Growing up, my sisters and I never really had a traditional birthday cake at our parties. Instead, my mom or grandmother would sometimes buy, but mostly bake, us whatever our favorite dessert happened to be that year, throw a few candles on it, and call it our “birthday cake”. For Allison, my oldest sister, that meant either a pecan pie or Meme’s chocolate delight. Collins celebrated her birthday just a couple of weeks ago where there was, without a doubt, the same strawberry cake from The Sweetery that she’s requested most of her life. I have blown many candles out of berry crumbles, Oreo dirt cakes and strawberry pizzas. But, rarely would any of us choose a typical vanilla or chocolate sheet cake.
Truthfully, I’ve never been particularly fond of cake. As I’ve gotten older, I have found a few cakes that I really do love, like Patrick’s mom’s recipe for apple cake that we still make every year at Thanksgiving. Once, while babysitting for a family in Wilmington, I had a slice of lemon-blueberry cake that was so good I’m still thinking about it three years later. And then there’s the banana dream cake from Toojay’s Deli that seems to show up for even the smallest of celebrations around here.
I have learned to appreciate a good slice of cake, but the dessert that I choose most often, whether it’s for my birthday, or just a random Tuesday, is a berry crumble. Crumbles are good year-round, but they are especially wonderful this time of year. Crispy oat topping filled with warm, syrupy fruit alongside a scoop of cold vanilla ice cream is the embodiment of summertime in the south. Perhaps everywhere, but most definitely in the south.
The crumble recipe that I follow is different than the one I grew up eating. Instead of flour, butter, and brown sugar it uses almond meal, olive oil and maple syrup. Though the ingredients are vastly different, the depth of flavor is still very much on point. And because this version is a bit healthier, it’s totally appropriate (and highly recommended) for breakfast, where I like to add a spoonful of greek yogurt in place of the ice cream.
As so many of my recipes do, the recipe that I follow for blueberry crumble (she calls it a “crisp”) comes from Shauna Niequist’s book, Bread and Wine. I’ve added a few extra ingredients and tweaked the quantities ever so slightly to have a greater crumble to fruit ratio. You can use almost any fruit in this recipe. We’ve tried strawberries, raspberries, peaches, and apples, but more often than not, we stick with blueberries. As long as you have fruit and crumble, you can’t mess this up!
- 4 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen)
- 1 cup steel cut or old fashioned oats
- 1/2 cup almond meal
- 1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup ground flax seed
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350°.
- Pour blueberries into an 8×8 baking dish.
- In a large mixing bowl, add oats, almond meal, chopped pecans, ground flax seed and cinnamon. Stir together.
- Pour in the maple syrup, olive oil and vanilla to the oat mixture and stir well to combine.
- Spread the oat mixture over the blueberries.
- Bake for 45-50 minutes, until fruit is bubbling and topping is golden and crisp.
- Serve warm with a scoop of your favorite ice cream or greek yogurt.
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