Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Apple Crumble

I don't think I have ever knowingly made a crumble before even though they are one of my favourite desserts. My mother made them frequently when we were kids - not just with apples but with rhubarb and strawberries and blackberries and various combinations thereof. Just thinking about them makes my mouth water.

I have always thought of crumble as a quintessentially english dessert, its origins lost in the mists of time, the precursor perhaps to the first pie. Turns out there actually is no long history to this lovely dish - no mention of it in ancient recipes or delirious records of it rounding out decadent feasts. Nothing at all in fact before the 20th century - and in all probability it came in to existence during the second world war. Which makes a certain kind of sense - frugal, quick, simple and deeply comforting, it is a perfect kind of wartime treat.

I made my topping with dark brown sugar - I wanted a sort of treacly element to the chewiness of the crumble. It was very good but different to the one my mother makes - I'm fairly sure she uses coconut for a whole other kind of texture, which has got to be worth a try. Having waited this long to attempt my first one, and finding it turned out very well indeed, might just have to have another go.

Apple Crumble

4 bramley - or other cooking - apples
2-3 tbsp brown sugar (depending on sweetness of apples and balance with the lemon juice)
1 tbsp water
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tspn ground cinnamon

For the topping:

100g plain flour
1 tbsp caster sugar
4 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
A pinch of salt
65g cold butter

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Peel and core the apples and chop into 2cm chunks. Place in a small gratin dish and sprinkle with sugar. Sprinkle the apples with water and lemon juice.

To make the topping, measure the flour, sugars, salt and cinnamon into a mixing bowl. Cut the cold butter into the dry ingredients and mix it with your fingertips to the consistency of breadcrumbs. Sprinkle the topping over the apples - this should easily cover all the fruit like a lid.

Put the crumble into the centre of the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes. Using a small knife, pierce the crisp top to check for doneness. The apples should be fluffy and the topping should be nice and brown with thick bubbles of filling erupting at the edges.

Let the crumble cool for at least 10 minutes then serve with lashings of clotted cream. For the english touch.

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