End of Summer and into Fall with a Fresh Fruit Crumble

crumbleinbowl2When I was a child, as far as dessert was concerned, I was “all in” for chocolate. Fruit desserts were okay, but somehow a little disappointing. Even with an added bonus of vanilla ice cream piled on top of a slice of apple pie or a warm peach crisp, a fruit dessert still didn’t hold a candle to anything chocolate. And yes, chocolate ice cream on top of a peach crisp or apple pie is just plain wrong.

Fast forward to many years later and I am now “all in” for fruit-based desserts. It’s not that I have given up chocolate, but these days whether it’s spring berries, summer peaches or fall apples, there’s a whole lot of fruit dessert making going on at my house. And my most favorite thing to make is something quick and easy with ingredients I usually have on hand. Enter the fruit crumble.

What’s the difference between a crumble, a crisp and a cobbler, you may ask?

Well, not a whole lot, really. In my opinion, the difference is mostly in the topping, although some cobblers do have a thickening agent added to the filling. For instance, the biscuit, dumpling or crust-like topping of a cobbler is flour-based, whereas a crumble topping is much more streusel-like in nature, has far less flour and often includes spices, oats and nuts. That would place a crisp—which has a higher butter and sugar to flour ratio in its topping than a cobbler, but typically does not include oats or nuts—somewhere in between a cobbler and a crumble.

Of the three, a crumble has become my favorite. The appeal is not only in the combination of flavors that a crumble provides, but in the textural contrast between the juicy, soft and sweet fruit and the toothsome, crispy, crunchy topping. It’s a perfectly balanced dessert. With a scoop of your favorite vanilla bean ice cream melting over a warm serving of crumble, you’re in for a heavenly experience!

Another thing to love about a crumble is how versatile it is. You can make it with berries or stone fruit, or a mix of the two. And when the spring/summer fruits are gone, you can make it with seasonal apples or pears instead…heck, throw in a few fresh cranberries with those apples, if you like. If your citrus du jour is orange instead of lemon, that will work just as well. So really, this is a year-round dish.

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Generally I am not a fan of overly sweet desserts, so my version of fruit crumble relies on less sugar than many recipes, which allows the natural sweetness of the ripe fruit to shine through. The addition of vanilla ice cream becomes an enhancement to the flavor and texture of the dessert, rather than making it overbearingly sweet.

Make this crumble with your favorite fresh fruit, add some vanilla ice cream, raise up your spoon and let’s toast the end of summer and the beginning of the fall season. Bon appétit!

Peach or Fresh Fruit Crumble
Serves 6

For the filling:
7-8 large ripe peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced to yield about 7 1/2 cups total of fruit
(or you can mix peaches or nectarines, blackberries or blueberries and fresh cherries, or substitute an equal amount of *peeled or skin-on cored and sliced apples or ripe pears instead of stone fruit or berries)
1/2 cup granulated cane sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
zest of one lemon (or an orange will do nicely, too)

For the topping:
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp kosher salt
6 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter cut into small pieces

Extra butter to grease your baking dish
Vanilla bean ice cream to serve (don’t skip, life is too short!)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter either a 3-inch deep 7 x 11 or similarly sized glass or oval baking dish, and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the peaches (or whatever fruits you are using), sugar, cinnamon and zest and stir to combine well. Set the fruit mixture aside while you make the crumble topping. In a small bowl combine the brown sugar, oats, pecans, flour, salt and cinnamon. Add in the cut butter and mix with your hands until the mixture is crumbly and the butter is in pea-sized pieces.

Evenly spread the fruit into the bottom of your prepared dish. Cover the fruit evenly with the crumble mixture. Place the dish on a foil lined baking sheet before baking to catch any spills, and place into the oven. Bake for 22-25 minutes or until the crumble is golden brown and the fruit mixture is bubbly. Remove from the oven and allow the crumble to cool about 15 minutes or to room temperature. Serve warm or at room temperature, topped with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. Leftovers, if any, can be covered with plastic, refrigerated and gently warmed to room temperature before serving.

