Life on the Hill doesn’t exactly allow ample opportunity for experimentation with cooking, leading to a routine diet at the dining halls. Over the course of the quarter, columnist Andrew Warner sets out to break the culinary monotony of dorm life, armed with a rice cooker and a few pantry staples.
Sometimes the best desserts are also the ugliest desserts. I’ll take a sloppily glazed bear claw over some artisan creme brulee any day.
One dessert, though, rivals all others in both ugliness and deliciousness: rice cooker mixed berry crumble.
The way the slimy, syrupy filling seeps into the barely browned crust is absolutely hideous. But despite the fact that it looks more like the Pokémon Muk than an edible dessert, the crumble is one of the tastiest things to come out of my rice cooker thus far.
It’s also the easiest. The recipe is very much a “set it and forget it” type recipe, which is perfect for dorm life. During the 15 to 20 minutes it takes for the rice cooker to work its magic, chefs can study, relax or do whatever else they do in their dorms.
The end result isn’t really a traditional crumble – it feels more like a melted pie. Which is to be expected, of course, since I made it in a rice cooker instead of an oven. Rice cookers, unlike ovens, utilize direct heat, which cooks the berries much faster, while also bringing the syrup up to a boil more rapidly. The filling boiled and mixed with the crust, making it less of a crust and more of a semisolid cream. But the final product was still a mouthwatering berry melange.
The great part about the crumble is that it can be made in so many different flavors.
I made a mixed berry crumble but really, any fruits, such as rhubarb and apricots can be used for the recipe. Apples may also seem like a good option, but I don’t recommend them for a rice cooker because they have a firmer texture and might take longer to cook.
Celebrity chefs and cookbook writers often treat baking as an extremely precise science, which it most certainly is. But using a rice cooker to make baked goods is a bit less so.
I don’t have any measuring cups with me, so a lot of my rice cooker recipes, the berry crumble included, require eyeballing measurements instead of carefully weighing everything out. Which, looking back on it now, could be the reason my crumble turned out so ghastly looking.
I tried my best to give accurate approximations in the recipe, but if all else fails, the crust mixture should be sort of crumbly, resembling the texture of coarse sand with the occasional oat peeking out.
The oatmeal I used – Bob’s Red Mill Brown Sugar & Maple Oatmeal Cup – admittedly is a bit highbrow and expensive for a college student’s budget and lifestyle. But it’s perfect for the crust, because it comes in single-serving portions; I used half a serving per crumble, though owners of a five-cup rice cooker should probably double the whole recipe. The oatmeal also has brown sugar mixed in already, which means I didn’t have to buy a whole bag of brown sugar that I would most likely not be using again.
While the recipe makes two servings, it’s not something I recommend sharing with a friend, simply because it just looks like a pile of fruity slop. I was almost too embarrassed to share the recipe as a part of Dorm Dining, just because of how strange it looks.
The crust didn’t brown at all and looked more like undercooked oatmeal than a crisp, while the berries turned into a slimy-looking violet goop. As far as looks go, it’s certainly no rice cooker cheesecake.
But I also recommend eating it alone simply because it’s just so delicious.
The filling blends tanginess and sweetness, and the warm undertones of cinnamon really make this dessert the ugly duckling of Dorm Dining.
While the crust didn’t crisp up like I would have liked it to, the slight grittiness adds a well-appreciated textural contrast to the gooey berries. For additional flavor – and perhaps a touch of eye candy – I suggest garnishing it with whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a sprig of mint.
A comforting and flavorful treat, the rice cooker fruit crumble is just another reason you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.