Crumbles are as much a part of autumn as rainy days, conkers and freshly fallen leaves. Eager to find a crumble as good as our nans' we went in search of the ultimate recipe.
The not-so-humble crumble can be comforting and wholesome, fruity and sweet, oaty and crunchy. Get it right and it wraps up everything you want in a pudding.
Star anise, crushed amaretti biscuits and even a dash of brandy have been known to make it into the mix and everyone has a secret tip for the ultimate topping technique. Here are some tips on how to make the ultimate crumble.
Get ready to crumble
Raymond Blanc pre-cooks the crumble topping in this apple and blackberry recipe to avoid gluey, uncooked crumble and to retain the texture of the fruit - this creates a really biscuity topping, and as it is already crunchy and cooked before being topped onto the fruit you don't risk any sogginess.
Sweet and juicy
In this recipe Mary Cadogan recommends sweetening the apples with apricot jam and orange juice to make it twice as fruity. If you prefer you can cut down on sugar as a consequence, or add a little syrup to the oaty crumbles to make delicious little chewy clusters.
Choosing the perfect crumble to go with your fruit is an art form in itself. Sweet caramelised eating apples will be better showcased with a more savoury topping, whereas tart rhubarb and sharp but beautiful gooseberries are better complimented with a sweet yet simple topping, like in this gooseberry crumble recipe.
The most popular tip in our office was adding a sprinkle of cinnamon, or even star anise, into fruity mixtures like apples, plums and blackberries. As well as adding a gentle dusting of demerara to the top of the crumble for a delicious caramelised crunch.
Chopped and toasted pecans or hazelnuts make a lovely addition to a traditional crumble, for taste as well as an extra crunchy texture. Adding ground almonds infuses the entire topping with a delicious sweet and nutty flavour, but it can lead to a more cakey result; and so we have the less-classic but still-scrumptious cobbler.
Our Facebook and Twitter fans got in touch to tell us their thoughts:
Mark Bowerman says: Rub the butter in fairly quickly, and not too perfectly, a fine dusty texture at this stage spoils the fun. Use a shallowish dish if you've got a wet fruit mixture otherwise the crumble will start to dissolve before it's baked. Custard. Yum.
Amanda Forster-Searle says: I'm dairy & wheat intolerant and make scrummy crumbles with gluten-free flour, ground almonds, soft brown sugar and goat's butter, have had lots of happy tums!! Also I use eating apples so use less sugar that way.
Sandra Wilson says: Dollops of marmalade on rhubarb, and a couple handfuls of porridge oats in the crumble mix.
Gemma Smelt says: No scrimping! None of that 'lots of fruit and a pathetic amount of crumble on top' - it's all about the crumble, the clue's in the name!
Miriam Waller says: My son. Not as a filling, mind. He manages to make the perfect crumble mixture every time.
We'd love to hear your tips and ideas for making the perfect crumble, or what you prefer to serve it with - is it custard or ice cream?