Annie’s improbable fruit crumble

Apple Brown Betty

This delicious dessert owes its existence to Hannah Rothchild’s comic novel The Improbability of Love, a satire of the art world served up as a sensory experience fit for royalty. I was presenting this novel to our neighborhood book club.

Annie,  a central figure in the story, buys a dirty painting languishing in a junk shop and brings it home as a gift for her boyfriend, only to discover later that it is a valuable piece of art by Watteau.

But it is through her work as a wonderfully creative chef who services the wealthy people that inhabit the art world that we see food itself raised to an art form. For Annie, food is like performance art—its power lies in its transience and immediacy—and it speaks of love, memory, the past, and the future.

Annie creates intricate food tableaus to impress the art crowd. But her fruit crumble  was a work of love. She made it for her long-time lover, who broke her heart when he left her carelessly with nothing.

Wanting to make something to honor Annie when I entertained my book club, I checked recipes for cobblers, bettys and crumbles. I wanted something not overly laced with added sugar or too intricate, but creative enough to have been a dish Annie might have made. I ended up using a mixture of berries and sliced peaches with a banana cake topping. The ladies liked it and I hope you do too.

Apple Brown Betty

Fruit crumble
Serves 8

  • 1/2 cup coconut palm sugar (or white, if that’s all you have)
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 6 cups fresh blackberries (or any combination of fresh fruit and berries)
  • 1/4 cup (50 g) melted coconut oil
  1. Preheat oven to 350F (175C).
  2. Lightly oil a 9×13-inch baking dish.•
  3. Whisk the sugar with the cornstarch in a small bowl.
  4. Place the blackberries into a mixing bowl, and drizzle with 1/4 cup of melted oil. Sprinkle with the cornstarch mixture, and toss to evenly coat.
  5. Spread the berries into the prepared baking dish.

banana cookies

Banana cake topping

  • 8 ounces (225 grams) ripe bananas, mashed, about 2 large ones (frozen ripe bananas work fine)
  • 1/2 cup (60 grams) coconut palm sugar (or use ordinary white sugar whizzed in the food processor until it’s powdery)
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil (100 grams)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) low-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1.5 teaspoons real vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup (25 grams)  unsweetened coconut or ground almonds
  • 3/4 cup (90 grams) whole-grain pastry flour
  • 1.5 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1.5 teaspoons cinnamon
  1. In a large mixing bowl, cream the oil and sugar together with the back of a wooden spoon.
  2.  Add the eggs and beat with a hand mixer until the mixture thickens, about 4 or 5 minutes.
  3. One at a time add the bananas, yogurt, coconut butter and vanilla, and beat each one with a hand mixer until smooth.
  4. In a smaller bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and cinnamon and whisk them together briskly until the color is uniform.
  5. With a slotted spoon, press and lift to fold the dry ingredients into the wet ones, until just mixed.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan, even it out smoothly over the fruit, and put it in the oven on “Bake” for 35 minutes or so. The time depends on the moisture level in the bananas and how well you want the cake done. Check often toward the end. When a skewer stuck into the middle comes out clean the crumble is done.
  7. Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes, then slide a knife around the edges and turn the loaf out onto a wire cooling rack.

This fruit dish tastes good warm or at room temperature. Serve it alone or top it with whipped cream or icecream.

Improbability of Love_thumb[2]

Watteau’s “The Pleasures of Love,” which may have inspired Rothchild’s fictional painting.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. moorezart
    Dec 05, 2018 @ 15:48:50

    Reblogged this on From 1 Blogger 2 Another.


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