Years ago, I created a crumble recipe that works for just about any fruit. With its crunchy topping of almonds and brown sugar over warm fruit, it’s a fine stand-in for a tart. In summer, I return year after year to the essential strawberry-rhubarb recipe I first published in A New Way to Cook, swapping in fresh pitted cherries for an unexpected Cherry Crumble. Here are both, while the fruit is full-tilt peak.
(With thanks to Suzanne Shaker of her photo of the Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumble next to her well-used copy of A New Way to Cook.)
Recipe: Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble
You may prepare the topping up to 4 days ahead; cover and refrigerate. You may prepare the filling up to 2 hours ahead; add the Topping just before baking. The crumble is best eaten within 2 hours of baking.
For the Topping:
6 tablespoons sliced almonds (1 1/2 ounces)
6 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces, slightly softened
1 1/2 pounds rhubarb, ends discarded, and sliced into 1/2-inch chunks (4 cups)
1 1/2 cups ripe strawberries, halved or quartered if large
2 tablespoons unbleached flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 350. For the Topping, spread the nuts on a baking sheet. Roast until they are just golden and fragrant, 6-7 minutes (do not allow the nuts to brown past golden). Set aside to cool. In a food processor, grind the nuts, flour, sugar and salt to a medium fine meal. Transfer to a medium bowl. With your fingers, work in the butter by pinching and rubbing the mixture until it is very crumbly. Refrigerate 15 minutes.
In a 10-inch gratin dish, combine the rhubarb with the strawberries. Toss with the flour, white sugar and brown sugars. Then sprinkle the lemon juice over the fruit and toss again. Spread the fruit evenly in the dish and spread the topping evenly over the fruit.
Bake until the fruit is bubbling and the top is browned, about 40 minutes. If the top is browning too quickly, cover lightly with foil.
Recipe: Cherry Crumble
In the Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumble, above, substitute 5 cups pitted cherries for the strawberries and rhubarb. Reduce the sugar to 2 1/2 – 3 tablespoons and toss the fruit with 1 tablespoons fresh lemon juice.
How to Pit Cherries. The only real work in this crumble is pitting the cherries, which isn’t hard at all.
There are several well-designed cherry pitters available that can pit a pound of cherries in just a few minutes, from simple handheld cherry pitter…
…to more elaborate plunger-and-chute models, which we use if we have a lot of cherries to pit.
When caught without a cherry pitter, we’ve found it is easy to pit cherries the same way we pit olives: by smashing them lightly with a can or jar. The flesh breaks open so the cherry is no longer a neat shape, but it makes the pit is easy to take out. Place the cherries in a metal baking dish with at least 2” sides when you are doing this, to prevent the juice from squirting on your clothes. Alternatively, cover them with a paper towels to catch the spray. Or you can do what a reader did:
I pitted 5 pounds of cherries watching Brazil playing the Netherlands. I had three containers. One with my washed cherries, one for the pits and one to hold the pitted cherries. I held a cherry in one hand and a chopstick through the cherry from the stem end and pushed the pit through to the other side. No other tool necessary! I would have gone faster if I wasn’t watching the TV, but this way was very enjoyable!