Humble crumble

Apple and Strawberry Crumble2

(Apple and strawberry crumble)

Crumbles. Well, everyone’s made them at some stage of their baking pursuits. My favourite has usually been cinnamon apple, most certainly with an oat based topping, and definitely served alongside vanilla ice-cream.

Nothing much has changed over the years, although I’m growing to really love apple and strawberry as a combination (but still have a strange aversion to the very popular flavour duo of strawberry and banana, as seen in many yoghurts and smoothies). Since the climate here in Australia is so varied, we currently have local apples in season, as well as strawberries from further north, where the warm Winter weather is perfect for growing them.

My tip for making crumbles is : Don’t peel the apples. There is plenty of flavour (and dare I say it, .. nutrients) in the skins and it softens as it cooks to the point where you don’t notice the skins are present in the final dish. My other tip is, make more than you think you need, because it reheats beautifully and I’m pretty sure “too much crumble” has never been a documented malady. Ever.

Apple and strawberry crumble :

As many apples (green, or a combination of red and green apples) and strawberries as you like (6 apples and 1 punnet of strawberries will comfortably feed 4-5 people)

Wash the fruit. Core the apples and chop them to a rough 2cm dice. Gently cook the chopped apples in the juice of half a lemon, a few tablespoons of caster sugar and a splash of water. When the apples are tender, toss in the hulled berries and a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Transfer the fruit into a baking dish, cover generously with crumble and bake in a 175’C preheated oven for 25-30 minutes until the fruit is bubbling away at the edges, and the crumbled topping is golden.

For the cinnamon oat crumble topping :

120g plain flour
60g butter
60g brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of sea salt
30g rolled oats

Combine all the ingredients together, rubbing the butter in until it resembles bread crumbs. Set aside until required.

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Postcard from Autumn

(Simple apple tart)

A postcard from Autumn in Sydney would read something a little like this : Bringing you sunshine filled days and cool, breezy evenings. Enjoy. PS: Don’t forget to make apple tart!

This month, I’ve been busy eating as many of Summer’s last yellow nectarines as possible, while in the kitchen, I’m already dreaming of apple pie and hot stews. It’s no coincidence that we’ve already had two apple-based pastries since the start of March. Nothing spells comfort to me more.

Inspired by Autumn’s note, and a wedge of flaky pastry I dug out from the freezer, a very simple apple tart was made. Not overly sweet and not too dissimilar to the French tarte fine aux pommes, it was delicious served with a little puddle of vanilla custard. There are many things you could add to this tart to make it a bit more fancy. Brush a cider glaze over the finished product, or wave a blow torch over the surface as it emerges from the oven. Heck you could even make it with a combination of apples and persimmons (another great Autumn fruit). But you could also just as easily keep it simple, because sometimes, simple is best.

Simple Apple Tart :

250g flaky pastry (a recipe is provided below, if you need one)
2 apples
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons sugar (or vanilla sugar)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Slice the cored but unpeeled apples as thinly as possible (use a mandoline if you have one). Toss in the lemon juice and set aside while you roll the pastry.

On a lightly floured counter top, roll out the pastry to 1/8-inch thick and line a 9-inch shallow pie tin, trimming off any excess pastry. (You can use the offcuts to make pie cookies!) Drain off the lemon juice and arrange the apple slices on top of the pastry in a concentric pattern, like so. Combine the sugar with the cinnamon and sprinkle on top of the apple slices. Bake in a preheated 190’C oven for 25-30 minutes. Serve with custard or ice-cream.

[NB : For the flaky pastry : In a food processor, blitz 140g plain flour with a generous pinch of salt, 1 tablespoon sugar and 120g butter, until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add 1 yolk and 1-2 tablespoons of iced water and blitz again until the dough just comes together. Wrap and chill the dough for a few hours before using.] (Simple apple tart)

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Apple Pie Cake

(Apple Pie Cake)

I woke up yesterday morning with the words apple pie cake still lingering in my head between layers of sleep and a rapidly evaporating scene involving two turnips who twalked (talked and walked). Tip : cheese before bed, is rarely a good idea. Especially cheesecake.

Since twalking turnips are too challenging to conjure up, I settled on making the apple pie cake of my dreams. Rifling through the internet over a bowl of warm oatmeal revealed that such a singular thing did indeed exist. In its many forms, it is a well known Russian dessert, a Dorie Greenspan or Martha Stewart recipe, and also something that resembles apple pie filling between layers of frosting and butter cake. For the purposes of this dessert exercise, I chose the Dorie Greenspan route.

If you find the decision between having pie or cake a particularly taxing one, this recipe cleverly has a foot in each realm. The pastry tastes just so, but with a cakey consistency. Its baked craggy bumps and folds and that gentle lifting scent of warm cinnamon brought to mind the pies I never baked cooling on window sills of houses I never lived in. Seemingly heavy stuff, but not really. Just something incredibly easy to make, enjoyable to eat and pleasing to share. Below is the recipe, a down-sized version of the original which made 18 servings and seemed like overkill even to the two pie lovers of this household.

Apple Pie-Cake :
(a down-sized version of a recipe from Baking by Dorie Greenspan)

For the dough :
110g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
pinch of salt
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 1/2 cups plain flour

For the apples :
4 large green apples
juice of 1/2 lemon
3-4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 generous teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the dough, place the butter and sugar in a mixer and beat until smooth. Add the egg, lemon juice and pinch of salt, beating to combine. Add the flour and baking powder and slowly mix until the dough comes together. Add a few more tablespoons of flour if the dough looks too wet. Wrap the dough and chill for at least 2 hours before using.

When you are ready to roll the dough, first prepare the filling. Peel, core and slice the apples roughly 1/4 inch thick. Toss with the lemon juice, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon, then set aside.

Cut the dough in half and roll the first half to fit a 8 or 9 inch pie pan. Line the pan with the dough. Pile the sliced apples on top of the dough, then roll the second half of the dough as a lid. Crimp or press the edges of the pastry together. Cut a few slits on top of the pastry and sprinkle with extra sugar and cinnamon if you wish. Bake in a preheated 180’C oven for approximately 1 hour, until the pastry is golden brown (cover loosely with foil if it appears to be browning too quickly, half way through the baking time).

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