Now that there’s a touch of chill on the night breeze, my thoughts turn to steadying puddings for approaching autumnal afternoons. I am an absolute whore for fruit crumbles, but ONLY if there is enough of the satisfying topping. So often I have been saddened by meagre bowls of stewed fruit covered in thin crusts served in so-called gastro pubs that I have been forced to pay a supplement for extra custard to make up for it. Another sin by many establishments is not to add enough custard or cream, serving it in a tiny accompanying jug. So prissy. Just stop it. I want my crumble with at least an inch thick of topping and drowned to the eyeballs in custard. Don’t give me custard in a tiny china thimble, I will have a sense of humour failure.
I was a bit bored of my usual flour/butter/sugar/cinnamon crumble topping, and I’d usually try and liven it up with some flaked almonds and oats, but nothing could have prepared me for the bombastic recipe my friend C alerted me to on the blog Chez Pim. It’s winning method is to melt a load of butter first, then tip all your dry ingredients into it, creating a delicious rubble which goes crisp on top, soft and cakey underneath. It’s so good that C once bought a box of pre-made Chez Pim crumble topping with her on our holiday to Shropshire three years ago – for which I saluted her, while dressed in a Victorian bonnet. (We were staying in a cottage where we lived for the weekend as Victorians. More on that here.)
I’ve adapted the recipe a little, and added my killer magic ingredient, which is lemon zest. And then some coconut chips. I think this elevates the humble crumble to pudding nirvana. You can play around with the mixture, substituting ground almonds for flaked, or rolled oats for porridge ones etc – the texture will be a little different every time.
Recipe serves 4 generously if you like the topping 1-2 inches thick (YES, ME.) Or serves 6 if you want to spread it out a little more in a larger dish. It’s up to you whether you dare go the full thickness…
Note: if you make the crumble in smaller dish, you will have the privilege of eating an additional mug-ful of raw topping as there will be plenty to spare, and it’s completely addictive like crack. I ate a whole mug of it while assembling the crumble, then ate dinner and had a portion of cooked crumble for pudding. No wonder my jeans are cutting into me like a scythe.
You will need:
4 medium Bramley cooking apples
1 handful blackberries (available free via UK hedgerows now!)
170g butter (I use slightly salted)
1 cup plain or spelt flour
1 cup ground or flaked almonds/handful chopped walnuts or pecans/handful pine nuts*
1 cup rolled or porridge oats, spelt flakes, or or any other uncooked cereal flakes
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut chips
2/3 cup sugar (or a bit more, to taste – I don’t like things over-sweet). Brown sugar is especially nice. (You can even use an equal quantity of Xylitol if you are trying to use alternative sugars, works fine.)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg – freshly grated, if you can
a pinch of salt
Zested rind of 1 lemon
Preheat the oven to 170C. Lightly grease your crumble dish, then peel and chop the apples into medium sized chunks. Place them in the base of the dish, then scatter over the blackberries. Sprinkle over a little bit of sugar if you like. I didn’t bother.
Melt the butter, add the lemon zest, stir and then tip in all the dry ingredients – mix around until you have craggy lumps:
Tip the rubble out over the fruit, trying not to stuff too much of it into your mouth:
Bake until the topping is starting to go brownish on top, about 40 minutes. Serve with cream (lashings of) or a lake of vanilla custard poured from an enormous jug. Leftovers are really good for breakfast!
*I am slowly starting to overcome my aversion to pine nuts, thanks to J who gave me a bag of proper Italian ones last week, not nasty cheap Chinese imports, and no risk of getting the dreaded pine mouth. Thanks, J!