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.
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.