Monday, January 4, 2010

Snow Patrol

Yesterday's snowstorm reminded me that I had some leftover stewed fruits in my fridge...

I don't usually have a lot of fruits around the house: I am a consummate salty nibbler, and fruits do not often satisfy my cravings. But I had lots of apples leftover from my apple saucing session last year (!), so I made a stewed fruit crumble to bring over to my friends' for New Year's Eve. Thus the leftovers in the fridge.

Stewing fruits is a great way to use up all those tired fruits at the bottom of the fridge drawer, and it makes a luscious dessert. It's also a tasty and low guilt way of enjoying out of season and non-local fruits...

Traditionally, stewed fruits start out as dried fruits, such as prunes, dried apricots, pineapples, cranberries, mangoes.... and so and so forth, soaked in a liquid -syrup for those with a die-hard sweet tooth, plain water, juice or alcohol for everyone else. Cook over medium-low heat until the fruit is plump and tender (usually under 30 minutes). Stewed fruits are yummy served warm, on their own or over ice cream or plain yoghurt, or with some biscotti to dip into the juices.
You can also stew fresh fruits such as apples, but you should use fruits that will keep their shape after cooking. Ideal supermarket apple varieties are Granny Smith, Empire, and Jonagold. Farmers' markets offer a much wider selection such as Russet, Bramley's Seedling, Cox's Orange Pippin, Idared, Newtown Pippin, Northern Spy... don't you just love the names people give to their apples?

If you intend to use your fruits in a crumble, you can add saucing apples to absorb any excess juices. An extra handful of dried fruits also helps. My new year's crumble included: Russet, Empire and Cortland apples, dried mangoes, dried cranberries (fresh ones would have been lovely too and would have thickened up the mix), and candied ginger. I didn't add any sugar because the dried fruits brought in enough sweetness.

I don't have an actual recipe for the crumble mix, I usually just wing it because I can't be bothered to seek out a recipe. But crumbles are like that: forgiving, easy and sooo tasty! Technically, I think my crumbles are actually called crisps, but let's not bother with technicalities today, I just want a warm dessert.

Crumble Mix
Equal parts each soft butter, flour (whole wheat, all-purp, semolina, or a mix thereof), and rolled grain (oatmeal, wheatberry, quinoa flakes or whatever you have)
¼ to ½ measure of sugar, white or brown or whatever - if you are trying to cut back on your sugar intake, use the lesser amount (¼ cup of sugar for 1 cup of butter) but do not completely eliminate it: sugar is necessary to bind the mix and to bring in crunch
chopped nuts, optional

Cream butter and sugar until just combined.
Add all dry ingredients, mix until fully combined and you obtain pea sized lumps. 
This can all be done by hand, no heavy equipment needed.
You can top your fruits with this mix and pop in the oven at 350'F/180'C for 20 minutes (individual portions) to 45 minutes (family -sized dish), or you can bake the mix on its own, thus allowing you to assemble the crumble whenever you crave one.   








Bon app'!

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