Q. What makes a good crumble crust?
A. A crumble is so beloved — it brings to mind county fairs and picnics. When my friends, family or customers see that crumble on top of a pie they always jump for joy. I think because it is different than what you usually see — it is sweeter than a normal crust — it evokes a summer mood, and it is a goal to see if you can gets lots of crumbles on your slice.
Q. What is the difference between a crumble and a crisp?
A. A crumble crust is really a streusel, so you can thank the Austrians when you eat yours. You do not have to totally bake a crumble. You might slightly bake it to melt the butter, but it can be served just as it is if you melt the butter and mix it up. It is basically flour, sugar, brown sugar, butter and maybe a touch of salt to break the sweetness.
A crisp requires baking to bind it together and give it that slight crackle when you bite into it. The top browns and bakes, the butter melts and holds it together, and the underneath is moist with the juices of the fruit. It is made with all the above ingredients with the addition of oatmeal to give it heft. (I am sure this makes it very healthy so you should feel absolutely no guilt when you eat it.)
Although I love Martha Stewart, I do not like her crumble recipe at all; steer clear of it. It is the only sweet recipe of hers that I have ever disliked, so I have wondered if she really invented it. Hers is a huge business, with a lot of cooks and chefs under her, and as fabulous as she is, she cannot do everything at all times. However, I have two recipes for you that are great. One is Ina Garten's crisp and the other is Le Cordon Bleu's crumble. I am not legally allowed to give you LCB recipes, so I have changed it a bit —hopefully it is better — and it is in the metric system for all you smarty-pants gourmands out there.
Ina Garten's Crisp:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup oatmeal
2 sticks cold, diced butter ( 1/2 pound)
Mix this together in a food processor or with a pastry cutter until it resembles peas and place over your fruit base. Bake your pie or crisp for the allotted time, usually 1 hour.
Le Cordon Bleu's streusel (crumble)
80 grams granulated sugar
30 grams brown sugar
170 grams all purpose flour
140 grams very cold butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
Put all your dry ingredients together and mix them. Cut the butter and vanilla through with a pastry cutter or quickly pulse in a food processor. Next, crumble the dough you have made over your pie by rubbing it between your hands. We actually push it through a giant box with a screen on top, which forms it into delicious squiggles. If you have a wide mesh strainer or sieve, you can do this as well, but your two hands will do just fine.
You can put this over a coffee cake also.