The heat(ing) is on
In which I finally admit that jumpers alone aren't cutting it, crumble in the face of adversity and launch a competition...
There are two kinds of people in this life. Those who like to bisect the population along arbitrary lines and those who take a more nuanced approach. Also: people who put the central heating on as soon as the temperature drops below 'summer holiday', and radiator refuseniks like me.
In my book, unless the tip of your nose is cold indoors, the thermostat is strictly out of bounds. Yet that day came last week. Which means that not only is it time to raise the household climate to a heady 18°C but Crumble Season has arrived!
I came into a bounty of apples last week, courtesy of my father, so this seemed the only and obvious choice. His tree is a Cox and I’d always rather use eaters than cookers as I like the pieces of fruit to remain distinct rather than collapse into mush. They’re sweeter too, so you don’t need to add so much sugar (none in this case).
I left the apples alone on this occasion although blackberries are a welcome addition if you happen to have any. As are raisins. Everyone has their own idea of the perfect crumble and mine has two defining points: slightly tart fruit to contrast with the sweet topping and a crumble that is soggy underneath but craggy on top.
There is much debate about the makeup of the topping itself. I grew up with an oaty crumble, sort of like a loose flapjack, but these days prefer a more traditional flour-based version. I added some ground almonds, cinnamon and crushed amaretti biscuits too because, well - first crumble of the season - why not?
- 1kg(ish) apples, peeled, cored and sliced
- Squeeze of lemon juice
- 100g plain flour
- 125g butter
- 50g ground almonds
- 50g amaretti biscuits, crushed
- 50g caster sugar
- tsp ground cinnamon
- pinch of salt
Set the oven to 180°C. Put the apples in a pan with a squeeze of lemon juice and 2tbsp water. Taste a little piece. If they're very tart add a little sugar. Cook for a couple of minutes until the slices are slightly softened but still holding their shape then transfer to an ovenproof dish. Put the butter and flour in a food processor and pulse until they have reached a course breadcrumb texture. It's good to have a few little pea-sized lumps of butter as this gives the topping texture. Add the almonds, crushed biscuits, sugar, cinnamon and salt. Combine well and tip spread over the apples. Bake for about 40 mins or until golden brown on top and bubbling round the edges. Eat with cream or ice cream.
If Ifs And Ands Were Pots And Pans
- Almost any other fruit can be used and won't need cooking first.
- Add appropriate spices to the topping: ginger for rhubarb, star anise for plums, vanilla for summer fruit etc.
- Leave out the almonds and/or amaretti biscuits for a plain and traditional crumble topping. Substitute for the same weight of flour. Or swap in wholemeal flour or some oats for a wholesome, rustic vibe.
Crumbles freeze perfectly so do let me know if you’d like some added to a freezer filling order. Or if you have a plentifully-cropping apple tree of your own and need a help to bust a glut, get in touch for a free consultation. I can turn them into crumbles, chutney, crisps or anything else you'd like.
I’ve also got a bit obsessed with caramel lately so, whilst I was baking, made this chocolate and salted caramel tart. The chocolate filling is to a Leiths recipe and always comes out well, rich and smooth and perfectly set. But I used the caramel from Paul A Young’s Adventures With Chocolate book which is not only easier but more delicious too (I feel bad speaking bad of my alma mater, but I refuse to lie to you about caramel).
To celebrate autumn I'm launching a competition. The winner will get a free dessert of their choice added to their next freezer filling order. All you have to do to enter is both join the mailing list and like the Facebook page before the end of October.