Written and Photographed by Rebecca Peters-Golden
Whenever I watch cooking shows like Chopped, where the challenge is to make something amazing with limited ingredients, I find myself thinking, “Oh, yeah, I would love to do that!” And yet, somehow, every time I unpack my grocery bags only to realize I’ve forgotten a key ingredient in what I was about to make, I find myself swearing a blue streak, often with frustrated foot-stomping. But, if there is one truth I have come to accept about myself over the years, it’s that I would rather exert a huge amount of effort in the kitchen than the small amount it would take to go out and buy the ingredient I’m missing. Hey, know thyself, right?
A few years ago, I was having friends over for dinner. I’d planned my menu, gone to the grocery store, and had everything ready. Or so I thought—cue the theme from Jaws. I began to make my deliciously autumnal apple crumble with the apples I’d picked the day before, but when I got to the topping, I found I was out of butter. How could this have happened, I whined?
I pawed through my fridge, freezer, and pantry, looking for a butter substitute—nothing. I cursed myself for being a loner shut-in who wasn’t friends with a neighbor I could borrow from. My guests were due any minute, so I couldn’t run out to the store. But then . . . then I looked in the fridge and saw that I did have blue cheese.
Could I use blue cheese in my topping instead of butter? It’s a similar consistency; it would blend with sugar, nuts, and oats, wouldn’t it? Reader, I used it. It wasn’t perfect, not by a long shot: it was overpowering and got a little too melty, so it trickled down into the fruit. Still, the taste was interesting. And, though I could tell my very polite friends were eating bites of fruit with only a little bit of topping, I decided I wanted to try it again. So, the next time, I used much less cheese, and added it to the topping along with the butter. In a smaller amount, it was delicious.
The blue cheese goes well with pears, too, my other favorite fruit for a crumble. I’ve also used brie in place of the blue cheese for both, which is excellent; I mix chunks of it into the topping, rather than blending it, which gunks up the food processor.
So, with apple season just around the corner, why not spice up your crumbles with the best year-round ingredient: cheese!
Blue Cheese Apple Crumble
Prep time: 30 minutes
Total time: 1 hour
Makes 1 crumble
[A Baking Note: I must confess that I don’t measure my ingredients to the ounce when baking desserts like crumbles and cobblers, so feel free to vary the recipe below with more or less sugar, spices, and even types of fruit, cheese, and nuts to your taste.]
- 5-6 medium apples (I like a mix of whatever red apples are in season. Or substitute 4-5 medium pears.)
- 4 tablespoons (2 oz.; 1/2 stick) unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup (3 3/4 oz.) packed light brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup whiskey or bourbon (if I’m doing a pear crumble, I use white wine instead)
- the juice of half a lemon
- a pinch of chili powder, if you like a teeny kick
- 1 grind of black pepper
Preheat the oven to 350˚F.
Core and seed the apples and chop into 1/2-inch cubes—I like to leave the skin on, but you can peel the apples if you like. In a large pot, over medium heat, mix the chopped apples with the butter, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, vanilla, liquor, lemon juice, chili powder, and pepper.
Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring, until the apples are tender, but not mushy (about 10 minutes) and the liquid has thickened a bit. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- 8 tablespoons (4 oz.; 1 stick) salted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 2/3 cup light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup oats (not quick oats)
- 1/2 cup pecans
- 1/8-1/4 cup blue cheese, depending on your taste
Add the butter, sugar, oats, pecans, and cheese to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse just until blended into a crumb-like consistency. If you blend too much, it will become a paste.
Pour the reserved cooked fruit into a deep baking dish (I use a 9-inch, circular glass casserole dish). Sprinkle the topping over the fruit to your desired thickness.
Bake for about 30 minutes, or until your topping is toasty and golden brown.