A crumble is the perfect everyday pudding. Here I share my top 10 tips to make the best crumble you have ever tasted and my favourite – caramelised apple and banana crumble.
A crumble is my go-to fall back pudding. It’s warm, comforting and sweet, everything a pudding should be. The variations are endless; add spices, nuts, oats – you never need to eat two crumbles exactly the same. A crumble is a real crowd pleaser and because of all the fruit I find it easy to tell myself it’s pretty healthy too.
I was recently talking to my mother-in-law about crumbles. She makes the most amazing apricot crumble which we will come to. As we talked she shared her tips which I have included below. At a guess she has been making crumbles for at least 50 years whilst I have been making them for about half that time. So this post is the distilled knowledge of over 70 years of crumble making!
Like most recipes it’s easy to get it right, and also not too difficult to get it wrong. The 10 tips below will ensure your crumbles are always spot on.
Before we get to the tips, some thoughts on cooking crumbles. There are two main ways to cook a crumble, both have advantages and disadvantages.
Minimal work crumble
This is the quickest way to prepare a crumble. Chop the fruit up, mix with sugar and any spices you are using, and pour into the crumble dish. To make the topping, rub the butter into the flour and stir through the sugar and any nuts, spices or oats. Pour the topping over the fruit and put in the oven for around 40 minutes.
• Minimal effort involved and about 15 minutes to make (depending on which fruit you are using – e.g. some cooks don’t bother peeling apples so saving time.)
• Gives a great tasting pudding.
• Takes 40 minutes in the oven. It needs this time to cook the fruit.
• Doesn’t work for all fruit. Banana isn’t good in a crumble made this way. I haven’t tried it, but I would think rhubarb probably doesn’t enjoy being cooked in this way either.
• It’s difficult to control how mushy the fruit gets.
• There is a lot of moisture coming from the fruit which may make the uncooked crumble claggy where it touches the fruit.
Slightly more involved crumble
This method is normally used by chefs in restaurants. The fruit is cooked with butter and sugar in a saucepan. The crumble topping is baked for 15 minutes in the oven on it’s own. The fruit is poured into the crumble dish and topped with the pre-cooked topping before going back in the oven for another 15 minutes.
• The fruit can be as cooked as you want it to be and so you can stop it cooking before it loses it’s shape.
• All the crumble topping is beautifully crisp, nothing claggy here. This is because there is less moisture in the fruit and the topping has already been cooked once.
• This method is more work than the first one.
10 tips to make the best crumble
1. A good crumble topping ratio is 2 flour : 1 butter : 1 sugar. This gives a flavoured crumble topping with great texture. Some recipes have a bit more sugar and a bit less butter, but too little butter and you run the risk of dust rather than crumble on top of the fruit. Of course you can always add more sugar or less. Sweetness is more about the individual palate, but this ratio seems to please most.
2. Additions to the crumble topping – chopped nuts (pecans, almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios etc), oats and spices all work well.
a. Nuts – I like nuts a lot and so add the same quantity of nuts as butter or sugar.
b. Oats – a handful or two of oats is good, or if you are a real fan reduce the amount of flour by half and replace with oats.
c. Spices – ground cinnamon, mixed spice are great in crumble toppings. Use 1 tsp of ground spice per 100g/3½oz flour.
3. If you are in a rush or making a lot, a food processor rubs the butter into the flour beautifully and quickly. If using one, add the whole nuts next and the processor will chop them for you. Then add the sugar, oats and any spice you are using.
4. Once made, crumble topping is great stored in the freezer. 250g of crumble topping will cover a crumble to serve 4 (I use about 850g of fruit for a crumble for 4). So I make up 1kg of crumble topping (500g flour, 250g butter, 250g sugar) and then I have enough for 4 puddings.
5. Apple (both eating or cooking), plum, gooseberry, apple and blackberry, apple and blackcurrant, rhubarb, plum, pear and summer fruits (link), apple and caramelised banana, apricot, peach, are all good in a crumble. Old apples you don’t want to eat work brilliantly in a crumble.
6. Cooking the fruit with spices is tasty. A whole cinnamon stick, or star anise, for something a little different.
7. Frozen fruits are great for crumbles. In my pear and summer fruits crumble I just add the frozen summer fruits to the uncooked pear before covering the fruit with the crumble topping and then popping the whole lot in the oven. The fruit defrosts and cooks perfectly in the oven in the 30 minutes it takes for the crumble to cook.
8. Tinned apricots make a wonderful crumble. This is my mother-in-law’s great tinned apricot crumble. If you have topping stored in the freezer, this recipe can be assembled in a matter of minutes.
9. To create a crunchy crumble topping throughout, spread the crumble onto a baking sheet and cook for 15 minutes at 190C/170C fan/374F or until very lightly browned. Then scatter it over the fruit and pop back in the oven for 15 minutes or until a good colour has developed.
10. Scatter a handful of Demerara sugar over the top of the crumble topping for a little sweet crunch in your crumble.
My favourite crumble recipe – Caramelised apple and banana crumble
Last New Year’s Eve we met up with a big group of friends, 16 of us plus little ones. Others did the starter and main course and I was doing the pudding. I made this amazing layered chocolate pudding, with tacky macaroon layers sandwiched between whipped chestnut puree cream and raspberries. It was a thing of beauty, a pudding befitting a New Year’s Eve party. I also made this caramelised apple and banana crumble just in case anyone was doing a no-chocolate thing. When I came to serve the puddings I went round the table asking everyone what they wanted and to my surprise only few people wanted the chocolate beauty, but everyone wanted the crumble.
This caramelised apple and banana crumble recipe comes from my first year in halls at university. One of the girls in our flat had her boyfriend staying over a lot. He was French and a chef in London. He was often in the kitchen cooking her something delicious as she studied in her room. This combination of fruit was one he would often make. The banana lifts the apple onto a whole new level of deliciousness. The brown sugar caramelises perfectly around the fruit bringing out it’s flavour and making a real treat of a pudding.
So back to our party at New Year. What did everyone want seconds of? You’ve guessed it, this crumble!
Caramelised apple and banana crumble
Like all crumbles, this is great reheated the following day. Just cover with foil and put in the oven at 170C for 25 minutes.
- Prep Time: 30 minutes
- Cook Time: 15 minutes
- Total Time: 45 minutes
- Yield: 4
- 125g flour
- 80g butter
- 80g sugar
- 15g/1 tbsp Demerara sugar
- 40g butter
- 30g/2 tbsp caster sugar
- 2 large bananas, weighing about 330g, peeled and chopped into 2½cm/1” chunks
- 4 apples, weighing about 525g, peeled, cored and chopped into 2cm/3/4″ chunks
Custard, cream, ice cream, yoghurt or crème faîche to serve.
- Set the oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5.
- First make the crumble topping. Rub the butter into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs and then stir in the sugar. Alternatively put the flour, butter and sugar in a food processor and process until a breadcrumb-like mixture appears.
- Line a large baking tray with greaseproof paper and spread the topping over the paper. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until lightly browned.
- In a saucepan, melt the butter and then stir in the sugar until dissolved. Keep stirring to ensure it doesn’t burn. Add the banana and stir to coat all in the melted butter. Cook for 5 – 7 minutes or until soft all through. Spoon the banana into your crumble dish. Add the apple to the saucepan and stir again to coat the fruit in the remaining butter. Cover with a lid and cook for 5 – 7 minutes until it’s soft too. Mix the apple in with the banana in the crumble dish.
- Once the crumble topping is lightly browned spoon it over the fruit. Scatter the Demerara sugar over the crumble and put in the oven for 15 minutes or until golden. Serve.