Rain splattering the windows for hours on end, the sea battering our coasts, wind howling through trees and thunder having its regular grumble at lightning. The home providing refuge and comfort from the elements. As the weather turns we begin to want food that is more substantial such as roast dinners and oven cooked meals. And whilst we’re at it – pudding also follows suit.
As Autumn takes its hold on us we begin to want traditional British nursery desserts such as fruit crumbles – smothered in lashings of hot custard, that Enid Blyton would definitely have had mother baking at home!
My favourite crumble to make is a spiced plum crumble, however, any fruit variations are delicious.
I recently made an orchard crumble with: apples, pears, plums and a scattering of frozen blueberries. The apples were a couple of Bramleys and some wrinkled looking Braeburns that were sat at the bottom of the fridge, the conference pears were nearly on the turn and the plums were hard as rock!
A crumble is a great way to use fruit that you bought thinking would ripen and is still rock hard weeks later or a glut of fruit that you bought on offer and you need to use up…fast!
When it comes to crumble, I always think of people as being in two camps: those that prefer more crumble topping, and those that prefer more fruit filling. Even within this, there are then those who prefer their crumble slightly more scorched and crunchy, and those who prefer a blonde crumble, slightly soggy as it’s bathed in the tart fruit juices.
Regardless of which camp you’re in, I would recommend making your crumble mixture and keeping it in the freezer until you need it. I pulse the butter and flour in a food processor and then mix in demerara sugar and flaked almonds. I used to enjoy ‘fluttering’ the flour and butter (mixing these by rubbing them together between the fleshy parts of your fingers and thumb) but to be honest I don’t particularly feel that this makes for a better crumble and can be unnecessarily timely. I’d rather spend the time pimping up the fruit.
|For the crumble :
100g of butter
200g plain flour
100g Demerara sugar
|For the fruit filling:
1 tsp vanilla paste
1 star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
4 tbsp golden syrup
4 tbsp caster sugar
rasping of fresh nutmeg
a splosh of water
1st: Make the crumble mixture either by hand or the food processor and place in the freezer until needed.
2nd: Preheat the oven to 200ºC.
3rd: Cut the plums in half and remove the stone. Sauté for a few minutes in a hot frying pan in the butter.
4th: Once the plums have begun to release their juices add the sugar and golden syrup.
5th: After a few minutes, add the vanilla, star anise, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add a splosh of water if you feel everything is too syrupy (I sometimes add red wine, port or plum liqueur).
6th: Once the plums have broken down into the syrup, place into an oven dish.
7th: Pour the crumble mix over. Optional extras are mixing in flaked almonds/oats or adding powdered cinnamon.
8th: Bake in the oven for 20-25min or until golden brown.
A crumble is one of those desserts that you can quickly rustle up for one, two, four or more depending on how much fruit you’ve got – plus if you’ve got frozen crumble mix ready to go, it can be a quick dessert for a midweek supper should you have people round.
The best bit about a crumble is that it is hard to get wrong; my only definite piece of advice is, don’t go tropical! You can make it as frugal or decadent as you want – decide whether it’s going to be:
a) hot custard
b) pouring cream
c) vanilla ice-cream
d) go nutty
e) go oaty
f) all of the above!
This autumn, how many different crumbles can you make?
Let me know which is your favourite.