I have learned over the years that people have strong opinions about the combination of chocolate and fruit. I don’t judge, I mean, I have strong opinions about pretty much everything, such as the combination of pumpkin and chocolate (no), sea salt-flecked cookie lids (delicious but ftlog, only with a light hand), syrup on pancakes (only if the pancakes aren’t sweet), and how many episodes in a row it’s acceptable to consume of city.ballet. when you’re sick for the fourth day in a row (all of them, what kind of question is that?). What I’m saying is, pretty much the only thing I don’t have rigid views on is the combination of chocolate and fruit.
And yet, when my mother spotted this recipe in the newest and (in my not unbiased opinion — I blurbed it) most charming book from Nigel Slater I said, as articulately as ever, “I dunno, wouldn’t it be kind of weird?” Which is when I realized that I might I have an overly segregationist view of fruit crumbles. To me, they’re a very specific thing, fruit recently plucked from a tree or vine, mixed with sugar, spices if desired, flour or cornstarch to thicken and topped with a crumbly mix of flour, butter, sugar, oats and sometimes nuts. A butter-free, flour-free topping? A buttery almost caramel sauce-d base? Chunks of chocolate?
Forget all that: Let’s put chocolate in all of our fruit crumbles. Let’s put chocolate in everything. Seriously, can we talk about how good this was with a tiny scoop of vanilla ice cream slumping all over it? The melty chocolate chunks? The almost brittle-crisp oats? The otherwise mediocre grocery store winter fruit pickings, raised to their highest calling? It was simple, rustic, and easy, as ideal as a weeknight treat as it would be a date night dessert. I think you know what needs to be done.
More about the book: Seeing as I’ve told you I was so charmed by Nigel Slater’s Eat book when I previewed it — and long before I knew it would be as pretty (small trim size, with a sunshiny woven cover) in print as it turned out to be — it only makes sense to tell you why. This “little book of fast food” is perfect for people who find strict adherence to recipes persnickety when they’re really looking for some fresh ideas for simple meals. Few recipes have over 8 ingredients, and they’re written in sentence format. And not only does everything in it remind me how simple it would be to actually throw dinner together tonight when I was otherwise planning a Delivery Pizza Succumb, I adore the slight British-ness of everything: Sausage Balls with Mustard Cream, Bacon and Beans, Spiced Mushrooms on Naan, Root Vegetable Tangle, and (sigh) Mango and Passion Fruit Mess. That said, while there are many vegetarian dishes, the majority have meat or fish in them, so it may not be for everyone.
One year ago: Chocolate-Hazelnut Linzer Hearts (Yesterday was World Nutella Day. These are worth the belated celebration.)
Two years ago: Egg Salad with Pickled Celery and Coarse Dijon (please someone make this for me for lunch?)
Three years ago: Lasagna Bolognese
Four years ago: Meatball Subs with Caramelized Onions
Five years ago: Best Cocoa Brownies and Chana Masala
Six years ago: Chocolate Whiskey and Beer Cupcakes
Seven years ago: Matzo Ball Soup
Eight years ago: Asparagus, Artichoke and Shiitake Risotto
And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Cold Noodles with Miso, Lime and Ginger
1.5 Years Ago: Burst Tomato Galette with Corn and Zucchini
2.5 Years Ago: Charred Pepper Steak Sauce
3.5 Years Ago: Tomato Salad with Crushed Croutons
Chocolate Oat Crumble
Adapted from the version in Nigel Slater’s Eat, and a few others
Like many Slater recipes, there’s no need to be overly rigid in following it. I found three other versions of his chocolate-oat crisp online and none remotely matched. Some call for apricot, and cook it in elderflower syrup. Some have a more floury topping. I chose my favorite elements of each and mashed them up here. Feel free to tweak to your tastebuds’ content (maybe some crystallized ginger in the lid?), with whatever fruit or sweeteners or cooking fats you’d prefer. Just don’t forget to eat it while it’s still warm, and the chocolate is melty.
Note: This is a sloshy crumble, because there’s no thickener in the base. We loved the fruit syrup over ice cream, but you can easily stir 1 to 2 tablespoons cornstarch before baking it to give it more body.
Serves 3, maybe 4 if with ice cream
1/3 cup (40 grams or 1 1/2 ounces) chopped dark chocolate
1/2 cup (50 grams) rolled oats
1/4 cup maple syrup
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons (40 grams) butter
3 tablespoons (40 grams) sugar
2 pears, peeled, halved, cored and diced into small chunks (I used firm D’Anjous; cooking times for other varieties will vary)
1 cup (115 grams or 4 ounces) raspberries
Heat oven to 350°F(180°C).
In a small dish, combine chocolate, oats, maple syrup and salt and set aside. In a small/medium ovenproof skillet (mine was 8-inch/1-quart), melt butter over medium heat. Add sugar and cook together, stirring, until it becomes golden at the edges. Add pear chunks and cook in this caramel-y syrup for 5 to 8 minutes, until slightly softened or half-cooked. (Bosc pears always take longer for me; ripe Bartletts, less.) Scatter raspberries over top. Sprinkle with chocolate-oat mixture. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until fruit is soft and the oats crisp.