Crumbles

When Buttered Crumbs left home at the tender age of 17, the first recipe I had to call home and ask Old Mother Crumb for was apple crumble.

There’s nothing like a good crumble to invoke feelings of nostalgia, home and comfort. Even better, it’s hard to make a bad crumble (though it does happen) because they’re so wonderfully easy, no fancy equipment or special ingredients required. In fact, it really gets on my nerves when food writers try to add “cheffy” touches to a pudding whose best feature is it’s humbleness.

It’s easy to give in to the “curse of knowledge” and assume that somehow everyone instinctivly knows how to make something so simple. But, of course, they don’t. We all have to start somewhere. Does the world need another crumble recipe? Probably not, but I’m going to give you the benefit of my (quickly counts on fingers) twenty-six years of crumble-making, recipe-tweaking experience; and give you the recipe for the best crumble I, at least, have ever tasted.

It might seem strange and a lot of bother to use a mixture of butter and margarine, but you get a crispier crumble that still has plenty of flavour. All butter can give you a dry crumble that tastes too rich, all margarine and it lacks flavour and sets quite hard. Obviously you can use one or the other if you prefer.

Quinces are quite hard to find these days. Check your local farmers market, ethnic supermarket (they’re much more popular in Eastern Europe), or maybe someone you know has a tree in their garden. You could replace the quince with a large pear if you like.

Apple and Quince Crumble Serves 4-6

  • 3 cooking apples
  • 1 quince (or a large pear)
  • 90g golden granulated sugar
  • 150g (5oz) plain flour
  • 30g (1oz) rolled oats
  • 45g butter
  • 45g margarine (you can use 90g of butter or 90g of marg if you need to)
  • 2tbsp sugar

You’ll also need a casserole dish that holds at least 1lt. Mine measures 25x15x6cm.

Method:

Peel, core and slice the apples. Slice them fairly thin so they cook at the same rate as the crumble, too thick and they might still be hard when the topping is cooked.

Cover the base of the casserole dish with half of the sliced apple. Sprinkle one third of the sugar over the fruit.

Thinly slice the quince (or pear) and layer it over the apple. Sprinkle another third of the sugar over the fruit.

Finish with another layer of apple and the rest of the sugar. Set aside while you make the crumble topping.

To make the crumble:

Combine the flour, oats and sugar in a bowl. Add the butter and margarine.

Rub the fat into the flour with your fingertips, until it resembles bread crumbs. Seriously. If you can’t imagine what that looks like, see the picture below.

Spread the crumble mix over the fruit. Bake in the oven at 180/160 fan/gas mark 3, for 40 minutes to an hour. The crumble should be golden brown, and you will be able to see the soft fruit bubbling around the edges.

You can serve straight away, but it will be VERY HOT! It’s better to let it cool for 15 mins, or while you make the custard. This amount of crumble will need a pint (600ml) of custard.

It’s generally accepted that crumbles were invented during WW2, when rationing made it difficult get enough ingredients to make a traditional pie.

COTM: Blackberry and Apple Crumble

“O come at last, to whom the spring-tide’s hope

Looked for through blossoms, what hast thou for me?

Green grows the grass upon the dewy slope

Beaneath thy gold hung, grey leaved apple tree

Moveless, e’en as the autumn fain would be

That shades its sad eyes from the rising sun

And weeps at eve because the day is done”

September – William Morris

Autumn is the pefect season, crisp mornings giving way to warm sunshine, pretty coloured crispy leaves to kick around and every hedgerow bursting with free food (the best kind) Now is the time to go foraging for fruits, nuts and berries, mushrooms too if you feel brave (I’m not) Do make sure you know what you are picking, blackberries are easy to recognize but there are a multitude of other berries that look very much alike, you don’t want to be poisoned now do you? If you’re not experienced take a guide book with you. If in doubt DON’T EAT IT!! Some berries are fine cooked but not raw so don’t put your fingers in your mouth while picking, if you don’t believe me look up “purgative” in the dictionary and ponder it’s meaning.

First pick your blackberries (if you buy blackberries from the supermarket between August and October I will never respect you again, it only takes a few minutes to pop out to the nearest alleyway/wasteground/disused railway/neighbours garden to pick a couple of handfuls, which is all you need) Now it’s time to make September’s cake of the month, based on that wonderfully comforting British classic pudding, apple crumble.

Blackberry and Apple Crumble Cake

Based on a traditional Somerset apple cake

  • 4oz (120g) Butter
  • 6oz (180g) brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 8oz (240g) white or brown plain flour
  • 1tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 cooking apples
  • a couple of handfuls of fresh blackberries
  • 4 tbsp milk

For the crumble topping:

  • 4oz (120g) plain flour
  • 2oz (60g) butter
  • 1oz (30g) granulated sugar

Pre heat the oven to 170ºc (325ºf). Grease and line an 8 inch cake tin, a springform one is the best, it’s tricky to get out of a loose bottomed tin because of the crumble topping!

Make the crumble first. Put all the ingredients ina bowl and rub together until they resemble breadcrumbs. Put to one side.

Chop the apple into small cubes:

apple chunksIn a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs. Sift in the flour, spices and baking powder and mix well.

Fold in the apples, blackberries and milk. Don’t worry it the mixture seems a bit stiff, the fruit releases moisture as it cooks so don’t add any more liquid.

blackberry mix

Spoon the mixture into the tin and level the surface. Sprinkle the crumble mix over the top. Bake for around 40 mins or until a skewer poked in the middle  comes out clean. If it seems to be too brown before being cooked in the centre, cover with a sheet of baking paper (not foil).

Leave to cool in the tin for 10 mins tham gently ease it out and cool on a wire tray.

Lovely served warm or cold, especially with clotted cream!

apple b cover

“Season of mist and mellow fruitfulness” – Keats

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