Streusel—better known by its street name, crumb topping—is simply flour, sugar, and salt that’s cut with lots of butter until it turns, well, crumbly—like a free-spirited cookie dough.
It takes just minutes to whip up, can be baked straight from the freezer, and keeps there for months. It can be piled on pies or layered into cakes.
Or—à la Dorie Greenspan, who writes about “streusel crunch” in her book Dorie's Cookies—it can be baked solo on a sheet tray, then scattered over ice cream. Or yogurt.
Or soup! Or salads. Or pasta. That's right: Lower the sugar and add some umami oomph—say, chili powder or potato chips—and streusel adopts the role that we normally default to breadcrumbs. Except it’s more adaptable. And buttery.
THE BARE BONES BASE RECIPE
Makes 5 to 6 cups
2cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4cups sugar
8ounces cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1. Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture begins to form a crumbly, curdy—not cohesive—dough. Process more for big clumps and less for a pebbly, sandy texture. (You can also do this step in a bowl with your hands!)
2. Dump onto a plate and continue to squeeze and break-apart the mixture until it looks right to you. (Streusel is very personal. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!) Refrigerate for a few hours or freeze for 30-ish minutes until firm. (This will reinforce the streusel’s crumby personality.) Bag and store in the fridge for up to five days or in the freezer for up to 2 months.
3. Put it to good use! Mound 1 to 1 1/2 cups on top of a pie before baking. For cake, follow your pan size and your heart, but figure a very thick layer of streusel in the middle and on top. The more, I say, the better. Or, to make streusel crunch, preheat the oven to 325° F and line a baking sheet with parchment or a Silicone mat. Spread into a single layer and bake until the streusel begins to brown and crisp—about 20 minutes total, tossing with a fork halfway through. It will continue to crisp as it cools. Cool completely before sprinkling on everything from yogurt and ice cream. (You can even serve it with milk, like the cereal of your dreams.) Store in an airtight bag or jar for up to 3 days.
HOW TO DRESS IT UP
Use this chart to customize your streusel based on your favorite flavors, the ingredients hanging out in your fridge and pantry, or its final destination.
A note on the mixing order: Streusel is rustic by nature, so the only crucial step is under-mixing (too dry) or over-mixing (too cohesive). Any "bonuses" can be included with the other dry ingredients, and the fat should always be last.
HOW TO USE THE ENTIRE BAG
For pies, mound 1 to 1 1/2 cups on top before baking.
For cake, follow your pan size and your heart, but figure you'll want a very thick layer in the middle and on top (pour in half the batter, add streusel, add the rest of the batter, then sprinkle on more streusel). The more streusel, I say, the better.
To make streusel crunch, preheat the oven to 325° F and line a baking sheet with parchment or a Silicone mat. Spread streusel into a single layer (use two baking sheets if you have to) and bake until the streusel begins to brown and crisp, about 20 minutes total, tossing with a fork halfway through. It will continue to crisp as it cools. Cool completely before sprinkling on everything from yogurt to ice cream to macerated fruit. You can even serve it with milk, like the cereal of your dreams. Store in an airtight bag or jar for up to 3 days.
For more ideas, check out this flow chart (https://s3.amazonaws.com/food52/Sweet-