If you think about it, isn’t it strange that we’ve nominated pie as our iconic summer dessert? Do understand, I say this as someone who frequently daydreams about going around the country and teaching people to make pie with a bare minimum of fuss, because I think the only thing standing between you and someone who effortlessly throws pies together because you heard someone was coming over is someone talking you through it once or twice… But I will also fully admit: pie is a pest. It requires very cold fat to be carefully worked into a floury mix until the pieces are exactly the right size. Too small, your crust is flat and crunchy. Too big, butter pools out and burns, leaving sad, tough flakes for crust. Too warm, the bits go small and absorb into the flour. Too cold, good luck rolling it out! And before you even know if the trouble will be worth it, you’ve got to roll out your crust with no holes or tears or your fruit filling will leak through and permanently glue pie-to-pan. And the fruit! Too thick, your pie cuts freakishly like Jell-O; too thin, it spills out everywhere, leaving a hollow crust in its wake. And don’t even get me started on lattice-tops. They’re for really sick people
Given all of these high stakes, it’s a wonder we don’t all spend our summers, exclusively extolling the virtues of fruit crisps and crumbles, because they’re pie’s laid-back, easy-breezy sibling, the one whose arrival always brings applause. They give you nothing to carefully roll out; you just messily sprinkle the so-called “crust” over the top of the fruit, which can be thickened or not at all because if you’re not slicing it, who cares if it slumps? (And if the thought of fruit that sighs and puddles out onto a plate isn’t more appealing to you than fruit that stands up straight when you slice it, well, I beg to differ.) And the fat! Instead of asking butter to do the thing it would very least like to do on a hot day — that is, to try to stay cold — you begin by melting it.
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