Friday, 13 April 2012

Apple Crumble

In my life, apple crumble will forever be linked to my Mum, as she used to make it on drizzly Sundays for pudding after Sunday dinner. I grew up in a village which is now a bit rough around the edges, but in the 80s it was still on the quiet side. It was the sort of place where harassed mums would stock up on enough Christmas supplies to last a nuclear winter as the little shops on the main road shut on Christmas Eve and didn't open again until after New Year's Day.

Sundays were a scaled down version of this as nowhere was open and there was never anything to do. Sunny Sundays were spent playing kirby on the front with the other kids from the street, or climbing over our back garden fence on to the playground of the local primary school. I usually scaled the fence in my roller-boots, much to the annoyance of my Mum, who was sick of warning me about the danger of this.

Grey, rainy Sundays were usually spent playing with Barbies and dressing up whilst my Mum attempted to fit a week's worth of housework into one day. Once she was finished, we always had our Sunday disco (where we would dance around the living room to whatever music my mum was doing the housework to) and then we would sometimes bake something for pudding. Our kitchen floor was clad in 1980s white lino which for an eight year old girl equalled a perfect roller-booting surface... After much pestering my mum would cave in and let me wear my roller-boots whilst baking. I would whizz from one cupboard to another, gathering the ingredients and weighing them.

My favourite thing to make with my mum was apple crumble as I loved the smell of the cinnamon and apples cooking together. My mum always made the apple filling, as it involved boiling water, but I was allowed to make the crumble mix. The crumble mix recipe came from a big doorstop of a cookbook called 'The 1000 Recipe Cookbook'. Not long after I left home, I came across a copy of the book in a charity shop and bought it so that I would have a copy for my own kitchen.

My mum didn't make the apple filling the way it tells you to in the book though. She had her own way of doing it, which I think is nicer. I've shared the recipe with you below so that you can make it too if you like. I added some blackberries to my apple filling last weekend, just for a change, so feel free to play around with the fruit you use. Peaches or brambles picked from the hedgerows are good early Autumn alternatives.

Crumble Mix
I tend to make the crumble mix first, then as soon as the apple filling is ready, you're good to go. Your butter should be ffffffflipping cold to ensure it rubs into the flour well without becoming greasy and claggy. I always add a cheeky shake of cinnamon in with the flour as I love it. You don't want to add too much - a very gentle shake.

150g/5oz plain flour
75g/3oz sugar (I like golden granulated)
75g/3oz butter
pinch of cinnamon (optional)

Tip the flour and sugar into the bowl and stir around to combine. Cut the butter into chunks then add to your baking bowl.

Rub the butter into the sugary-flour mixture using the tips of your fingers and thumbs in a fluttering motion. You are aiming to create a mixture which resembles rubbly breadcrumbs. It should have some fine sandy bits and then some more rubbly bits - these crisp up in the oven to make little crunchy, biscuity pebbles.

Once your crumble mix is ready, preheat the oven to 180C/ 350F or Gas mark 4 

Apple Filling 

4 large cooking apples, such as Bramley,
Sugar to taste,
Pinch of cinnamon

1) Peel and and carefully core the apples, making sure that you completely remove any of the rough apple core.

2) Chop the apples into rough chunks and put into a deep saucepan. Pour boiling water into the pan so that it just covers the fruit by about a centimetre. Bring up to a brief boil, but keep an eye on the apples, as they can soften too much. You want the apples to soften to the point where once they have been drained, they will break easily into a rough puree. You can always take a chunk out with a slotted spoon and check it.

3) Drain the apples in a colander, allowing most of the water to flow away, but leave a little left in the pan to help make a sauce. Return the apples to the pan.

4) Stir around to break up slightly and to combine with the water. You want a puree consistency with some random chunks. Sprinkle in a small pinch of cinnamon and add a couple of spoonfuls of sugar to taste. Don't add too much sugar though, as you do want a slightly sharp edge, as there's sugar in the crumble mix.

5) Pour the apple mix into your oven-proof baking dish. At this point, if you want to add blackberries, you can. I wouldn't add them before this point as they still have to go into the oven.  The heat from the oven alone will allow them to bleed and burst, dappling the pale jade mush with purplish-pink.

6) Sprinkle over the crumble mix. Depending on the size of the dish, you might end up with some left over. Don't be tempted add this if you already have a decent covering (you can freeze crumble mix in sandwich bags for next time though, so don't throw it away).You want a rubble covering that is deep enough to blanket the fruit generously, but not so deep that it will be difficult to crisp up. Sprinkle over a shake of cinnamon and sugar for good luck!

7) Bake on the centre shelf of your oven for 25-35 mins. I always put a baking tray on the shelf below to  catch any drips from the fruit which will bubble over the edges. I would check from 25 mins onwards. You want your crumble topping to be golden and crunchy on top, and for the fruity filling to have bubbled up over the edges of the dish. 

Serve with chilled pouring cream or vanilla ice cream.

The scent of apple, biscuit and cinnamon wafting out of the oven is the most comforting smell I know and always used to sweeten the Sunday night blues I used to get when I realised the weekend was over, and there was still homework lurking in the bottom of my bag somewhere...

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