*Note: If making this crisp with apples or pears, add 1 Tablespoon of fresh lemon juice to the fruit mixture and then proceed with the rest of the recipe as written.

Fresh out of the oven, a sea of crispy crumble over juicy fruit is just waiting for someone to dive in!

Fresh out of the oven, a sea of crispy crumble over juicy fruit is just waiting for someone to dive in!

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Apple and Oat Cake with Vanilla Yogurt Cream

finishedcake1With October upon us tomorrow (my birthday!), I’m definitely in the mood for Fall ingredients like butternut squash, leafy kale and fresh apples. Lately I’m trying to cook healthier dishes for a number of reasons and that means lighter cooking without sacrificing flavor or texture. Thanks to the latest edition of Cooking Light magazine, I found some inspiration. Their Whole-Grain Apple Cake with Yogurt Cream sounded so delicious and very easy to make…I just had to give it a try.

As is often the case for me of late, once the time rolled around that I could make the cake—a rainy day last weekend—I started prepping in the kitchen and realized that I did not have what I needed. Time to improvise.

While I didn’t change the recipe a huge amount, what I did change resulted in a pretty magnificent, not-too-sweet and technically gluten-free cake. It was very dense, apple forward and delicious, but with fewer calories than most apple cakes. The vanilla yogurt cream adds just the right touch of creamy decadence that one wants in a topping.

My simple substitutions included making my own “buttermilk” from 1% milk and lemon juice and adding a little extra lemon for some kick, because apples love lemon. I also used oat flour instead of whole wheat, rolled oats instead of quick, candied ginger instead of powdered and a little more cinnamon, please. I loved the resulting texture, which was less airy than the original appeared to be since I didn’t change the leavening to compensate for the denser oat flour. Additionally I made my yogurt cream the way I always do…with 2% Greek Fage yogurt, a little brown sugar and some Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla, and left out the whipping cream called for in the recipe. Very, very yummy and a great sub for whipped cream on most sweets that aren’t opposed to some tang.

slice

It’s that night time shot time of year again.

One of the things I’ve learned on my own about substitutions in baked goods is that one must be extremely careful to not upset the balance of leavening or the liquid to dry ratio in a recipe. If you respect that, you can learn a lot about baking by experimenting…which is basically what I do in my kitchen.

Having said that, the idea of this cake and the method that Cooking Light used to reduce the fat and calorie content in a favorite recipe was very enlightening. One of the most brilliant ideas was that of freezing your butter so that you can then grate a small amount of it into the topping. This allows for excellent distribution of a very small amount of fat, while providing great flavor and crispness in the streusel topping. That’s a trick I’ll keep handy for the future…and my stick of butter is now residing in the freezer just waiting to go.

My only wish for this cake would be to find a good substitution for canola oil. I did use it in the recipe below, but may try a different type of oil next time, even olive oil. I am becoming less and less of a fan of canola oil because it isn’t very pure and doesn’t seem to be as healthy as some other oils on the market. If you have other ideas for substitutions that are healthy and work well in baking, please let me know!

Apple and Oat Cake with Vanilla Yogurt Cream
(Slightly adapted from Cooking Light)
Serves 10

Note: Oat flour is more caloric and has slightly more fat content than whole wheat flour, but is a healthy flour. Technically this recipe is now gluten-free, but if you’re sensitive to gluten you should review the ingredients carefully. Hopefully by not using whipping cream in the yogurt cream, some of the low caloric balance is restored.

Cake:
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice added to 1% milk in order to make 2/3 cup total of lemon juice and milk “buttermilk” (let mixture to sit for 10 minutes and thicken before using)
1/3 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon Madagascar Bourbon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 2/3 cup oat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped candied ginger
2 cups grated apple such as Honeycrisp or Gala (if not using organic apples, peel the apples before grating)
Baking spray for the pan

Streusel:
3 tablespoons rolled oats
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon brown sugar packed
1 1/2 tablespoons frozen unsalted butter, grated
dash of kosher salt

Vanilla Yogurt Cream:
3/4 cup plain 2% Greek yogurt
1 1/2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. For the cake, place the first 5 ingredients (thorough eggs) in a large mixing bowl and beat together with a hand mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds until well combined. In a medium bowl combine the flour and the next 5 ingredients (through the ginger) and stir well with a whisk. Add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture and beat at low speed until just combined. Stir in the apple by hand. Pour the batter evenly into a 9-inch non-stick cake pan that has been coated with baking spray.

