My requisite pass
I ducked into the bookstore on my way home from the library last week. I was looking for a title that a friend of mine had recommended. I assumed the position, my chin pointed at a slight angle towards my left shoulder, and walked along the bookcase as quickly as I could while still registering the names of the authors streaming by. Bellow. Chabon. Cheever. Clancy. Dickens. Didion. Other people were doing it, too, moving along the walls of books, chins askew, looking half ahead, and half to the side. There was a man who had wedged himself into a corner, doing his best to create some semblance of a lap on which he could balance an oversized volume. A grown woman crawled around on the floor while another crouch-hopped along, both inspecting the bottom shelves. Typical bookstore behavior. There were collisions between people who were not quite as adept as they imagined themselves to be at keeping one eye on the books and the other eye on the path ahead. One of those people was me.
Shopping for books is not like shopping for anything else. A bookstore browse is the slowest, most solitary browse I know. It’s not like shopping for clothing, where shirts and skirts are whisked from racks into dressing rooms, there's talking, noise, and the fit is known at once. Book browsers stand alone. Legs slightly spread, heads bent, lips apart, silent. Side by side in the non-fiction aisle, they’re worlds apart. I’ve never bought a car, but I wonder if it might be the kind of shopping that feels most like book browsing. You have to get inside, feel the thing moving beneath you, with you, carrying you. You have to test out the ride, hear the engine, feel its particular power.
I found my book. It was time for my requisite pass through the cookbook section. A woman on her knees was thumbing through a copy of The Silver Spoon, and wondering out loud to her friend if she should buy it. “The fruits of the forest crumble in there is great,” I offered. It’s Eli’s favorite crumble, in fact. I hadn’t made it in a while.
When I hear the word crumble, I usually think of a topping thick with oats, something coarse, maybe with clumps that crunch. This version, however, is crumble with an emphasis on crumb. The topping is butter rubbed into flour and sugar, and that’s all. It’s delicate, more like a sandy crust that fuses in a tight layer to the sugared fruit below. If you use a particularly wide-mouthed baking dish, like I did this time around, the crumb layer will be rather thin, and the fruit will bubble up and lap at its edges. I usually prefer to make this crumble in one of my deeper, narrower dishes so that I can mound the crumbs higher on top of the fruit, but so much time had passed since I last made it, that I had forgotten. It was good this way, too.
Fruits of the Forest Crumble
Adapted from The Silver Spoon
“Fruits of the forest” is just a frilly way of saying “whichever berries you have on hand” which, in my case, meant a few baggies of blueberries and raspberries packed away in the freezer. Use what you’ve got. The original recipe calls for all white flour, but I like to use a mix of white and whole wheat. Because I have a feeling that you might ask, I should tell you that I’m not sure why the recipe tells you to let the topping rest before baking. I went to my usual sources, and came up dry. Any thoughts? (Because I am a rabid directions follower, I always wait.)
For the topping:
1 cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup whole wheat flour
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter
For the fruit:
4-5 cups mixed berries, such as blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries (if your berries are frozen, do not thaw)
½ cup brown sugar
Make the topping:
Sift the flours into a large bowl, and stir in the sugar. Cut the butter into half-inch cubes, and scatter into the bowl. Use your fingers to rub the butter into the dry ingredients. Let the topping stand in a cool place, but not in the refrigerator, for about 30 minutes.
Make the fruit and assemble the crumble:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
Put the berries into a deep baking dish, add the brown sugar, and mix well. Sprinkle the topping over the fruit, and bake for 40 minutes, until golden brown.
Yield: 6 servings.
p.s. -- Happy Thanksgiving, friends. Here are a few recipes just under the wire:
Cranberry apple pandowdy
Tarte aux pommes
Pear tarte Tatin
Boozy Mulled Cider
And for the post-Thanksgiving flop on the couch:
Kettle corn and a movie
Posted by Jess