Apple crumble – a recipe so basic, so very right, so very comforting served with dollops of custard that to mess with it seems a bit silly. Yet unlike many classics it does react brilliantly to a touch of “poshing up”– cranberries & orange, lemon and fresh ginger, almonds, hazelnuts and oats on top and so on. All good wholesome stuff. But this new dalliance, the addition of silky sinful caramel takes apple crumble in a much sexier direction (no surprise the inspiration was the Gallic “tarte tatin”). Unctuous caramelly apples gooey and sticky, the naughty caramel oozing over the edges just a little bit to tempt and titivate your taste buds and mouthfuls of crunchy crumble topping. We are talking seduction dessert here, not what your grandmother would have put on the kitchen table.
So let's start with caramel. We want a dark and interesting number here, not an insipid pale apology. Making caramel is dangerous! But very very simple and anybody can do it. (I told you this was sexy). You need a heavy deep pan, some confidence, belief in your senses and a sink or large plastic bowl filled with cold water (both to plunge the base of the pan in to halt the cooking process and to immerse your hands should the caramel spit and burn you).
Pour the caramel into the base of your chosen receptacle – precious little ramekins or a big deep pie dish. Here you want a bit more than if making a crème caramel so a very generous coating indeed or if you are into measurements between 0.5 and 1cm of caramel. It will go hard as it cools (an ooh erhhh moment) and in fact you can make it a couple of days in advance and it will be absolutely fine. Then just chop up some apples (tart ones naturally) and place them higgledy piggledy in your dish. No need to add any sugar as you have the caramel but a dusting of ground cloves and cinnamon helps. Cover with a thin layer of crumble – we want fruit with a layer of crumble not crumble stodge with some lonely fruit at the bottom.
Bake at 180C and eat when warm, not direct from the oven unless you want to visit the local burns unit. I drink a good dessert wine with this but feel free to over indulge with whatever cream, custard or liqueur takes your fancy.
85 g very good salted butter cubed
250ml heavy cream / double cream (“smantana dulce”)
Melt the sugar over medium to moderately high heat in your large pan. Don’t touch it too much as it can crystallize. Tilt the pan around so it cooks and browns and liquefies evenly. It needs to be a dark coppery color but not smoking and burning.
Tip in the butter and give a quick stir to make sure it is incorporated
Switch off the heat. Plunge the base of the pan into the cold water momentarily.
Whisk in the cream (still off the heat but there will be enough residual heat and it may even froth and foam) until you have a smooth creamy consistency sauce.
This sauce thickens and when reheated gently becomes molten. To make it liquid again just place the pan on a gentle heat or microwave in a glass jar on medium until it is a pouring consistency.
100g butter, 82 percent cold and cubed (I once made with Transylvanian “untura” but that is a different story)
500g apples peeled and cored either diced or cut into slices. Juice of one lemon squeezed over and mixed around to prevent discoloration
Crumble is child's play – literally – small fingers learning to rub cold butter, flour and sugar together until an edible sand is created is one of the first lessons of cooking…well at least where I am from.
If you want to be a traditionalist or like getting your hands dirty or just don’t own a load of gizmos then gently rub the ingredients together (I sometimes use a knife to start the process and to keep things cool) until you have sandy crumbs. If you own a food mixer then do this with the “K “ beater attachment (this is how I usually make it) or, (a new discovery) blend in a food processor on pulse setting taking care not to over blend and create a cookie dough. The crumble mix freezes brilliantly and its worth making extra to always have something to throw over fruit and create an instant dessert with.
By Rachel Sargent, Guest Writer
Rachel Sargent is owner of The London Street Atelier, which organizes cookery classes, private dinners and offers catering. More about it here.
(photo credits: Rachel Sargent)