostalgia for me. They are firmly embedded as the fruit of my childhood because they were the ones we picked at the U-Pick farms every year. Raspberries, blueberries–we ate those too, but we didn’t pick them like we picked strawberries. [Blackberries are a whole other bowl of fruit, another strong memory: the end of summer, roadside brambles that looked as high as houses. Another post…] And what is it about berry picking that incites the search for perfection? I remember scouring the strawberry patch for The One–not necessarily the biggest, but the roundest, plumpest, most even-skinned berry, and once finding it, showing it to whoever was within proclamation distance, and then eating it, the satisfaction of the find intensifying the flavour.
Right now we have a bowlful of strawberries coming out of our patch daily, so I needed to find something to do with them. I’ve made Jeni’s strawberry buttermilk ice cream and a lovely sorbet, but the thing I’ve been making lately, perhaps a holdover from winter comfort desserts, is crumble. And what is strawberry’s best friend this time of year? Yup: rhubarb, or if you ask Little e, woo-bab. And we have a whole lot of it. So I got the two together and then raided my flour collection for the topping. (Yes, one can have a collection of flour. Just as one can have a collection of chocolate. I just exposed my extreme food geekiness, didn’t I?)
I’ve been inspired the past few months by Smitten Kitchen’s endlessly riff-able fruit crumble recipe, to the point that I no longer look at the ratios (although sometimes this nonchalance does me, and my crumble, in). This time I went for rustic: whole wheat, barley and corn flours and rye flakes for texture and bite. I like corn with rhubarb because there’s something really balanced about this combination, as evidenced by this recipe, which I’ve talked about before. I always think of rye in terms of heavy, rustic breads, so I wanted to try it in a dessert because I don’t think my preconceived notion about it is justified. And barley might be my new favourite baking flour. It makes baked goods creamy and light-crumbed and a little nutty.
Here’s my take on Deb Perelman’s recipe:
Mix and Match Crumble
1/4 cup oat flour (which can be made easily in a food processor using rolled oats)
3/4 cup rolled oats (or flaked grain of your choice–rye, spelt, barley–do as you will)
1/4 cup ground almonds
1/2 cup whole wheat four (or a combination of others)
Up to a 1/4 cup brown sugar (I sometimes add less depending on the flavour of the flours)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon or nutmeg (Adding some orange zest would also be lovely)
a few pinches of sea (or kosher) salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup of oil (Deb suggests olive, but I’ve also used grapeseed. The olive will give a stronger flavour)
About two pounds of fruit: strawberry/rhubarb, or just apples, or blueberry/apple, or blackberry…
1-2 tablespoons cornstarch (It depends on how much liquid will come out of your fruit when it cooks. Blackberries will be the juiciest)
Sweetener of choice: brown sugar, turbinado sugar, agave, whatever
1 teaspoon lemon juice
[Cheater’s method: I sometimes sub strawberry jam for the sugar to bump up the berry flavour and increase general jamminess)
Preheat oven to 350. Combine fruit with cornstarch and lemon juice in a largeish ceramic or glass baking dish. In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients for topping up to the butter and oil; mix well. Then add the butter and oil and combine to form a wet mass of crumbly chunks. That sounds unappealing, but the idea is to only mix until the crumble forms, not to mix it into a paste or wet sand (also unappealing). Pour this over the fruit and spread evenly. Bake for about 30-40 minutes, until you can see the juices from the fruit bubbling around the topping, and the crumble is starting to brown. Let cool a few minutes before serving.