Monday, February 9, 2015

Simple Living

I have a reputation for being a little bit of a fussy cook. Certainly I have a reputation as a fussy baker. Now, fussy is a pretty relative term. All things being equal, I think I'm pretty un-fussy. In fact one might say, I am the opposite of fussy. I won't decorate cakes. I won't do writing. The last time I tried to make a frosting flower it came out looking like a sad lump of pink. My double layer cakes are often crooked.But I think what people tend to mean when they say I am fussy, is that I don't often make anything that can be just dumped in a bowl/pan/pot. The recipes I make often have multiple steps and use numerous cooking utensils. I have been known on occasion to even brown butter in recipes that do not call for browned butter, just because I can. Now, this is not a value judgment. No one way of cooking is better than the other. It is simply the way I cook. I like the meditative qualities of cooking and baking-so for me, extra time in the kitchen is something I value. Other people don't find cooking as calming, or don't have the time to spend puttering around, trying new things. That's fine, too.

The cake (which is honestly more a bar than a cake) I am sharing with you today is about as un-fussy as you can get. It is quick, easy and endlessly adaptable. The recipe is my mom's and it's one of those cakes that showed up a lot in my childhood-along with the ubiquitous Wacky Cake. Often times my mother would make it with apples, though I seem to remember that sometimes it appeared in a blueberry version. When I made it a few weeks ago,for the first time in forever, I used strawberries and rhubarb, because that's what I had in the house. But really, probably any fruit would do. I have a bunch of cranberries sitting in my freezer and I have a feeling they're going to be my next experiment. It'll probably be delicious. That's not bragging. It's just that this cake is really, really hard to screw up. It is not much more than a crumble of flour, sugar, oil and baking powder that gets pressed into a pan, covered with fruit, and then topped with the remaining crumble. The result is more than the sum of its parts. What more could you ask from a cake?

My Mom's All-Purpose Crumble Cake
Adapted from Ricky Krakowski

The Crumble:

3 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
3/4 cup vegetable oil

6 medium apples, sliced, or about 3 cups of your desired fruit
1/2 cup sugar
a pinch of cinnamon (or any other spices you feel like playing around with)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 f. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the egg and oil and mix until crumbly. In another bowl, toss the fruit with the sugar and desired spices.

3. Grease a 9x13 pan. Press 3/4 of the crumble into the pan. Spread fruit over the dough, then top the fruit with the remaining crumble. Do not press. Allow it to remain pebbly and sandy. Bake for about 30-35 minutes until the top is golden and the fruit is jammy and bubbling. Cool and cut into squares. Serve.

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