Crumble aux fraises

This is a very unusual crumble in that the strawberries are not baked but rather piled fresh into a glass and layered with crumble baked separately, whipped cream and homemade caramel sauce. The result is a light, fresh spring/summer dessert that is as lovely to behold as it is to eat. I can tell you that the crumble in this photo was devoured in seconds by my daughter, and its twin by her boyfriend. And this all came about thanks to French TV…

Crumble aux fraises / Strawberry crumble

Throughout the interminable French lockdown, with cafés, shops, museums and pretty much everything else closed, I fell into the habit of watching the television news at lunchtime. As a news person by profession, I tend to channel hop between the BBC, CNN and the two main French channels, TF1 and France 2. The latter is better for serious news most days, while TF1 has a great presenter on weekends and runs a feature called Quatre à table, which roughly translates as ‘Lunch for Four’. It has a gimmick — the cook is given 30 euros (about $36) to shop at the market to make a meal for four people.

In a recent episode, the cook — a French culinary journalist — was tasked with preparing a meal for her son, who balks at fruit and veggies. After the market visit, we followed her to her kitchen where she prepared a salad of cherry tomatoes and sliced kiwi (the starter), a ‘burger’ of mozzarella and Parma ham sandwiched between pancakes made from grated potatoes and zucchini, along with improvised French fries made of carrots (the main dish), and the strawberry crumble for dessert. Joining the mother and son for lunch were an unidentified man, presumably the boy’s father, and the journalist from TF1.

The strawberry crumble looked so delightful that I decided to try it myself. I didn’t follow the cook’s method exactly — to show her son that the cream had been whipped enough, she picked up the bowl and inverted it over his head — but the rest I did more or less as she did. I halved the strawberries. I made the crumble pastry and baked it on a sheet of parchment paper. I whipped the cream, and I made a caramel sauce by melting sugar in a little water and letting it brown, then adding a bit more water at the end to liquify it.

This dessert is known in French as une verrine because it is served in a glass (un verre). One can of course serve it in a bowl if one prefers, but then one wouldn’t be able to see the lovely layers. This new addition to my culinary repertoire joins strawberry tart, strawberry schaum torte (berry-topped meringues), strawberry charlotte, sliced strawberries with basil and balsamic vinegar, strawberry and rose petal jam, strawberry mousse, strawberry crepes and various other recipes on this site. You guessed right — I’m a fan of fraises.

And the good news is, the lockdown here was partially lifted last week, with sidewalk cafés reopening and the curfew moving from 7 to 9 p.m. So we can at last take a break from cooking and go out for lunch! But those of us who enjoy the arts of the kitchen won’t go out for every meal. So my message to you, as always, is…

Happy cooking.

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