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!

Hurray for Upside Down! Georgia Peach, Bourbon and Cherry-Studded Skillet Cake

cake6***Warning. A healthy, low calorie, vegan or gluten-free post is not ahead.*** 

Not that there’s anything wrong with any of those types of recipes, but this isn’t one. Nope, not even with the fruit. Still with me? Here’s a dessert that’s worth the calories.

Skillet cakes have been around for a long, long time, and inverting skillet cakes to show off a topping dates back as far as the middle ages. Maybe that’s why the mere mention of a pineapple upside down cake or a tarte tatin makes our mouths start to water and our eyes grow wider in anticipation of that very first bite.

The universal appeal of these cakes has been bred into us. This is particularly true in the Southern United States, where pineapple upside down cake has played an integral part in holidays and a served as a symbol of Southern hospitality since Jim Dole’s Hawaiian Pineapple Company ran a nationwide recipe contest in 1925 for utilizing canned pineapple. The response was overwhelming, receiving some 2,500 recipes for the festive cherry-studded pineapple wonder cake alone!

Of course most any fruit can serve as the “upside down” star of a skillet cake. And today it’s time to move over, pineapple, because there’s a new symbol of Southern hospitality in town. PEACHES ARE KING.

cake3

How could you possibly say no to a slice of this peachy keen cake?

Georgia is in the midst of a banner peach season which started in May, so it was only a matter of time before I used some fine local peaches to make a cake. I particularly enjoy fresh peaches with cherries. And when they’re combined with the customary brown sugar and butter topping of an upside down cake, these two fruits take on a lusciously glossy appearance with an absolutely divine light caramel taste. A good measure of cinnamon added to the batter brings warmth and extra flavor to the cake. Splash a little Kentucky bourbon into that batter and sprinkle a bit more over the top of this cake when it’s hot out of the oven, and you’ve got a real winner.

While the warning at the beginning of this post does apply, this cake is actually quite light to eat with an appealing, fluffy crumb. By scaling back on the butter and sugar found in a typical upside down cake recipe, the cake still retains just the right amount of caramelized goodness that one expects, but without the overpowering sweetness. It makes a beautiful and company-worthy cake that really stands alone, but you can guild the lily if you must by adding a dollop of whipped cream alongside—for nostalgic purposes, of course.

Just look at all of that cinnamon goodness and the crumb on this cake!

Just look at all of that cinnamon goodness and the crumb on this cake!

I foresee this basic cake recipe working well in the winter season, too, by using fresh apples and cinnamon scented with some orange zest or fresh pears with lemon, ginger and brandy. Really, the possibilities are endlessly delicious.

cake7Georgia Peach, Bourbon and Cherry-Studded Upside Down Skillet Cake
Makes 8 Generous Servings
Make this cake in a well-seasoned, 10-inch cast iron skillet. It will not be the same made in a cake pan and will be harder to release as well.

Ingredients for the Topping:
1/4 cup (4 Tablespoons) of unsalted butter
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2 cups of peeled and sliced fresh peaches, Georgia or other (about 4 medium peaches)
1/2 cup pitted fresh sweet cherries, cut into halves

Ingredients for the Cake Batter:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon table salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (3/4 stick)
1 cup granulated sugar (I use cane sugar)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon Madagascar Bourbon vanilla
1 tablespoon Kentucky bourbon, if you’ve got it, or other good quality bourbon
1/2 cup milk (2% is fine)

2 additional tablespoons of Kentucky bourbon to sprinkle over the finished cake

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Melt the 1/4 cup of butter in a well seasoned, 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium low heat, then add the brown sugar and stir while the mixture gently simmers for about 4 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and lay the peach slices facing in the same direction into the skillet on top of the sugar mixture, creating a circular fan design. Stud the peaches with the cherries, cut side down.

In a small bowl, sift together the first 4 ingredients for the cake batter. In a large mixing bowl, beat the softened 6 tablespoons of butter with a hand mixer until it’s light and fluffy on low, then add the granulated sugar in three additions. Add in the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Add the vanilla and the bourbon and beat to combine, then add half of the flour mixture, beating until just blended. Beat in the milk, then add the remaining flour mixture, beating until just blended. Spoon the batter into the skillet on top of the fruit topping, smoothing until it is evenly spread.

Bake the cake in the middle of the oven for 35-40 minutes, or until the top is a golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and allow the cake to stand in the skillet for 5 minutes, then carefully run a knife around the outer edge of the cake and invert the cake onto a large cake plate. Be sure to keep the cake plate and the skillet completely pressed together while inverting, then gently remove the skillet from the cake and replace any fruit that may stick to the bottom. (If your pan is well-seasoned, the fruit shouldn’t stick.) Sprinkle the top of the cake with the 2 tablespoons of bourbon and allow the cake to cool on the plate on a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature as is, or garnish with whipped cream or even vanilla ice cream, if you must…I understand.

*****

It’s hard to believe something that looks like this when it comes out of the oven can be turned upside down and become a show-stopper.