There aren't a lot of foodie traditions in my family; we are not a family filled with gourmands and gastro-chefs. There aren't recipes passed down from generation to generation, hours spent teaching each other culinary skills or the sharing of cookbooks. For the most part, the rest of my family are utilitarian cooks, making meals to feed the stomach rather than the soul. As a result, I'm not sure where my foodie tendencies come from - my love of cooking, baking and sharing of food. But, when I think about apple crumble, there's a little glimpse of family history that perhaps proves that I'm not adopted after all.
There is one old, yellow cookbook that contains most of my foodie memories; a sad, spineless book now, but once turned to for all eventualities. It's not like the cookbooks of nowadays, full of flashy photography, fantastic food styling and whimsical writings by celebrity chefs. This is a functional cookbook, with as many recipes as possible crammed onto a page, barely any photographs and no theme at all - there are not many things that you can't find within its pages. The fruit crumble page is the one most turned to, such was the popularity of apple and blackberry crumbles during my youth. It was a Sunday night treat, and one much loved by a younger me.
So, when I got it into my head that I wanted to make a toffee apple crumble, there was no other place I could look for a recipe. I called both my parents to find out who had ended up with this hallowed book - one which only needs the term 'that cookbook' to be identified - and to get my hands on this crumble recipe. Some tweaks here and there to fit the ingredients I had in the cupboard and the idea I had in my head, and it came out better than expected.
The sharpness of the apples compliments the sickly sweetness of the toffee sauce, whilst the crumble is crunchy and goes so perfectly on top. I was concerned for the fruit:topping ratio when I put it into the oven, but once it appeared on my plate I knew that all was well. This is a great dish for this time of year, particularly given the abundance of Toffee Apples so usually found at Bonfire Nights across the country, but I think I can be persuaded to have apple crumble at any time of year. The nostalgia just gets to me - although in the summer I do substitute the custard for cream.
- 4 large cooking apples (Bramley is best)
- 50g demerara sugar
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 8 oz plain flour
- 4 oz oats
- 6 oz unsalted butter
- 3 oz golden caster sugar
- Toffee sauce (I cheated and used a pre-made sauce but you are welcome to make your own if you are so inclined - it needs to be thick to form a layer over the apples but otherwise the rest is up to you!)
- Sprinkling of demerara for the topping
1. Peel and chop the apples into bite-size chunks (about 1/2 inch in length) and cover in sugar and cinnamon. Set aside and leave to go juicy and delicious.
2. Pop the flour, oats and caster sugar into a large bowl. Add a few chunks of the butter and rub between your fingertips until you have the consistency of fine breadcrumbs. Continue to add the butter until everything is combined. Add a spoonful more flour if there are too many lumps of butter.
There's a great video which shows the technique over on the BBC Food page.
3. Cover the bottom of a large baking dish with the apples. Pour over the toffee sauce and use a knife to spread across and make an even layer.
4. Top with the crumble mixture and press down until even and flat. Sprinkle the sugar over the top.
5. Bake at 180°C for 45 minutes, until the fruit is bubbling and the top is brown and a little crisp.
6. Serve with cream or custard, depending on how you feel!
This will easily serve 8 people, if not more, depending on portion size. It's easily kept for a couple of days - just pop it in the fridge with some clingfilm and reheat in the microwave.