Do you know the difference between a crisp and a crumble? A crumble has oatmeal so it literally crumbles in your mouth while the butter in a crisp creates a “crispy” topping. True story.
I broke my own rule today. I hate when that happens but sometimes I just get caught up in the moment and then have to suffer the consequences. The rule was buying sour cherries with the intent to bake with them. I dealt with the consequences like the adult I am: suffering having to pit them, then attempting to destroy the evidence, a cherry crumble, by eating it.
Of course, there’s a story behind my cherry phobia. One of the sections during culinary school was on soups, stocks and sauces. The last day of the soup week focused on international soups and was intended to be fun. After a quick glance at the recipes I eagerly raised my hand and asked if I could make the cold cherry soup. The instructor chuckled and said “of course.” He never liked me. Seriously.
I spent the next three hours in the kitchen pitting 10 pounds of sweet cherries with a paring knife. Chef didn’t believe in gadgets so there was no cherry pitter to speed up the process.
Three things came out of this: 1) my chef coat, apron and fingers were stained with so much bright red cherry juice that it looked like I’d come from a crime scene; 2) my classmate, Jonny, tried to help with a part of the recipe because I was running behind and wound up getting in trouble for doing it wrong (he still reminds me of this every time I see him); and 3) the cold cherry soup was the class favorite!
Despite the success of the soup, I made a rule never to cook or bake with fresh cherries again. Alas, I got caught in the moment at the farmer’s market Saturday morning when I saw one lone container of bright red sour cherries sitting on the Hillside Orchards table. In a moment of weakness I bought them, then had to quickly come up with something to make so I could bring it to that evening’s 4th of July BBQ. What I decided on was a delicious crumble with a juicy cherry filling that was both sweet and tart beneath a rich, crunchy top.
Although it took a while to pit all the cherries (I think it’s easiest to slice them roughly in half using a paring knife, then pop out the seed), the sour cherries were surprisingly easier to pit and less messy than sweet cherries. The clear, bright, summery flavors and sheer deliciousness of the recipe has me rethinking my no-cherry policy, but only if they’re sour!
Cherry Crumble, makes 16 servings
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
2 pounds sour cherries, pitted and halved
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons corn starch
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Vanilla ice cream (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350°F and lightly coat an 8-inch square baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
To make the topping, combine the almonds, flour, oats, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a bowl. Stir well. Add the cubed butter and use your fingertips to cut it into the mixture. You’ll have to work fast so the butter doesn’t melt. Set aside.
To make the cherry filling, combine the cherries, sugar, corn starch, lemon juice and salt in a bowl and mix well.
Pour the filling into the prepared baking dish and crumble the topping over it. Bake for 50 minutes until the filling is hot and bubbly and the topping is nicely toasted. Let cool 30 minutes, then serve with (soy) vanilla ice cream.