The way the crisp crumbles
Food for thought

The way the crisp crumbles

The Brits call it one thing, the Americans another. Either way, it can be an economical, warm, healthy dessert

Phyllis Glazer is an American-born food journalist based in Tel Aviv, Israel. She is the author of several cookbooks that have been published in Hebrew, German, and Italian, and appears frequently on television and radio in Israel.

Pears in abundance (photo credit: Nati Shohat/Flash 90)
Pears in abundance (photo credit: Nati Shohat/Flash 90)

The Brits call it a crumble, and Americans call it a crisp, but they’re basically the same thing, an utterly delicious combination of fresh seasonal fruit topped with sweetened crumbs and baked to an appealing golden-brown crisp that crumbles when you eat it.

(According to the home cooking mavens at the technique-centric Cooks Illustrated, the family of crumb-topped fruit bakes also includes cobblers, which usually have a biscuit topping, differentiating itself from crisps and crumbles that have a crumb topping. Moreover, crisps, which are topped with nuts, differ slightly from crumbles, which use oatmeal instead.)

Although some versions of the crisp or crumble are said to date back to the 19th century, they enjoyed particular popularity during World War II, when rationing of basics like sugar, butter, and eggs made pies and cakes impossible to prepare. In our neck of the woods, with fall fruits available and the prices of ingredients soaring, the crumble can be more than an economical, warm dessert. When made with healthy ingredients, it can be topped with yogurt for breakfast or brunch, kept it in the refrigerator for the kids to eat as a nutritious snack, or served as a seasonal and warming end-of-meal dessert.

This gluten-free crumble is also a great way to celebrate the really fresh apples and pears available right now, rather than the cold-stored and imported fruit available the rest of the year.

A crumble -- or crisp -- suitable for breakfast (Courtesy Phyllis Glazer)
A crumble — or crisp — suitable for breakfast (Courtesy Phyllis Glazer)

Fall Fruit Crumble with Dried Cranberries (Serves 6)

  • 3 medium pears, peeled, halved and cored
  • 2 medium-large apples, peeled, halved and cored
  • 1/4 cup apple juice- or maple syrup-sweetened dried cranberries
  • 2 bananas, sliced crosswise on the diagonal
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon tapioca flour (or other non-gluten flour; you can also use regular flour)
  • Juice of one large orange

Crumb topping

  • 2 cups almond flour (available in health food stores; regular flour can also be used)
  • 1 teaspoon sunflower seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans
  • 25 grams cold butter
  • 1/4 cup agave syrup, honey or silan

1. Preheat the oven to 170C (320F). Grease a 22 cm (10-inch) rectangular pan with butter and set aside.

2. Cut the halved pears and apples into thin slices and place in a bowl with the cranberries. Mix the cinnamon, nutmeg, tapioca and orange juice in a small bowl, and pour over the fruit. Add the bananas and stir gently. Transfer the fruit to the prepared pan in an even layer.

3. In a dry bowl, mix almond flour, sunflower seeds, spices and pecans. Cut the butter into tiny cubes and use your hands to rub the butter cubes into the flour mixture. Stir in the agave, honey or silan and sprinkle the mixture in one layer over the fruit.

4. Cover with aluminum foil and bake 15 minutes. Remove the cover and bake an additional 8-10 minutes or until the crumbs are golden and the fruit is slightly crisp to tender. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving. Serve warm, and top with thick yogurt.

Adapted from “Pashut Bari” by Phyllis Glazer for Modan Publishers.

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