Crumble aux fraises

Strawberry crumble

This light, bright dessert is an unusual crumble because the pastry is cooked separately and layered onto to fresh strawberries afterwards. It’s pretty when served in a glass because you can see all the layers — strawberries, crumble, whipped cream and caramel sauce — but of course the dessert may also be served in bowls.

For best results go for fresh ingredients, but if you’re pressed for time you could use whipped cream out of an aerosol can instead of whipping it yourself. No way to cheat on the caramel sauce, however — it’s the real thing, totally French. Ooh là là!

The ingredients below will serve 2 people.

1/2 pound (250 g) fresh strawberries
2 tbsp. (30 g, 1/4 stick) butter
1/2 cup (100 g) sugar plus extra for the whipped cream and caramel 
1/2 cup (65 g) flour
1/2 cup (120 ml) chilled whipping cream (crème fleurette)
a few drops of vanilla extract or 1 tsp. vanilla sugar
5 tbsp. water
mint leaves for garnish (optional)

Rinse or brush the strawberries. Slice off the tops. Cut in half. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (350 F, 180 C).

Combine the butter and 1 tbsp. sugar in a bowl, cutting the sugar in using two parallel knives. Cut in the flour, then go in with your hands for the final blending. The crumble dough should be … crumbly, a little thicker than coarse sand.

Line a baking tin with parchment paper. Spread the crumble over it. When the oven is hot, bake until golden. This goes quickly, so keep an eye on things. You can give the crumble a stir with a fork when it’s been in the oven for 5 minutes. Then check every couple of minutes until it’s done. Set aside.

While the crumble is baking, whip the cream until nearly stiff. Add 2 tsp. sugar plus a few drops of vanilla, or 1 tsp. sugar and 1 tsp. vanilla sugar. Whip to blend. Set aside.

Now make the caramel sauce. Heat 1/2 cup sugar and 2 tbsp. water in a nonstick pot. When the sugar comes to a boil, turn down the heat to medium-medium high. Allow to bubble until it begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Shake the pan but do not stir. When the caramel is a deep golden brown, turn off the heat.

You now have pure caramel, which will be hard as a rock when it returns to room termperature. Your aim is to turn this into a sauce. Allow the caramel to cool for a couple of minutes. Then add 1 tbsp. water — the caramel will bubble and spit. Stir to blend, then repeat with 2 tbsp. water, adding them one at a time. Turn on the heat and stir for a few seconds to homogenize. Turn off the heat.

Now it’s time to assemble the crumbles — in two large glasses, or bowls if you prefer. Put a few strawberry slices in the bottom of each glass or bowl. Add a couple tablespoons of the crumble. Add a dollop of whipped cream. Repeat. At the end, spoon some caramel sauce over each crumble. Top with a strawberry piece and, if you like, a mint leaf for garnish.

Serves 2.

Please note: You will most likely have some extra caramel sauce. For a delicious treat, serve it over vanilla ice cream on another occasion. It will keep for a few days — no need to refrigerate.

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