JUST A LITTLE APPLE, PEAR, SUGAR AND FLOUR MAKE YOUR DAY
Oh, how we long for spring and summer fruits, but there is no way to hurry the season. So let us turn to our beloved winter fruits which, thanks to hearty varieties and excellent cold storage techniques, are still in top form. For baking, at the very least.
France and Its Apples and Pears
I’m talking about apples and pears which, here in France, are eaten by the ton from August, when the first apples are ripe, to now. France is the second largest producer of apples in Europe, and the fourth largest producer of pears. When you drive through the French countryside, particularly in Normandy which is the region known for these perennially popular fruits, you understand. Apple and pear orchards outnumber any other type of agriculture in the region.
Viking and Full Pockets
No wonder. Normandy was the port of call for Vikings who presumably arrived with their pockets filled with apple and pear seeds. They planted orchards which produced prolifically, making France the major European fruit player. Fast forward to the 15th century, and apples were the fruit of choice for European rich, poor, and in between, most of them produced in what was to become Normandy.
Orchards and Cows
One of the most glorious sights in Normandy are the orchards of tall, gracious apple and pear trees, and the black and white Norman cows who graze beneath them. It’s a very historic sight, one the Vikings and succeeding generations might have produced, for it is the original sustainable agriculture. The cows graze on the grasses and the low hanging leaves of the trees. They in turn, fertilize the soil so the trees stay strong. It’s a beautiful system which many growers still use today. Having lived in Normandy for three decades, I love the orchards there – they speak of history, tradition, and a culture that persists.
What is a “Krumbeul”
Here, I combine apples and pears in a crumble or, as the French pronounce it, “kreumbeul”. The “krumbeul” is so popular as a dessert in France, but shhh! Don’t tell anyone that it’s a gift from England (to understand this, read about the 100 Years War). Regardless of origin, the crumble is on menus and home tables throughout the hexagon, a modest dessert that can rise to elegant heights. Make it often during apple and pear season – you’ll love it and it will get you through until the fruits of spring and summer come along.
Psss! You can use other fruits in the crumble…so maybe keep this recipe handy year-round.
PEAR AND APPLE NUT CRUMBLE - CRUMBLE AUX POIRES ET POMMES, ET FRUITS SECS
- 2-1/2 pounds;1.25 kg pears and apples, peeled and sliced
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ¾ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg -- optional
- ½ cup;100g fine vanilla sugar
- 1/3 cup; 50g toasted almonds or walnuts
- ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons;100g all-purpose flour
- 3-1/2 ounces;105g unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch (1.25cm) pieces, chilled
- Preheat the oven to 425F (220C). Line a baking sheet with parchment, for spillover.
- Place the pears in an 8 x 9 inch (20 x 23cm) non-reactive baking dish. They will almost fill it up. Drizzle the pears with the lemon juice, then sprinkle them with ½ teaspoon of the nutmeg.
- In the work bowl of a food processor, process the sugar and the almonds together until the almonds are unevenly chopped. Some of the almonds will be almost powder, other pieces will be the size of an oat flake. Add a generous pinch of salt, the remaining ¼ teaspoon of nutmeg and the flour and process until combined. Add the butter and process until the mixture is the texture of coarse cornmeal (there will still be some larger almond pieces which is fine).
- Pour the mixture over the pears in an even layer. The baking dish will be very full.
- Place the baking dish on the prepared baking pan and put it on the center rack. Bake until the crumble is golden on top and and the pears are cooked through, about 50 minutes.
- When the crumble is baked, remove it from the oven and let it cool to room temperature before serving.