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A Not So Proper English Crumble September 1, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in Food, Recipes.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

My friend Cathy and I made this blackberry/peach crumble with only one emergency email to England for advice.

To my mind, heaven on earth is a piece of pie for breakfast. So when I went to Suffolk, England last May for a week, I was only too happy to find a gooseberry crumble waiting on the counter with my name on it.

Americans are more familiar with fruit cobbler, or a fool, or a grunt, depending on what region of the country you live in.  I’d never even heard of a crumble, but dang it was good!  My friend Lesley showed me how to make one –  a rhubarb crumble, which is the hands down favorite in England. According to her, all school girls in England learn to make a “proper” crumble. So when they talk about passing their “A” levels, they’re talking about being able to make “A” proper crumble.

When I was back visiting my friend Cathy in Kansas City, we decided to see if we make one ourselves with some blackberries from Cathy’s garden and peaches. It was delicious and her family devoured it (with a little help from me).

A Not-So-Proper English Crumble

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

The Filling
4 c. of fruit (pretty much the same as you’d use for a pie) Strawberry/rhubarb is a sure combination
1/4 to 1/2 c. sugar (rhubarb requires more – I tend to go light on the sugar)
If you’re so inclined, you can put a squirt of lemon juice in or a pinch of cinnamon.
Mix and put in an 8 x 8 or 9 x 9 ceramic dish.

For the crumble:
1 cup flour
3 oz. butter straight from the fridge, the colder the better.
3 oz. sugar
pinch of salt
1  handful or  1/4 to 1/3 cup of uncooked oatmeal

To make the crumble:  Cut butter into squares and combine with flour. The key is to work quickly while the butter is cold. Work out the butter lumps using your thumb and index and middle fingers. It’s sort of a “show me the money gesture.” Keep your ring finger and pinky out of the action.

Stir the  sugar into the mix and add a scoop of oatmeal. I used half a packet of instant oatmeal with flax the other day. Lesley used muesli cereal.

Sprinkle the crumble on top of the fruit, but don’t tap it down. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes. It will turn just slightly golden. It’s great served with vanilla ice cream, but I like it best the next day. There’s no day after that cause it’s all gone. Enjoy!


1. Catherine Sherman - September 2, 2009

Thanks! You finally posted the recipe! I made my usual crust after you left, and it was tough, even though it was the same ingredients. Who would have thought massaging the crust ingredients would make it so delicious! It’s not really a crust, though. It’s a crumble!

Cathy – You’ve got to crumble the flour and butter BEFORE you add the sugar. It’s this “slight of hand” trick that makes the crumble crumble. Jan


2. elissestuart - September 2, 2009

Yea! I’ve been waiting for this crumble since I posted my Berry Clafouti recipe. Yum, can’t wait til the long weekend to have time to make this.


3. Bev from england - September 2, 2009

yum…. i love crumbles….i never follow a recipie tho!

Interestingly u can vary it somewhat too….instead of the oats add chopped nuts, dried fruit, coconut, spices whatever u fancy really ….and even more bizarely ive melted the butter/marg instead and then added it to the flour , sugar mix n lightly stirred it in so it forms kinda balls…u then pour it over the fruit the same but get a slightly different topping. could just eat one now 😛

Bev – Interesting…Lesley doesn’t follow a recipe either. I had her send me the portions for the flour and butter though. Julia Child I’m not. Jan


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