To prepare the streusel topping, combine the rolled oats and the next 4 ingredients (through kosher salt) in a small bowl and toss to combine. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the batter. Bake at 350 degrees F for 40-45 minutes until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs clinging. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Run a knife gently around the edges of the cake pan, place a plate on top of the pan and invert the cake onto the plate, then place the rack onto the bottom of the cake and invert back onto the rack to finish cooling, streusel side up. Serve warm or at room temperature.

To prepare the vanilla yogurt cream, place all ingredients into a small bowl and whisk until combined. Slice the cake into 10 pieces and serve each piece with about 1 tablespoon of the cream.

*****

finished cake top view

Easy Curried Butternut Squash Soup

soup5RSoup prepared any time of the year is a welcome repast in our house. One of the things I love about soup is the infinite variety of tastes and textures that it can provide. Whether hot or cold, savory or sweet, thick, chunky or thin…all soups say “comfort” to me.

Spring is here, the trees are blooming and my hellebores are having a banner year. The daffodils and tulips have been in full glory this week and even the azaleas are showing a little color in their buds. Our temps have ranged up to 80 degrees F on and off for the past few weeks and we’ve enjoyed spending a few nights grilling out on our deck…when it hasn’t been raining. Today is another beautiful day—but cold, and it’s due to go back down to freezing tonight. Seems like a perfect time to make a warming pot of soup! Continue reading

A is for Apples: A Savory Bread Pudding and an Apple Oat Walnut Bar

Fall isn’t Fall without apple bars, breads, cakes, cookies, crisps, bread puddings, salads and soups!

Do you have seasonal favorite dishes that you like to make? As each year rolls around, I look forward with great anticipation to tasting some favorite dishes once more, and it seems like periodically they are due for a wee makeover. Not that there was anything wrong with them the first time around, but just because I think…’Wow, wouldn’t this be good with this or that added to it?’ Or, ‘What if I tried making that into something else?’ Here are two new dishes, not quite the same as the old dishes—and both involve one of my favorite seasonal ingredients, apples! Continue reading

Quick Loaf: Cranberry Apple Walnut Bread

Eating a slice of this is a happy way to start the day!

Eating a slice of this is a happy way to start, or end, your day!

For many, many years I used to run up to the local health food store and get one of their delicious muffins…well, maybe more than one…to have for my breakfast. They made a few different kinds, but the one I loved the best featured fresh cranberries, apples and walnuts in a dense, moist muffin that had some underlying spice to it. I became addicted.

Some years ago the health food grocery closed their little deli section and changed over to a deli case, one which unfortunately meant the end to those muffins. But I remember them so well, and I’ve always wanted to recreate them.

This is a very close representation of those flavors. It’s not a muffin, though you could certainly make some muffins out of this recipe. It does feature fresh cranberries, which I happen to have a lot of in my freezer at the moment. But if you can’t get them right now or at all, by all means substitute another cup of apple or some pear for the cranberries, perhaps in small chunks for contrasting texture to the grated apple. Or better yet, feel free to experiment and try your own favorite berry or fruit that you think goes well with apple.

I particularly enjoy the contrasting tart pop of fresh cranberry in your mouth against the mildly sweet background of the apple and walnut in this bread. This loaf isn’t an overly sweet thing…in fact I would venture to say it’s a pretty healthy entry into the quick bread category. But it does make a perfect slice for breakfast, and even has just enough sweetness for dessert, in my opinion!

Cranberry Apple Walnut Bread
Makes 1 loaf

3 Tablespoons of unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup white all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 (generous) teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 cups grated Pink Lady apple (or other baking apple) with skin (about 2 medium apples)
1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
1/3 cup low fat milk
1 cup fresh cranberries, whole
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease one standard loaf pan with unsalted butter and set aside.

