When I saw fresh cherries on Camdeborde’s menu, I knew that when I got out to the markets, I’d see them everywhere. Indeed, it was le temps de cerises – cherry time – and the fruit was piled mountain-high in every market. And while it was turning up at the end of lots of bistro meals, it was making its chicest showing chez Pierre Herme, where bright red cherries topped what Pierre called une tarte croustillante aux cerises et pistache, le crumble autrement, or a crunchy cherry and pistachio tart, in other words, a crumble. Well, hardly a crumble as we know it. It was PH’s perfect tart shell, filled with a pistachio cream, sweet cherries and griottes, and then topped with a cardamom streusel. Of course, it was the cardamom that was the genius touch.
Back home in Connecticut, where my rhubarb plant had gone wild, I made my own humble crumble, a sweet more rustic than anything I’d seen in Paris, but awfully good spooned into a deep bowl, topped with ice cream and eaten outdoors.
While I could have been very French and left the pits in the cherries, the way it’s often done for clafoutis, I pulled out my favorite cherry pitter instead. I ended up using ginger in the crumble – powdered for the crumbs and fresh for the fruit – because like so much of what I do, the dessert was a spur-of-the-moment idea and there wasn’t any cardamom in the cupboard. If your cupboard isn’t bare, make the switch. Either crush the seeds in a cardamom pod or use powdered cardamom, but no matter which you use, go sparingly – cardamom packs a punch.
CHERRY RHUBARB CRUMBLE
Makes 8 servings
For the crumbs:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup sugar
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup nuts – I used sliced almonds
For the fruit:
1 pound rhubarb, trimmed (peeled if the stalks are fat) and cut into bite-size pieces
1 pound cherries, pitted
1/3 cup sugar
1 to 2 teaspoons chopped fresh ginger (more, less or none, if you’d like)
2 teaspoons cornstarch (this will give you a pretty soupy crumble, which is what I like; if you want a thicker syrup, add another 1 to 2 teaspoons)
To make the crumbs: Put all the ingredients, except the nuts, in a food processor and pulse just until the mixture forms curds and clumps and holds together when pressed. Add the nuts, pulse a couple of times and, if you’re not ready to make the crumble, turn the mixture out into a bowl, cover and chill until needed.
To assemble and bake the crumble: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a deep-dish pie plate and place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone baking mat.
Put the fruit, sugar, cornstarch and ginger in the pie plate and let the mixture rest on the counter, stirring occasionally, until you’ve got a little syrup forming around the fruit.
Using your fingers, break the crumbs into uneven clumps and scatter them over the fruit, pressing them down just a little.
Bake the crumble until the crumbs are deeply golden and the syrup from the fruit is bubbling up around (and maybe through) them, 45 to 55 minutes.
Transfer the crumble to a rack and let it cool until it’s just warm or until it reaches room temperature. If you’ve got leftovers, chill them – the crumble’s good at just about any temperature.