Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

crumble is the name of a simple topping spread instead of pastry on fruit pies of the dish type with no bottom crust, such as are popular in Britain. Recipes for crumble do not appear in old books of English recipes, nor is it recorded until the 20th century. Crumble is much quicker and easier to make than pastry and it seems probable that it developed during the Second World War. It is like a sweet pastry made without water. The ingredients of a modern crumble are flour, butter, and sugar; a little spice is sometimes added. (The original wartime type used some other fat—whatever was available.) The butter is cut into the dry ingredients, and the mixture spooned onto the pie filling without further preparation, after which the pie is baked. The butter melts and binds the solid ingredients into large grains, but they do not form a solid layer like a true pastry. The texture can only be described as crumbly. Apple crumble is probably the best-known form. But other fruits are often used. Numerous variations are permissible, for example the addition of coconut to the crumble mixture in Australia.