I have called this Winnie’s Christmas crumble but I’m going to be honest, there’s nothing particularly Christmassy about this crumble. This post came about after a life-long buddy Lynn, who we call Winnie (I can’t remember why we started calling her that but it’s been Winnie for a very long time now) requested my recipe for apple & blackberry crumble so she can make it for Christmas Day dessert. I do have a couple of ideas on how to make it Christmassy but we’ll come to that later.
So Winnie, it is fair to say is not a fan of cooking. I personally can’t understand why anyone could not love cooking but I do respect that we’re all different (even though I send her cookbooks to try to encourage her!) With that in mind this crumble recipe is perfect for a less than keen cook as there’s little effort involved and the finished crumble is delicious. You can prepare it the day before then it just requires baking on the day, either whilst you’re enjoying your Christmas dinner, or if you need a break after the main course, stick it in the oven whilst you’re having a little post-Christmas dinner snooze!
This recipe doesn’t require any skills other than a couple of things we learnt in Home Economics at school. Yes, I’m afraid you have to remember how to rub the dry ingredients together to make ‘breadcrumbs’ but don’t worry, it’s not an exact science (there’s always YouTube for help!).
The key is to have REALLY cold butter and a cold bowl and cold hands. This should not be hard for my peeps in the UK right now but I find here in Singapore it’s so hard to keep the butter and my hands cold enough that I usually end up with more rubble than breadcrumbs. Who cares, it’s a rustic dish not fine dining and the bigger bits of crumble rubble are the bomb!!! The other tip I need to give you is DON’T be a fool and add the oats to the bowl before you’ve rubbed the other dry ingredients together. I’ve done this before and it becomes a total nightmare to work with. Do not do it, just don’t ok!
Let’s talk a bit more about my love for a crumble topping. I’m the kinda girl who eats the chocolate and caramel from the top of a Twix bar or a millionaires shortbread slice first so that the buttery base is left for my last mouthfuls. Same with a cheesecake, I’ll eat the majority of the topping but leave the base and crust for last. Actually, anything containing biscuit or made with pastry you’ll find me dissecting so my last mouthful is the biscuit or pastry. Butter, flour, sugar and me are very very good friends! My mouth is watering right now.
So with this in mind, having a REALLY good crumble topping on a crumble is THE most important part to me. Ideally I prefer my crumble topping to remain a topping and not be mixed through the filling when served, but it’s called crumble rubble for reason so a bit of crumble & fruit mixing up is gonna happen and I won’t totally obsess about it, well not always.
What I will obsess about though is that the custard or cream has to go on the side not on the top as I don’t want my crumble topping to be soggy. It’s called crumble for a reason. You should be able to eat bits of the crumble separately in order to enjoy its crunchy, slightly sweet butteriness. My husband is the opposite. Custard poured right over the top and his custard has to be hot…… i’m in the cold custard camp but that’s a whole other debate as is whether you drown your whole roast dinner with the gravy or just pour the gravy over the meat!!!
See…. custard to the side!
Now let’s talk about the fruit filling. As much as I have a sweet tooth, I don’t like fruit crumble to be overly sweet. I like the fruit to be sharp, tangy and still taste like the fruit it is, rather than a mouthful of sweetness. This is why I don’t add sugar to my fruit mixture. If your palate prefers less tang and more sweet then feel free to add a sprinkling of sugar to the fruit mix.
When I’m assembling this crumble I usually layer it with the blackberries on the bottom and the apples on top. I’m not sure why I do this, there’s no recipe reason for it so feel free to mix it up. I used to make the crumble topping using plain flour and caster sugar but I experimented healthy-ing it up a little by using wholemeal flour, muscovado sugar and adding in porridge oats and I found these changes make a truly delicious crumble. After half an hour of baking in the oven the smell will start to drive you bonkers. However, you’ll know it is ready when the top is golden brown and the berries are bleeding and bubbling up their gorgeous juices.
So why this particular crumble recipe? We didn’t have crumble growing up. Me and my sister were a fussy pair so not much fruit passed our lips unless it was in juice or jelly. We are now older and thankfully much wiser. My favourite crumble made with apple & blackberries is the one that holds really fond memories, hence why I’m featuring it here. The first time I can remember having this crumble was on holiday in Cornwall with some of my in-laws. We were staying in a rented house right across the road from a beautiful beach, it was October and the hedgerows were weighed down with blackberries so we spent an afternoon walk picking punnet after punnet and a crumble was made for dessert. My brother-in-law Mike hates crumble. If you were to put the same filling ingredients into a pie he’d be happy but he just can’t stand crumble. We all think he’s weird for that and he thinks we’re weird for making crumble instead of a pie so I guess we’re even!
At this crazy time of year when we’re all knackered, slow down for half an hour. Making a crumble is therapeutic……..the rubbing in of the dry ingredients, the peeling and slicing of the apples, the scattering of the crumble topping and the anticipation as it bakes with the amazing aroma escaping the oven. Get into your comfy clothes, put your slippers on, pour a glass of red, play some Christmas tunes and make sure your hands are really cold!!!!
If you want to play around with the ingredients for a more festive feel, you could always throw in some cranberries and a few scrapings of orange zest to the fruit mix, add a sprinkling of cinnamon to the crumble topping mixture and serve with brandy butter. Festive deliciousness.
This one’s for you Winnie – Merry Christmas buddy xxxx (face time me if you have a kitchen crisis!)
- 3 – 4 apples depending on size. Choose an apple variety you love (it does not have to be a cooking apple)
- 400g of fresh or frozen blackberries
- 115g wholemeal flour
- 45g of light muscovado sugar
- 85g of very cold unsalted butter, diced
- 50g of porridge oats (not quick-cook)
- half a lemon
- custard, cream or ice-cream (optional to serve)
- If cooking immediately heat oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5.
- If using fresh berries, give them a rinse then tip into an oven-proof serving dish (approx 28cm long). If you are using frozen berries there is no need to defrost first.
- Peel & core the apples. Slice into pieces approximately half a centimetre thick
- Layer the apple slices on top of the blackberries.
- Squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the apples, this will stop them browning and adds a tang to the dish.
- Tip the flour and sugar into a large bowl. Add the butter, then rub into the flour using your fingertips to make a coarse breadcrumb texture. Do not overwork it or the crumble will become heavy.
- Lightly stir the porridge oats through the crumble mix.
- Sprinkle the crumble evenly over the fruit. This can be done up to 1 day ahead.
- Bake in the oven for 40 minutes. After 40 minutes remove from the oven and gently pierce through to the apples with a skewer or sharp knife to check for firmness . If you prefer the apples softer then bake for 5 – 10 minutes longer. If the crumble is browning too fast, cover with foil.
- Once ready, remove from the oven, cool slightly then serve with custard, cream, ice cream or brandy butter.
I’d love to know what camp you’re in…. hot or cold custard? poured over the top or on the side? Please tell me in the comments below!