In a medium bowl, sift together the wheat flour, the white flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt. In another large bowl, beat the sugar and the butter together with an electric mixer on medium speed until well blended, then add the egg and beat until combined. On low speed, add the grated apple, dry flour mixture and the milk in about 3 alternating batches to the butter and sugar mixture, alternating each ingredient until just incorporated, do not over beat. Gently stir in the cranberries and walnuts with a spatula or spoon, then transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan, smoothing the top. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 55 minutes, or until the top is golden brown, the loaf is shrinking from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Allow the loaf to cool in the pan for 15 minutes on a wire rack, then turn the loaf out of the pan and allow it to cool on the rack until just warm or at room temp. Cut into slices and serve. This makes a great gift, too!

Loaf1

Falling for Salad: Baby Kale with Fall Fruits, Pecans and Candied Ginger

I’d love to take credit for the simply brilliant idea of using candied (crystallized) ginger in a salad…but I can’t.

I was at The Porter in Atlanta recently meeting some friends and sharing some craft beers, when a salad on their menu caught my eye…it mentioned candied ginger. Candied ginger! What a fabulous addition to a salad with fruit in it…why didn’t I think of that? I didn’t order it because it wasn’t what I wanted to have with beer that night, but the friend sitting next to me did, and kindly offered me a bite. I had just that one bite…and I knew I had to make my own version the moment the leaves touched my lips! It was a baby kale salad with fruits, nuts and ginger, and I told my friend I was absolutely going to try and recreate this fall salad. And I think my version tastes even better than the bite I remember…full of festive flavors.

Baby kale, which is a bit bitter in its raw state, becomes something quite different when tossed with a cooked hard apple cider and shallot vinaigrette. Then add in some sweet toasted local pecans and crisp local Fuji apples, a Bartlett pear, a bit of candied ginger and this salad really comes alive. I’m not usually one to toss my salads because I don’t like for my greens to wilt under the dressing or to be overly dressed. But I have to say that this fall salad must be tossed to really enjoy the full flavor and to achieve a perfect bond between the ingredients. As the slightly warm and tart vinaigrette coats the sturdy kale leaves it begins to permeate them, creating a wonderful balance to the bitterness, turning it into bittersweet. The candied ginger is a perfect foil for the kale and is a spice match with the apple vinaigrette, fresh apple, pear and pecans.

And yes, if you don’t like kale, you can absolutely use your favorite greens in this salad. In fact, I think you’ll find that my hard cider vinaigrette is a wonderful dressing for any green salad that utilizes fresh or dried fruits, root veggies or nuts. We’ve really, well…fallen for for this salad, and I hope you will, too!

Baby Kale Salad with Fall Fruits, Pecans, Candied Ginger and Hard Apple Cider Vinaigrettte
Makes 4 servings

For the Hard Cider Vinaigrette:
2 large shallots, peeled and minced, about 1/2 cup
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup hard apple cider (such as Crispin)
1 teaspoon honey
2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

For the salad:
8 cups fresh raw baby kale leaves, washed and dried, trim off long stems
20 pecan halves, lightly toasted and broken into pieces
1 Tablespoon finely chopped candied (crystallized) ginger
1 fresh Bartlett or other favorite pear, cored and cut into thin slices
1 fresh Fuji or other favorite apple, cored and cut into thin slices

Heat the 1 Tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium low heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring until they begin to soften and are just about to start turning brown, about 2-3 minutes. Add the hard apple cider and the honey, bring to a simmer and allow to cook for about 5 more minutes, stirring, until the mixture has reduced by about a quarter. Remove from the heat and pour into a medium sized bowl. Whisk in the cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, kosher salt and black pepper. Then slowly whisk in the olive oil until the mixture is emulsified.

In a large bowl, combine the kale leaves, pecans, ginger, pear and apple. Pour over about 1/3 cup of the warm dressing and toss to coat well. Add a bit more dressing if needed to ensure that everything has a light coating of the dressing. Serve alongside your favorite dish or some roasted vegetable soup! The remaining dressing will keep for several days stored in an airtight jar in the fridge.