An easy cherry crumble made with home-made filling and vanilla-flavored granola and almonds is sure to get requests for a repeat appearance. Whipped cream or a scoop of creamy vanilla ice cream is a perfect way to finish off this simple, yet flavorful dessert.
What Makes a Crumble a Crumble?
A crumble is just a fruit mixture with a topping sprinkled over it and baked in an oven. While it bakes, the topping becomes crunchy and “crumbles” apart. They are one of the easiest desserts I’ve ever made and once you see all the possibilities of flavor combinations, they are addictive!
The Level of “Easy” Is Up to You
Cherry Crumbles are incredibly easy, no matter how you go about creating the fruit mixture. All the levels produce results that are oh-so-good. It’s up to you to decide what effort you want to go to.
Beyond Easy — canned pie filling
Super Easy — frozen fruit (just be sure to thaw completely and drain before using the fruit)
Still Easy — fresh fruit
The Same is True for the Topping
Your crumble topping is also subject to whatever level on the easy spectrum you prefer. I’ve made crumble topping using only crushed up crunchy granola bars. For others, I made fancy streusel toppings (which are still easy). Most of my crumble toppings fall somewhere in between these two.
As long as your topping has a crunchy texture (and tastes good) when it comes out of the oven, you’re doing it the right way. Crumbles will never judge you!
I found a really good French Vanilla Almond granola that worked great for this recipe. Cherries are often paired with vanilla and almonds in other foods, so using a granola with vanilla flavor and slivered almonds was a no-brainer for me.
About Fresh Cherries
I chose to use fresh cherries in this recipe for a couple reasons.
The first is, I really enjoy working with raw fruits and vegetables when I have the time (there’s the caveat).
The second is, years ago I made a blueberry “sauce” from a recipe I found in my Southern Living Cookbook (the 1987 edition) and it made me realize “Hey, this isn’t hard to make at all!” I made a few tweaks, substituted other fruits for the blueberries, and I found all sorts of uses for these warm, syrupy, fruit concoctions. I’m going to share my cherry version with you.
Which Cherry Should I Use?
There are over 1,000 varieties of cherries grown in the U.S. Just like other kinds of fruit, cherries are not one-size-fits-all and there are varieties that taste their best when cooked or baked. If you’re unfamiliar with a cherry variety you come across, Google it to see if it’s one that’s recommended for baking.
When it comes to cherries used in baking, sour varieties (“pie cherries”) seem to be the standard and it’s why sour cherries are the ones used in canned cherry pie filling. I’ve found plenty of articles that say it’s fine to select a sweet variety for baking if the amount of sugar used to make the filling is reduced, but it seems to be universally agreed that the classic cherry pie flavor comes from sour cherries.
But there’s something else to know about sour cherries…they have a very short season when you can find them in stores — only a few weeks. At the time I wrote this, it would be another month before the grocery stores or fruit stands in my area had any sour cherries I could buy.
I’ve used frozen cherries and also canned cherries in the past and the results spoke for themselves (i.e., no leftovers). But because I couldn’t get it out of my head that I wanted a crumble made with a fresh cherry mixture, I decided to use Bing cherries.
You can read about all kinds of cherry trees right here on Minnetonka Orchards.
With Fresh Cherries, Consider Your Wardrobe Carefully!
I learned this lesson the hard way and not just once, because sometimes I have “food amnesia.”
When working with fresh cherries, wear a shirt you don’t care about. Cherries have pits in them and those pits have to come out before you bake them. Cherries do not want to give up their pits without at least a little bit of a fight. As a result, cherry juice splatters WILL happen. Count on it. And if you’re wearing that cute, light-colored peasant top you get lots of compliments on whenever you wear it, you’ll be heartsick to discover it’s been ruined by abstract cherry juice art.
Steps for a Basic Cherry Crumble
Choose the type of cherries you’ll use for the filling and your topping ingredients. I’m using a premade granola to save a little bit of time since I’m making my cooked cherry mixture from scratch.
Pit the cherries.
