Almost everyone loves a pudding and now that the nights are getting cooler and mist is accumulating in the dune slacks overnight, it’s time for apple crumble.
Oh, enough with the ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ stuff. It’s time for apple crumble because my three ancient apple trees have gone into massive overproduction this year. People I know will soon be running away from me – if they stand still for five seconds I’ll be forcing them to take plastic bags filled with fruit, and they remember previous years. (Some have actually requested apples. They know not what they do. But they are about to find out.)
And then there are the blackberries. The earliest are ready, fat and full of juice. I’ve some in my garden – they got missed in the Great Weeding – and only have to walk five minutes round the corner to get more. Blackberry and apple crumble is a traditional favourite, but I do get bored picking the seeds out of my teeth (ever the lady). I also think apple crumble can be a bit, er, basic – that’s fine, but I decided to come up with a more
alcoholic adult version nonetheless.
I love playing with the concept of the crumble. I’ve done savoury ones; I’ve made the crumble from almonds and walnuts and oats and all sorts of other things; out of season I’ve crumbled whatever fruit is on special offer in Aldi; I’ve added interesting spices. But this one worked best when the topping was simple and traditional. Of course it’s good with crème fraiche or Greek yoghurt or double cream or ice cream or custard, but that’s not much help if you fall into the category – as I do – of the lactose intolerant. Hence the coulis. That and avoiding the whole seed/teeth/public embarrassment problem.
Apple crumble with blackberry coulis
(Serves 4, using a 20cm baking dish at least 5cm deep; a soufflé dish is ideal – but see below re servings…)
50g wholemeal flour
50g porridge oats
3 tbsp unrefined sugar
50g butter, chopped
half a tsp cinnamon
800g – 1kg cooking apples
2 tbsp Calvados or brandy
1 tbsp sugar
For the coulis
a little water
2 heaped tsp vanilla sugar (according to taste – plain caster sugar can be used instead)
Make the coulis first. Rinse the blackberries to dislodge any wildlife and put them in a pan. Add a very little water – not even enough to cover them – and a teaspoon of the vanilla sugar. Bring to a simmer over a medium heat, stirring. Once the blackberries are soft and beginning to disintegrate, remove from the heat and mash them slightly. Then pass them through a sieve, preferably a nylon one, into a bowl – push as much pulp through as possible and discard what remains in the sieve. Pour the contents of the bowl into a non-stick pan – there will probably be about 300-400ml, depending on the juiciness of the blackberries. Taste the liquid and add another teaspoon of vanilla sugar if necessary. Bring the juice to the boil, stirring constantly, and reduce the liquid by half (don’t be tempted to walk away because it will boil over, quite suddenly, if you do). When it’s reduced, pour it into a jug and put it to one side to cool.
Then it’s time to make the crumble itself. There are two ways – by hand or in a food processor (I’m a recent convert to the latter). By hand, the butter should be warm; otherwise, cold from the fridge. Put the flour, oats, sugar, butter and cinnamon (if using) into a bowl or the food processor. If processing, pulse until all the ingredients are well mixed. If purist, gradually work the butter into the other ingredients with your hands until you have a fine crumb and all the butter is incorporated. Set the crumble to one side while you prepare the apples.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees / 160 degrees fan / gas 4. Peel the apples, halve them and remove the cores, then chop them up and put them in the bottom of the baking dish, packing them down; they should come to within about 1.5cm of the top. Pour the Calvados over them, then scatter the sugar over the surface. Finally top with the crumble mixture, spreading it evenly over the surface and pressing it down with the back of the spoon. Bake the crumble in the oven for 45 minutes.
Serve – hot, warm or cold – with the gorgeous purple coulis poured over it. The coulis can be warmed up, but in practice it takes on a lot of warmth from a hot helping of crumble…
Sigh. OK, now I’m hungry.
Ah, yes, one final note – as I’ve discovered, this may well be enough to serve four – but if men are involved you may find it serves two, possibly three if you run, get there first and beat the competition off with a ladle. Hmm.