Streusel Smarter

Rhoda Boone, recipe by Ian Knauer, photo by Quentin Bacon

Want to make a good thing even better? Add a crumb, crumble, or streusel topping to your pie! It’s week 4 of our Pie Day series and this week we explore the delicious world of pie toppings, which are a super simple way to add another layer of texture and flavor to almost any pie.

The differences between these 3 toppings can spur hours of debate, depending on where you are from and what your grandmother used to make. Every recipe is a little different and some have extra goodies added (we’ll get to that), but here is a basic recipe to top a 9-inch pie to get you started:

3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons white granulated sugar

3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

6 tablespoons butter, chilled and cut into small pieces

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugars, cinnamon, and salt. Using your fingertips, work butter into mixture until clumps form. Chill until ready to use. Sprinkle over filled pie before baking.

Why we love crumb/crumble/streusel:

1. It’s easier than a top crust. Just mix, chill, and sprinkle to add another dimension to your pie.

2. You can make a double batch and freeze it. Use half for your pie now and freeze the other half to make a crisp or crumble with gorgeous summer fruit later. Or toast it in a 350°F oven for 15 minutes and sprinkle over ice cream, yogurt, or berries.

3. It’s endlessly customizable. You can add your favorite baking spices like nutmeg and allspice, any nuts or seeds from pecans to pumpkin seeds, vanilla extract, or the perennial favorite, rolled oats. Or get really creative with add-ins like dried hibiscus flowers, crushed pink peppercorns, or citrus zest.

Now go forth and try this delicious topping on the pie recipe below!

Beneath a humble, oaty streusel topping lies a sleek, inky jumble of plums and blackberries—talk about a delicious contrast. A combination of cornstarch and tapioca in the filling helps to keep the colors of the fruit true and to set up their juices nicely without becoming too thick.


  • 1 3/4 pound ripe plums, pitted and quartered

  • 3/4 pound blackberries (2 cups)

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar, divided

  • 3 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca

  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch

  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided

  • 1/2 recipe all-butter pastry dough

  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

  • 1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into bits

  • Equipment: a 9 1/2-inch deep-dish pie plate


Put a foil-lined large baking sheet in lower third of oven and preheat oven to 375°F.

Toss plums and blackberries with 1 cup sugar, tapioca, cornstarch, zest, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large bowl.

Roll out dough into a 13-inch round on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin. Fit into pie plate. Trim excess dough, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang. Fold overhang under and press against rim of pie plate, then crimp decoratively. Chill while making streusel.

Stir together oats, flour, and remaining 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 tsp salt. Blend in butter with your fingertips until mixture forms small clumps.

Mound filling in shell. Crumble streusel evenly over filling.

Bake pie until streusel is golden and filling is bubbling, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours. Cool completely, 3 to 4 hours.

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