Strawberry and Almond Crumble
- 1 pound strawberries, hulled
- 1/4 cup caster sugar
- 1/4 cup almond meal/flour
- 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
- For the topping:
- Heaping 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 5 tablespoons cold butter, diced
- 1 1/4 cup sliced almonds
- Scant 1/2 cup turbinado sugar
- Heavy cream, to serve
- 1 ovenproof pie dish approximately 8-inches diameter by 2-inches deep (approximately 1 1/4 quarts capacity)
If I had to choose one thing that cooking could not make better, I'd have put good money that it would have been a bad (as in unripe and tasteless) strawberry. I'd almost be embarrassed even owning up to trying to improve it, were it not for the fact that I read an article by Simon Hopkinson, a revered British chef, in which he advised using said strawberries in a pie. So I did. Well, that's not quite true: I am lazier than him, so I made a crumble. I don't know what, how or why it happened, but this is a crumble of dreams. The oven doesn't, as you'd think, turn the berries into a red-tinted mush of slime, but into berry-intense bursts of tender juiciness. This is nothing short of alchemy: you take the vilest, crunchiest supermarket strawberries, top them with an almondy, buttery rubble, bake and turn them into the taste of English summer on a cold day. Naturally, serve with lashings of cream: I regard this is obligatory not optional.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Put the hulled strawberries into your pie dish (I use a round one) and sprinkle over them the sugar, almond meal, and vanilla extract. Give the dish a good shake or two to mix the ingredients.
Now for the crumble topping: put the flour and baking powder in a mixing bowl and rub in the cold, diced butter between thumb and fingers (or in a free standing mixer).When you've finished with it, it should resemble rough, pale oatmeal. Stir in the sliced almonds and turbinado sugar with a fork.
Tip this over the strawberry mixture, covering the strawberries in an even layer and giving a bit of a press in at the edges of the dish. Set the dish on a cookie sheet and bake in the oven for 30 minutes, by which time the crumble topping will have darkened to a pale gold and some pink-red juices will be seeping and bubbling out at the edges.
Let stand for 10 minutes before serving, and be sure to put a pitcher of chilled heavy cream on the table alongside.
Make Ahead Note: The crumble can be assembled 1 day ahead. Cover with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator until needed. Bake as directed in recipe, but allowing extra 5 to 10 minutes cooking time and check crumble is piping hot in the centre.
Freeze Note: Crumble topping can be made and frozen in resealable plastic bags, for up to 3 months. Sprinkle topping direct from freezer over fruit, breaking up large lumps with your hands. The assembled but unbaked crumble can be frozen, wrapped in a double layer of plastic wrap and a layer of aluminum foil, for up to 3 months. Defrost for 24 hours in fridge and bake as above.
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