Cookies, I believe, are the most unforgiving of all baked goods; they are, in my humble opinion, time consuming and aggravating. I speak from experience. Folding in the flour, all that elbow grease – one's entire upper body and muscles we never otherwise use called into service - needed to turn those staple ingredients into something stiff and sticky, scooping up and pushing off spoonful by spoonful of batter onto a row of baking sheets, goo up to our elbows, in our hair and stuck to our face, then popped in the oven, 8 minutes, 10, 12 tops, waiting, watching, scooping, pushing more batter, another baking sheet, and another and another and another when will it ever stop and is the cookie dough actually growing? And. Leave the cookies in just one or two minutes too long and they are too crispy, burned around the edges. And crumbling into sand.
That's the way the cookie crumbles. So why do I bother? Why bake cookies when cake is so much simpler in so many ways that cookies are not? My men. Love cookies.
Cookies are a part of our childhood: tiny hands slipped surreptitiously into cookie jars, stolen treasure stuffed into pockets and carried off to be eaten sitting high up in the branches of a favorite tree or under the blankets shhhh no crumbs or mom will find out! Bedazzled by the array of cookies wrapped carefully in foil, bringing a handful of home to the school playground. Curled up with a book in the comfy armchair with a selection of cookies stacked up within easy reach, eyes locked on the page as we blindly feel for another and another. Cookies are child’s play, the perfect size, big enough to satisfy, small enough to allow for a selection, one of each, not having to choose just one. Satisfying first bite over and over again, an endless choice of flavors. And I am just happy that my little French boys experienced the pleasure, and continue to clamor (along with their father) for cookies.
A packet of foil-wrapped cookies to bring to friends. Be careful! Or all the cookies will crumble.
If mountains crumble to the sea, there will still be you and me. – Led Zeppelin
I have a ring on my finger, a ring he slipped on above my wedding band just a few Christmases ago. Toujours. Always. Forever. One simple word etched onto a thin band of silver. No words were needed, he uttered not one except for maybe "Do you like it?" A tiny, sentimental gift but worth more than a mountain of gold for I know that if the world crumbles around me he will be there to save me.
Crisps, crumbles, bettys and cobblers. Interchangeable. Simply the best of summer's fruit – or autumn, winter, spring – cooked into a warm, luscious confection, sweet compote with a touch of cinnamon or a splash of rum why not? Hidden underneath a crown, crust, crumble of cake, cookie, crumbs. Butter rubbed into flour tossed with sugar, brown if you please, and just a dash of baking powder for body. Butter rubbed into flour with the tippy tips of my fingers the better to blend the two if ever so imperfectly until crumbly and damp like sand on a Florida beach. Not too hot, please, not like a day at the beach.
Crumble away. The dunes of sand on that Florida beach crumble away, erode to leave nothing in its place, threatening the buildings, the homes teetering atop. Somewhat like the fruit crumble being picked away, melting away leaving nothing in its wake but a memory, a kiss of fruit on one's lips.
Sometimes I simply crumble bits of cookies, macaroons, ladyfingers, across the top of cooked fruit, caramelized apples, thick mousse, cookie crumbs in the guise of crumble.
Rubbing fingers together, crumbling bits of bread nervously scattering the details across the tablecloth. Crumble and fall. Hearts and breadcrumbs.
Fruit crumbles are a classic and truly a favorite in our home all year round. Apples, pears, rhubarb or cranberries all autumn and winter long, and come spring and summer stone fruits, cherries and berries find their natural place in my crumbles. The fruit melts into compote, sweet and tart, topped with a crispy crown of crumble. Replace the orange juice with rum or Amaretto or another liqueur or even a splash of lemon juice; add cinnamon, ground ginger or cardamom; use any combination of fruit that you love. Cut back the cornstarch, if you like; I don't add any when making simple apple or nectarine crumbles, but add it in when baking with berries, cherries or strawberries. The combination of nectarines and cherries is a particular favorite, pure pleasure.
Jamie's Nectarine Cherry Crumble
For 6 – 8 individual servings/ramekins or one 8- or 9-inch baking dish
6 cups fruit, half nectarines, pitted and cubed, and half pitted cherries *
¼ cup sugar (add more if the fruit is tart or not very sweet)
2 Tbs cornstarch
3 Tbs freshly squeezed orange juice (can be replaced with 2 Tbs Amaretto)
½ tsp ground cinnamon, optional
* About 1 lb/500 g cherries, pitted and halved + 4 – 6 nectarines (depending upon size)
1 cup (130 g) flour
1/8 tsp salt
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp baking powder
¼ cup (50 g) granulated white sugar
¼ cup (55 g) packed light brown sugar
½ cup (115 g) cold butter, cubed
½ cup slivered almonds, optional but better
Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Place 6 - 7 individual ramekins on a baking sheet and set aside.
Prepare the fruit filling:
Place all your fruit in a large mixing bowl – frozen fruit, if using frozen cherries, does not need to be defrosted first! Sprinkle the fruit with the sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon if using and then add the orange juice. Toss everything together until all of the ingredients are well distributed and the cornstarch lightly covers all the fruit. I found that the easiest method was simply pushing up my sleeves and using my hands. Spoon the prepared fruit into the waiting ramekins making sure that it is evenly divided and there are fresh strawberries in every cup.
Prepare the crumble topping:
Combine all of the ingredients except for the butter and almonds in a large mixing bowl. Toss until well combined. Add the cubes of cold butter and, using your fingertips, rub or work the butter into the dry ingredients until the butter is evenly distributed, there are no more chunks of butter and the mixture resembles rough sand or crumbs. Toss lightly with the slivered almonds.
Divide the crumble mixture evenly between the ramekins, spooning it generously on top of the fruit, making sure that none of the fruit is exposed. Gently press the crumble topping down onto the fruit.
Bake the ramekins on the baking sheet for 35 – 40 minutes until the crumble puffs up and turns a deep golden color and the fruit bubbles up around the edges of the crumble.