* A note: I’ve spent years being annoyed by having to scroll ad-infinitum through overly wordy recipe bloggers’ posts just so I can get to the damn recipe — but a few weeks into my nascent recipe blogger career, I understand a little more how their posts get to be so long. Sorry — or, you’re welcome, if you like these lengthier write-ups. Anyways, you can also DOWNLOAD THE RECIPE if you prefer a more succinct recipe that just, you know, walks you through the step-by-step process without all the asides.
It’s the new year, and you know what that means: it’s time for WWE’s Royal Rumble! In case you’re not familiar — in this event, one of 30 combatants enters the ring every three minutes to compete to be the last man or woman standing in order to earn their shot for the title at Wrestlemania. This year, the storylines indicate that either CM Punk or Cody Rhodes are going to win it all so that they end up fighting Seth Rollins or Roman Reigns, respectively.
(This isn’t the space to talk about why neither of these wrestlers needs the victory — Cody already won the Rumble and lost to Roman at Mania last year, and Punk has one of the longest title reigns in WWE history, and his feud with Rollins doesn’t even need a belt to add gravitas to it — but that’s not going to stop me from saying that WWE should use the match to push a younger, mid-card wrestler into the main event scene. But, alas, they don’t do that anymore because Wrestlemania is a Hollywood event through and through.)
Anyways. To prepare for that “Premium Live Event,” and to use up all of those extra cranberries and spices and other baking ingredients that you have leftover from the holidays — we’re making a cranberry crumble! It's a dessert that comes together quickly and easily. In essence, crumbles are fruit dumped into a dish with a flour-sugar-butter mixture crumbled on top (hence the name). Bake, serve, enjoy. The straightforwardness is refreshing after a long season of expansive spreads and excessively complex dishes.
Why cranberries? When it comes to crumbles, the heavyweights of fruity baked goods usually take center-stage — blueberries and apples are basically the Punk and Rhodes of the baking world. They get so much of the attention for so much of the rest of the year, and honestly, cranberries deserve a fair shot, and maybe an extra month of attention. Their tartness balances the sugar in the recipe (though it doesn’t call for much!) and cuts the richness of the butter that you’ll be using in the crumble topping.
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The Let's Get Ready to (Cranberry) Crumble
To start —
Preheat the oven to 350°F. *
* Or, do as we do and wait until you’re further into the process. Amy doesn’t like to “waste” a hot oven as we inevitably take longer than expected to put all the pieces of a recipe together, but it is nice to not have to wait when everything is finally ready to go. You do you!
For the crumble —
1 ½ sticks of butter
1 tsp salt
1 cup flour (1 ½ cups if not using oats)
½ - 1 cup oats (optional)
2 tbsp sugar
Combine all the dry ingredients to a bowl, then cut the butter into small cubes and add it into the bowl. Work the butter and dry ingredients together until the mixture forms coarse crumbs (you can use a pastry cutter or do this by hand). Cover the bowl and pop it in the fridge.
* A note about the flour/oats mixture. If you don’t have oats, don’t buy them just for this. You can replace the oats with another half cup of flour and everything will be okay.
For the filling —
24 oz (2 bags) of cranberries
⅔ cup brown sugar
Juice and zest of one lemon
Juice of two clementines (or one orange)
Tsp each of whatever mulling spices you have (including whole peppercorns!)
If you’re looking at this list and feeling annoyed by its vagueness — I’m sorry, but I’m asking you to take some agency in your own kitchen. Everyone’s pantry and fridge are a little different, and we all like staying stocked up on certain things. And at the end of the day, if you always buy clementines instead of oranges because they’re easier to peel, then just use the damn clementines. Someone with a food science degree might be able to tell you why I’m wrong, but as far as I know, your taste buds aren’t going to complain.
Now, if you want to nix the lemon juice, you’ll need to account for the loss of the naturally-occurring pectin that’s in lemons — adding a bit more cornstarch should help the filling thicken up. The zest is there to help brighten the flavor of the rest of the dish. If you don’t have either lemons or cornstarch, but still want to make the rest of this recipe... just serve it in a bowl and you’ll be fine.*
Okay, back to the directions. Combine all of the filling ingredients EXCEPT the cornstarch, in a sauce pot and bring it to a boil so that the cranberries start bursting and expressing their juices. Once most-to-all of the cranberries have burst, you’ll want to sprinkle in your cornstarch and keep stirring until it’s dissolved and the liquid starts firming up. (You can also make a cornstarch slurry, but sprinkling it in is fine as long as you don’t dump a huge clump in all at once.)
I also didn’t provide a measurement for the cornstarch, because it’s up to you how goopy you want your filling to be. If you’re planning on eating the whole thing out of the dish with dollops of ice cream across the top, a little extra goopiness may be desirable (you won’t want to add much more than a tablespoon of cornstarch). But if you want to serve the end result on a plate, you may want to think about going all the way up to three or four tablespoons of cornstarch. Start with a little, and build up to a consistency that feels good for you. (Just remember that it’ll thicken up more in the oven.) Agency!
Why are you cooking the cranberries on the stovetop first? A few reasons:
the crumble would likely start to burn before the cranberries have a chance to cook down, and
you want to really give those mulling spices (again, whatever ones you prefer or happened to have on hand) a chance to get to know the cranberries, and finally
if I’m being honest with you, all we’re really doing here is making an upside down pie — literally, if you just put that “crumble” in the dish first and then add your filling, baby you’ve got a pie goin’!
Once your cranberry mixture is at a consistency you like, pull or strain out your mulling spices and transfer the cranberries into a greased baking dish. Grab your crumble topping from the fridge and use it to top your cranberry mixture so that most of the filling is covered. (If you forget to grease your baking dish — don't worry, we’ve all been there. Just give the dish a good overnight soak after you’ve eaten all of your crumble.)
Bake for about 20-25 minutes. Pull it out of the oven, check the color of the crumble top — you want golden brown, not yellow (or it’ll taste floury) and not dark brown/black (whoops, you burnt it). If it's looking a little dark, tent some tinfoil over the dish. Bake for another 10-15 minutes.
Once everything's been in the oven for 35-40 minutes total, pull it out, let it cool, and serve with ice cream or whipped cream — or both!