Mark Twain might be well-known for his witticisms, but he wasn’t joking when he said that the coldest winter he ever spent was a summer in San Francisco. While the rest of the country is melting, I have been shivering through city streets after sundown. But when the afternoons are confusingly warm and sunny, I still manage to stock up on summer produce; it’s just that a post-dinner dessert of berries with yogurt or ice cream no longer sounds very appealing when I need to bundle up in a blanket just to stay comfortable in my apartment.
After picking up some olallieberries at the farmers market on a deceptively beautiful day, I found myself looking for an easy dessert that would give me an excuse to use my oven and warm up the room that chilly evening. Having not tried olallieberries previously, I found this particular basketful quite tart. Being a bit too exhausted from the work day to fuss with them too much, I did what any reasonable person would have done: I plopped them into ramekins and poured sweet Bella Vineyards port over them. The baked result was incredible, not unlike roasting strawberries in Grand Marnier. But I’m getting ahead of myself …
Then I took out a cereal bowl and softened some butter in the microwave, so I could put together an easy crumble topping that also happened to be whole grain. Butter, whole wheat flour, rolled oats, brown sugar, and chopped almonds. Mashed together with a fork. That’s how un-fussy this is. But it comes together in a minute, and tastes incredible.
Plopped on top of the berries, the topping seeps down into them just a bit as it bakes, similar to a cobbler but with a crumblier, chewier, more intriguing texture and deliciously nutty flavor. So quick to prepare and hands-off to bake, this dessert concoction is my new panacea for wintry summer evenings, but I imagine I’ll continue making some variation of it with the different fruits that late summer and fall bring.
Olallieberrie Port Crumble
Makes 2 ramekins
If unable to find olallieberries, the ideal substitution is 2/3 blackberries, 1/3 raspberries. But I’m sure any berries and a large variety of summer stone fruits would pair exceedingly well with both port and the brown sugar-oat topping. Likewise, the topping is easily varied with other whole grain flours or even standard white flour. While I would recommend keeping the rolled oats in there (although, truly, you can just sub a bit more flour if you’ve run out of oats), any of your favorite nuts will do in lieu of almonds.
I love serving this in individual-sized ramekins – there’s something very homey about it. But I’ve also made it in a larger pan for company. Just make sure you have about 2 inches of raw berries/fruit, and since the topping recipe makes enough for two, multiply it as needed for the number of guests you expect to serve. No one has ever complained of too much crumble topping!
1/2 c. olallieberries
1/4 c. port wine
2 Tbsp. butter, softened
2 Tbsp. rolled oats
3 Tbsp. whole wheat flour
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. raw almonds, finely chopped
Preheat oven to 400F. Line a small baking sheet with foil for easy cleanup.
Divide berries and port evenly between two ramekins.
In a small bowl, use a fork to mix butter, oats, flour, sugar, and salt until well combined. Add chopped almonds, and mix until evenly distributed. Spoon crumble topping into the ramekins, distributing the topping evenly across the top of the berries and dividing the topping evenly between the ramekins.
Place ramekins onto the foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until berries are bubbling and topping is golden. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.