Recipe: Berry and Chocolate Crumble to Remember Summer

dessert2Hello!  It’s been a while, hasn’t it?  This is because it turns out that if one has had a horrible cold for a week and a half, it isn’t actually a particularly brilliant idea to then walk and cycle more than 65,000 steps over the long weekend in a bid to up one’s step count.  She says, with the sad wisdom of one who is *still* coughing like Violetta in Act III of La Traviata at random intervals and who has, moreover, been dog-tired and reduced to trudging around the living room every night just to reach 10,000 steps every day since…

Anyway.  This evening turned out to be a surprise night off from choir, which is rather glorious, not because I wanted to avoid choir, but because I learned this *after* I had prepared dinner in advance.  Better still, it’s cold and rainy outside, I already have a respectable total on my pedometer – so tonight I can be as self-indulgent as I like!  I can lie on the couch and watch Pride and Prejudice on DVD!  I can curl up in bed with a cat or two and a good book!

…or I can make desserts involving chocolate *and* berries!  Because it is a truth universally acknowledged that a tired Catherine in possession of a shiny new P&P DVD must be in want of dessert.

This dessert, too, is rather perfect for the weather.  I basically took a whole pail of frozen berries that I bought at the farmers’ market and combined them with a little lavender sugar – summer in a bowl.  But winter is the time for hot, comforting desserts, so I covered the whole lot up with an almond and chocolate crumble topping, and baked it until it was bubbling and sweet and gorgeous and almost cakeishly puddingy (I defy you to try to convince me that these are not proper words) and basically everything one could want in a winter dessert.  The pleasures of winter with the memories of summer on a lazy, rainy evening.

Life is good.

Your Shopping List

500 g mixed fresh or frozen berries.  Frozen is probably easier to work with, assuming they haven’t turned into a brick.
2 teaspoons of lavender sugar (but plain caster sugar would do, and if you have a few dried lavender buds, you could crush them into the mix)
2 teaspoons of vanilla sugar (or, again, plain caster sugar and half a teaspoon of vanilla extract)
50 g butter, softened
50 g caster sugar
20 g cocoa, the lovely dark reddish Dutch kind, if possible
175 g almond meal, the unblanched kind, if possible
30 g plain flour or coconut flour or any gluten-free flour you like, really

Now what will you do with it?

Pour the frozen berries into a baking dish that will fit them with maybe a centimetre or two of space at the top.  A nice, 18cm (or thereabouts) square Corningware dish is good.  Corningware just sings of winter, doesn’t it?  If the berries are frozen, run your fingers through them gently to break apart any which are clumped together.

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Lick your fingers!

Now wash your hands!   (Dear me, I can’t believe I had to tell you that!)

Add the lavender and vanilla sugars to the berries and toss together well.  A spoon is probably the more grown-up way to do this, but if you use your hands, I won’t tell.  Though you will then have Lady Macbeth Out Out Damn Spot hands, so be warned.

Don't these look beautiful?  Like they are covered with powdered snow...

Don’t they look beautiful? Like they are covered with powdered snow…

(yum)

Now make the crumble topping.  Start by checking that your butter is fairly soft – if not, zap it for twenty seconds or so in the microwave.  Add all the other crumble ingredients to the butter, and use your fingers to mix together well.  Oh, alright, you could use a fork, but fingers are more fun and create less washing up.

You will discover that you have basically just reinvented biscuit dough.  It’s not that crumbly at all, but it tastes awesome, so go with it.  Try to resist the urge to eat it all out of the bowl (though if you do, you could always claim it was a raw food dessert, and thus, surely, terribly good for you…) (I didn’t say it would be a convincing claim).

topped

Crumble the topping over the berries, and pat down gently.  Let’s face it, this probably really is a biscuit topping, but who’s complaining, really?

topped2

Bake at 185°C for 30-40 minutes, or until the topping feels done and the berries are attempting to erupt, lava-like, though the crust.

baked

Eat, contentedly, and probably with ice cream.  Isn’t it nice to have good-quality berries when it *isn’t* 40°C outside?

dessert1

Variations

This recipe is vegetarian, egg-free, and also gluten-free if you choose one of my alternatives to the plain flour above.  It works very happily with non-dairy margarine, making it dairy-free and vegan, too.  Fruit crumble is never going to be low in fructose, and this particular version is neither low-GI nor nut-free, though you probably could swap out half the almond meal for more plain flour and the rest for shredded coconut or the like.

You could use just one kind of berry or many kinds.  You could also make this crumble topping for poached or tinned pears – you would want to use cooked pears, though, because raw pears won’t cook in the time the topping takes.  It would also be great with apricots, now I think about it.  Though you’d probably want to use a larger, shallower dish so that the apricots could go in a single layer and cook faster.

So much deliciousness…

berries

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One year ago: Recipe: Lemon and Kaffir Lime Delicious Pudding
Two years ago: Leftovers for lunch: Roast Vegetable and Chickpea Salad
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