First, I should state here that "for a crowd" in this instance meant making three separate small family sized crumbles to share with friends. We're still social distancing, y'all! But when this pandemic is finally curbed and we can go back to gathering with all our loved ones, it'll be just as easy to whip this fruit crumble up in a single 9x13 dish and crank out 12 servings from the same dish.
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Anyway, yesterday I had some work cut out for me. My dear friend Lauren just moved back to Nashville with her family (hooray!) and they have a new tiny human they're caring for in the move (talk about extra stress!). I also hadn't seen my sweet Cassie since November despite living in the same city, and Lauren was our excuse to finally see each other (outside, of course).
I also had an abundance of apples that I recently had to vacate from the fridge to make room for other more delicate veggies that I just purchased on my monthly shopping trip. Apples, you ask? I know that they're typically regarded as a fall fruit, but they last an incredibly long time if stored appropriately. And during pandemic times, this gal shoots to buy long lasting fruits and veggies to ride us through the storm and keep me out of the public. #SaferAtHome, amirite?
I knew just the thing I could make for my gals that would be easy for them to reheat at home and would remind them that I love and miss them, even during this distanced time. Fruit crumbles are one of my favorite desserts, not only because they're super easy to make, but they're also delicious. Apples (and two rogue pears) made an excellent base for this one, but you could easily adapt this recipe for pretty much any stone fruit or berry. In fact, I made a peach crumble for just Joe and I last week using hack #1, and it was awesome.
Hack #1 - Oatmeal Packets FTW
I know I said that fruit crumbles are a favorite of mine because they're easy, but I recently had a EUREKA! moment that made this recipe EVEN EASIER. Do y'all buy the instant oatmeal packets you used to eat as kids? The sugary sweet ones. Maple & Brown Sugar, Cinnamon & Spice? Well, while I know they're not the healthiest breakfast option, I love how fast they are and they do have some redeeming qualities. They're filling! They have fiber! And they take me back to simpler times.
While I don't eat them particularly regularly (maybe once every two weeks?), I saw a big box at Costco for about half the cost of what normal boxes would run. At the outset of all the COVID, I couldn't help myself. Yes, we're a two person household. But if we need to full on bunker down for a few months, I reasoned, why not get something so deliciously reminiscent of childhood? And it's shelf-stable! So here I am, four months into quarantine, and I've eaten maybe 10 of the 52 packets.
But last week, I had an epiphany. Crumble toppings are just oats, sugar, spices, flour, baking soda and butter. Those little packets of childhood joy hold half of the elements I needed. When I made my peach crumble for two, I used two packets of Maple & Brown Sugar flavored oats, two tablespoons of butter, two tablespoons of flour and ¼ teaspoon of baking soda and it turned out perfectly. Feel free to stop there!
Hack #2 - Use Stale Cookies in Place of Other Crumble Parts
However, for yesterday's endeavor, I also set about to use up some cookies that I bought that went stale. It's humid in these parts, and we run our house on "Eco" mode during the day. I learned a valuable lesson: don't buy cookies that come in bags during the summer (or at least put them into airtight tubs once opened).
You already know that I hate wasting food. And the cookies were so yummy in their prime! I figured, why not process them with the other crumble ingredients and let them replace some of the flour and oats I would've used otherwise? They were primarily made of flour, sugar and pecans, so they should fit right in, right? I thought so.
Turns out they fit in quite nicely, I'm happy to report. So if you have a pack of Nilla Wafers, or Pecan Sandies, or Snickerdoodles or any other kind of non-chocolate, unfilled cookies that are on their way out, feel free to repurpose them with this second little hack. In fact, if I had had enough of them, I wouldn't have needed to use flour at all.
Feel Free to Riff!
Using my favorite Snapware containers made it easy to divvy up into three dishes - the six cup portion for Lauren and her family, and a four cup portion each for Cassie and Natalie, and Joe and I. (Also, if you use these smaller containers, you can bake them in your countertop toaster oven so you don't have to turn on the big girl! That can be a lifesaver during summer in the South.) In 30 minutes of prep time and 35 minutes of baking time, I made 12 portions of apple crumble using a handful of ingredients.
But like I said earlier in the post, this recipe is easily adaptable. You can:
- Change up the fruit!
- Use different flavors of oatmeal packets! Apples & Cinnamon? Raisins & Spice? Coconut & Caramel? Peaches & Cream? Why the heck not??
- Make it smaller or larger based on your group! Or make a bunch of small ones to gift to friends!
- Use up stale cookies if you need! Gingersnaps? Snickerdoodles? Shortbread? Pecan Sandies? As long as they're unfilled and not chocolate based, I think pretty much any cookie would be good here.
- Add nuts if you like them! Or leave them out if you don't. Totally up to you!
- Change up the spices! I used cinnamon and ginger, but depending on the fruit you can go in lots of directions. Star anise, nutmeg, fresh ginger, Chinese five spice? The spice cabinet is your playground.
- Add the zest and juice of a lemon, lime or orange. Or do the opposite and add some sweetener like sugar, brown sugar, honey or agave. Or do both!
Just remember to have fun and taste along the way! This isn't one of those baking recipes that is based on precision. Crumbles are like cooking - you can veer from the recipe without worrying that you're gonna have a flop. Cakes and souffles, not so much. But that's why crumbles are a favorite of mine! So venture forth, my friends. See what inspires you! And let me know how your brand of fruit crumble turns out by rating and reviewing it below.
Need more recipe inspiration?
The Easiest, Most Adaptable Fruit Crumble
- 4 lb Fruit of Choice e.g. apple, pear, peach, nectarine, plum, apricot
- 100 g AP Flour divided
- 8 oz Butter divided
- 6 packets Flavored Instant Oats e.g. Maple Brown Sugar, Cinnamon Spice
- 150 g Stale Unfilled Cookies** optional. If not using, increase AP Flour by 75g and add 2 more packets of Oats
- 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
- 1 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon optional
- 1 teaspoon Ground Ginger optional
- d Lemon, Lime, or Orange, zested and juiced optional
- Preheat oven to 350F.Peel (optional) and cube fruit. Toss with 50g AP Flour, spices, and citrus (if using). Set aside.
- In bowl of processor fitted with blade attachment, pulverize cookies until stale. Add 50g AP flour, baking soda, 6 tablespoon butter, and oats. Process until crumbly.Alternatively, you can use a mallot to smash cookies if you don't have a processor. Then add remaining ingredients using a pastry cutter or fork.**If you are not using cookies, process 8 packets of oats, 125g AP flour, baking soda and 6 tablespoon butter.
- Grease 9x13 baking dish with remaining butter. (You can also use multiple smaller dishes if you're divvying up between folks). Leave whatever is left in the pan for added richness.Add fruit to dish, then top with crumble mixture.
- Bake at 350F for about 35 minutes, until crumble is golden and fruit is tender. If crumble is browning too quickly, cover lightly with foil to stop it from burning.
- Serve warm, with ice cream or whipped cream. Enjoy!