Berry Crumble

To me, the quintessential summer dessert has to be a fruit pie. My dream pie’s golden lattice top is filled with fruit from the local Pick Your Own farm and eaten under the beating sun, surrounded by blooms and of course with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Nothing quite beats a good pie in all its sunshine glory.

I developed an unrequited love for fruit stuffed flaky pastry during my many summers on the New England coast were we picked blueberries, ate every meal outside, and generally lived a slow life.  But while pie is not complicated, it takes time, planning and most importantly, great pastry: essential elements that feature prominently in fantasy life and not my reality this summer.

Intsead I make crumble.  I re-discovered summer crumbles a few years ago while spending most of July on the Sussex and Suffolk coasts - my answer to New England summers - where Pick Your Own farms were a popular (and competitive) activity.  Our afternoons on the local farms usually reaped a glut of berries which we brought home to rental kitchens with limited equipment on hand.  A lot of jam was made.  And a lot of crumbles consumed.

The beauty of crumble is the ingredients are always available, nothing needs to warm to room temperature and no fancy equipment is required. While I have given quantities in grams (my preferred measuring method), the dry ingredients can easily be measured in a mug which may be all that is available. It can be assembled in a matter of minutes for an emergency dessert.

I like to use wholemeal spelt flour in this recipe for its nutty flavour and reputed health benefits, but it also works with regular plain flour.  Added bonus: any leftovers make a perfectly acceptable breakfast option with a dollop of Greek yoghurt.

While pie is in my heart, my head is not stressing over pastry, resting times and potential soggy botttoms.  This summer, we are just enjoying crumble.

Berry Crumble

Serves 6 greedy people

Frozen berries work very well here (and are much cheaper).  I often just use blueberries, or mix them with a few blackberries or raspberries, but the frozen mixed berry selection is probably my favourite.  Do not defrost them first or it becomes too watery.  I only use fresh berries when we have a glut leftover from picking our own!  Frozen berries also mean that you can pretend it is summer all year round and make this in the depth of winter for a little pick me up.

Crumb Topping:

115g (1 cup) wholemeal spelt flour (or plain white flour)

55g (1/2 cup) plain white spelt flour (or plain white flour)

55g (1/2 cup) ground almonds

200g (1 cup) soft brown sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon

125g (1 cup + 1tbsp, or 1/2 European block) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

handful of sliced almonds (optional)


750g (approximately 4 cups) mixed summer berries (not strawberries)

1/4 cup caster/granulated sugar

zest of 1 small lemon

Preheat the oven to 180C (350F)

Combine spelt flours, ground almonds and cinnamon in a bowl and whisk with a fork to combine.

Sprinkle over cold butter cubes, and rub into the mixture with your fingertips until pea sized pieces form in the crumbs.  (You can also do this in a bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, but on this rare occasion I just use my fingers)

Pour the mixed fruit into the bottom of your baking dish of choice.  I usually use a rectangular 30cmx23cm (12x9 inch) baking dish but you can use a similar capacity oval or round dish of your choice.

Sprinkle over the sugar and lemon zest and stir to combine.

Crumble over topping and sprinkle over sliced almonds (if using)

Bake for 45-50 minutes until top is golden and fruit is bubbling.

Serve warm with ice cream or creme fraiche, and eat the leftovers for breakfast with a dollop of plain or greek yoghurt