And it seemed that, just a little more–and the solution would be found, and then a new, beautiful life would begin; and it was clear to both of them that the end was still far, far off, and that the most complicated part was just beginning.
-Anton Chekhov (“The Lady with the Little Dog”)
Some days I wake up and I’m just plain inspired: I know what I want to do and, come hell or high water, it will be done. This is how I felt when I woke up on Sunday morning, wanting to do something with my hands–to create something and to use that time to think through a few things that were niggling at my brain.
And fruit was on my mind–apples and blueberries in particular. It must have been due to the gluttonous mediterranean feast I had had the night before at our annual “let’s attract prospective students with good food and good ideas” party. Since I’m sure I had more than my fair share of the crispy and honeyed baklava, my fantasies of something fruity only made sense. At least, this is how I justify certain things to myself. It’s always interesting to see how one’s logic works, right?
The not-so-secret truth is that I’ve long been wanting a good old-fashioned crumble. A crumble, of course, is not to be confused with a cobbler. The main difference between the two is that a crumble is essentially raw fruit topped with a crumbly pastry mixture (usually oats, sugar, nuts and butter) and baked, while a cobbler is like spoon pie with a topping of biscuit dough. In a nutshell, these definitions explain my obvious preference for the former over the latter; you see, while I love nuts and oats, I don’t really care all that much for biscuits. I know, I know, such an admission is nothing short of blasphemous, but there you have it. Given the choice of a muffin, toast or a biscuit with my breakfast, the first two will always win. I do, however, remember having a soft spot for biscuit dough when I was younger…Something about the way the uncooked dough would tingle on the tip of my tongue was my favorite part of making biscuits with my mom for dinner; once they were baked, however, I wanted nothing to do with them. Although, when they’re covered with gravy, they do become slightly more tolerable.
The nice thing about doing a fair amount of cooking and baking is that, when a whim strikes, I’m able to fulfill it pretty easily. And so, with the sun streaming through my kitchen window (clearly, sunny days make for better food photography in my apartment), I set out to make a crumble with what I had available to me. Best of all, I consulted no cookbooks, no online recipe guide, no nothing. It was me and my many happy experiences with crumbles–Strawberry Rhubarb, Peach and Blueberry, and Pear and Crystallized Ginger –that led to the finished product and one perfectly tailored to my tastes.
Most importantly, it was also a crumble for two. Two people, two ramekins, two made-to-order crumbles. As much as I love leftovers, sometimes you just want to cook, eat and be done with it. Even though I could happily eat a leftover crumble for breakfast…and, at some point or another, have done so. But, you know, what we’re working on here is the “reward system.” I cannot provide a link to said system because it’s one that encompasses only my own kooky interpretation of living, Pavlovian style. You see, I’ve officially started writing the old (yet so new) dissertation and, while some days it goes well and I make progress, other days I’d feel better beating my head against the floor and burning my copy of The Petty Demon. I swear, the whole process sometimes feels like a fight for sanity, which is why I rely on crumbles and other such delights to provide a respite from the horrors of decadence, the gaze and mystical interpretations of art. Chekhov too offered a lovely little moment–even if chapter-related–yesterday. And it suddenly somehow seemed like Chekhovian optimism (naturally, one masked in pessimism) was the perfect complement to crumbles. Maybe it’s cheesy to say so, but they helped to usher in the inspiration for the chapter and the bright, new life that will (hopefully) follow all of this intellectual joy, torture and other nonsense.
Nobody said it would be easy, but things become a lot less complicated when there’s a piping hot bowl of fruity goodness awaiting you. And one that’s just begging for an oh so decadent scoop of ice cream.
Apple Blueberry Crumbles
Yields two perfectly filled ramekins
For the filling:
1/2 cup blueberries
1 Gala apple, peeled, cored and diced
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
2-3 sprinkles cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. flour
juice of 1/2 lemon
For the topping:
1 Tbsp. flour
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
handful of chopped walnuts
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 Tbsp. old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into half inch pieces
-In a medium-sized bowl, combine the fruit, spices, flour and lemon juice and toss.
-In another medium-sized bowl, combine the first five ingredients.
-Then, add in the chunks of butter.
-With your fingers, rub the butter into the dry ingredients until tiny pea-sized balls start to take shape.
-Top the fruit with the dry, crumbly mixture.
-At this stage, you can either refrigerate the crumbles or bake them immediately.
-If refrigerating, cover them with plastic wrap.
-When almost ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350.
-Then, bake crumbles for 30-40 minutes.
-Top with ice cream–or not–and enjoy!