There are two times in the year I anticipate seasonal fruit with great excitement. The first is strawberry season and the second is apple season. The common denominator for both these juicy fruits is that they make brilliant crumble – apple crumble and strawberry crumble. They are both slightly tart fruit and therein, lies their magic. When the holidays and cooler weather arrive, the one thing we can all looked forward to is the warmth of the oven and the smell of baking.
Now if you have not enjoyed crumble before, may I say that you must make haste and have one as soon as possible. Why? Well, the rough sandy, crunch-baked cap of a topping blanketing succulent fruit is a textural sensation in your mouth. The fruit is made magical and juicy by baking. Baking the fruit chases away any tartness leaving one with a symphonic experience of contrast. The rough and the juicy. The floury-baked neutral with tart sweetness.
My final argument as to why you must bake crumble is that it is a forgiving dessert. As someone who initially learned to cook and bake with great hesitancy and trepidation, I say this dessert does not judge you. It does not dictate a complicated pie crust, which can bring people like me to tears because crust and dough must be kneaded and rolled just so, at the right room temperature so one does not end up with a sticky, rough mess. To wrap up the case for baking one pronto, is the fact that no fancy equipment besides an oven is needed.
2 tablespoons dried cranberries
3 x 15ml tablespoons marsala/some other similar wine or water
¾ cup all-purpose flour
3½ tablespoons or 50 grams unsalted butter (cold, and cut into chunks)
½ cup almond (chopped, if preferred)
¼ cup light brown sugar plus 1 heaped tablespoon
3 medium – approx 1 pound – crisp apples
1. Preheat the oven 375°F or 190°C.
2. Add the flour to a bowl and rub in the butter with the pads of your fingertips: the crumble should be similar to a rough, crumbly mound. See below for the process:
3. Chop the almonds, if preferred.
4. Using a fork, stir the almonds into the crumble mixture followed by the ¼ cup sugar.
5. Place crumble mixture in fridge or freezer, especially if you are baking in warm weather.
6. Put the cranberries in a small saucepan, add the wine or water, bring to a bubbly, low boil. Turn off the heat, and leave the pan to stand on the still warm stove.
7. Peel the apples, quarter them, then cut out the core. Slice each quarter in half across for small apples. If using a large apple, slice each quarter into three or four pieces.
8. Add the fruit to the marsala-steeped cranberries in their pan, stir in the remaining tablespoon of sugar, then turn the heat back on and bring to a bubble.
9. Put on a tightly fitting lid and let cook for 5 minutes or so, until the apples have softened a little at the edges, giving the pan a good shake once or twice in that time.
10. Transfer the apple mixture to a small pie dish, and then cover the fruit as evenly as possible, with the crumble mixture.
11. Bake in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes. When the apple crumble is done the fruit will be soft and the crumble topping golden on top. There will be some brown around the edges and in parts. Please make sure the flour is not undercooked.
12. Eat fresh out of the oven. Alternatively, eat with heavy cream when hot but when it is fridge cold, opt for vanilla ice-cream.
Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s ‘How to Eat’