Fun fact: I don’t own a cherry pitter. It’s one kitchen tool I’ve never had. I also no longer have a paring knife because my husband “borrowed” it to cut rope or some other non-kitchen use and I’ve never seen it again. But you work with what you have so, yes, that IS a steak knife I’m using to pit cherries.
I cut each cherry open along one side and then use the point of the knife to loosen and remove the pit. I used to cut cherries into halves because it was easier to get to the pit, but I’ve decided I like to leave them somewhat whole-looking now. Once a cherry is pitted, I throw it into the saucepan I’ll be cooking them in.
(I will confess that after about 10 minutes of pitting, I’m usually wondering why I didn’t just go with canned cherries. But then I channel my inner Martha and suddenly pitting cherries no longer seems like a chore, but “a good thing.”)
Congratulate yourself now that you’re done pitting the cherries.
Add water and sugar to the cherries.
Because the granola topping won’t soak up liquid, I add cornstarch to thicken the syrup that forms while the cherries soften.
Cook until the syrup reaches a thick consistency that sticks to the spoon.
Sometimes I add lemon juice to the mixture to keep the sweetness from being overpowering (since these cherries are already sweet by themselves). But recently someone gave us a bag of cutie oranges, so I saw an opportunity to change things up a bit.
Instead of lemon juice, I stirred in the juice from a couple cuties.
Traditionally, a cherry crumble is all fruit on the bottom with a crumbly top. But I have a hard time with that texture balance because, for me, it feels like too much soft and not enough crunch. So I colored outside the box here by placing a layer of granola in the bottom of my baking dish to provide more crunch. Then I poured the fruit on top of it and finished it off with the granola topping.
Finally, I dot the top with pieces of butter and now it’s ready for baking.
The smell of the cherries bubbling and the granola browning will make people think you are doing big things in your kitchen.
Other Fruit to Consider
The first crumble I ever ate was a pear crumble and the first one I made was an apple. Both were wonderful. Most traditional pie/cobbler fruit can be used in a crumble (apples, pears, peaches/nectarines, berries, etc).
Crumble fruit filling also doesn’t have to be one kind of fruit — they can made with a mixture of fruit. I enjoy creating “multi-fruit” desserts and crumbles are a great way to do that. It’s easy to find suggestions online for how to pair up different kinds of fruits for baking recipes.
What to Serve With a Cherry Crumble
Cherry Crumbles are delicious all by themselves (like pie and cobbler). But sometimes you want a little something “extra” to take it up a notch (also like pie and cobbler). Some ideas are:
- A scoop of vanilla ice cream
- Whipped heavy cream, sweetened with sugar
- Caramel sauce
- Chocolate sauce
- Pureed fruit sauce
The ice cream and the heavy cream are classic dessert toppers and can be used with a wide variety of crumble flavors. The sauces depend more on what kind of fruit and topping ingredients are in the crumble. If you’re unsure, just put a little bit of the sauce on a small amount of your crumble and see if it works for you. If not, no harm, no foul.
Ready to make a cherry crumble? Let me show you how easy it is.
- 3-4 cups fresh cherries OR 3-4 cups frozen cherries OR 2 cans sour cherries
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup water
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- Pinch of salt
- 1 small orange or 2 cutie oranges:
- 1 heaping cup French vanilla almond granola (for bottom layer)
- 1 ½ cups French vanilla almond granola (for top layer)
- 2 TB butter/margarine
- Place the cherries in a colander and rinse in cold water.
- Using a cherry pitter or a knife, pit the cherries.
- Combine the pitted cherries, water, sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium saucepan.
- Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, for 20 minutes or until the syrup reaches a thick consistency that coats the spoon.
- Stir in the juice of 1 small orange or 2 cutie oranges.
- Layer 1 heaping cup of granola in the bottom of a 1 1/2 quart baking dish, breaking up any large pieces.
- Pour the cherries over the bottom layer of granola in the baking dish.
- Spread the remaining granola over the top of the cherries.
- Dot with 2 tablespoons of butter cut into pieces.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.
- Let sit on a rack for 15-20 minutes before serving.