Yet another apple crumble?

Being an avid baker ever since I was a kid, I have attempted making many things over the years, often with varying degrees of success and failure. I have impatiently attempted filo pastry from scratch, struggled through bagels and crumpets, pulled a triumphant pan of slightly singed flapjacks out of the oven, fried cinnamon donuts, cannoli and churros, made apple tarte tatin, and watched my thighs swell with pride at the sight and taste of sticky date pudding, pineapple upside down cake, banana bread and carrot cake. I have also baked scones (some heavy like rocks, some light as a feather) and chocolate chip cookies (repeatedly!), and slathered homemade strawberry jam on homemade bread. However, there are still some things that manage to slip past my radar, whenever I find myself in the kitchen.

I recently compiled a mental list of things I have yet to make, and that I would consider a crime if I never got round to attempting at least once in my lifetime. Things on that list include :

– Portuguese tarts
– Seville orange marmalade
– a marble or chequerboard cake
– panettone
– Michel Bras’ chocolate coulant
– a salad bowl of ice-creams (I bought some Dodoni feta the other day and am now obsessed with the idea of making a frozen Greek salad. Tomato sorbet, cucumber sorbet and black olive sorbet with Dodoni feta?)

(If anyone out there has very good and authentic recipes for any of the above (especially the Portuguese tarts), feel free to share! Please. 🙂 )

So with that list in mind, you’re probably thinking, what on earth am I doing making yet another apple crumble? Actually, this crumble is a little different, and does feature something I’ve been meaning to try.

I used to work with a French Canadian waitress who apart from being a fantastic waitress, also had a great love for food (it seems only fitting that she now runs her own cafe). I still recall her stories about the best maple syrup she would get back home, about the feasts she would have with family and friends and how she loved eating apple pie with a big slice of cheddar cheese. Serving apple pie with cheese was a new thing to me then, and I screwed my face up at the thought of it, having grown up with apple pie and nothing else but scoops of vanilla ice cream. Over time, I kind of warmed to the idea, so when I saw Elizabeth Falkner’s recipe for Apple of my eye, featuring tarte tatin apples, cheddar crumbles, cinnamon ice cream and a balsamic-apple reduction, I knew I had to try it. After making a few alterations (I included blackberry in my balsamic-apple reduction, and used a macadamia ice-cream instead of the suggested cinnamon one), I ended up with the dessert as pictured above.

The verdict? The balance of flavours is great and the resulting dish isn’t overly sweet. The cheddar crumbles, which also has bits of chopped pecan through it, is very tasty, even on it’s own, and I especially love the balsamic reduction which I foresee myself incorporating into other desserts in the future. In other words, I now know that I like apple pie (or crumble) and cheese as a combination, but I also know that it’s never going to replace the heavenly combination of apple pie and vanilla ice-cream that I have loved so much, ever since I was a kid.

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Cheddar Biscuits for a New Year


A beautiful New Year’s Day. An opportune moment to rediscover the art of couch-potato-ing, and the perfect time for recovery. Not from the excesses of the night before, but from lack of sleep, due to the fire alarms going off at 4-5 o’clock throughout the whole of our apartment building this early morning. It’s cause remains a mystery still. All I know is that one alarm went off, and the other felt lonely so it started screeching too. Just like a koel.

Foggy mind notwithstanding, you can’t possibly go wrong when putting together these Cheddar biscuits. The recipe comes from Baking with Passion by Dan Lepard and Richard Whittington; a cookbook from an artisanal bakery in London. I spied this book several months ago in a discount bookstore and bought it on a whim. The Benedict Bar and Oatmeal and Raisin Cookie recipes alone, have made the purchase worthwhile. These cheese biscuits, originally Parmesan (but mature Cheddar is an acceptable substitute), are delicious : crispy, buttery, lightly salty. The food processor virtually does all the necessary work and all you need to do after that is pour yourself a glass of tipple (Port, in this case, if it’s not too “last year” for your tastes).

Cheddar Biscuits:

335g plain flour
300g mature Cheddar, freshly grated
300g unsalted butter, chilled and diced
1/3 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons Maldon salt, ground fine
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1-2 Tablespoons cold bottled spring water

1 egg, lightly beaten
2 Tablespoons white sesame seeds
2 Tablespoons black sesame seeds

Put the flour, freshly grated Cheddar and chilled diced butter in a food processor with the cayenne, salt and black pepper. Whiz to a crumb, then slowly add the cold water through the feeder tube until the dough forms into a ball.

Scrape out on to a lightly floured surface and roll into a cylinder. You will cut the biscuits from this, so size the roll accordingly. Cling-wrap tightly and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Brush the cylinder with beaten egg and roll in the mixed sesame seeds to coat all over. Wrap and chill for a further hour.

Preheat the oven to 180’C. Cut the cylinder into 5mm slices and lay these on non-stick baking trays, leaving at least 2cm space around them. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.



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