Sometimes only a properly comforting dessert like a crumble will do.
This is a slightly different way of doing a crumble, which I came across in a very old Gary Rhodes book several years ago and is now the only way I cook it. The main difference is that the fruit and the crumble bits are cooked separately and then assembled. What you get from this is the soft, hot fruit, crowned with a really crunchy topping. Purists will baulk at this, but I find the stark difference in textures wonderfully satisfying. You can add 75g of nibbed almonds to the crumble topping if you are so inclined. I am not.
It’s not often in cooking that you are told that lumps are important, but for this topping, they really are. When you mix the butter, sugar and flour together, it is really vital to pinch the mixture together so you get a mixture of smaller and larger lumps, as shown in the picture below. If you don’t create these lumps, you will just have a tasty powder and not really a crumble topping at all. The more variety in sizes, the better the texture.
I have used apple here because I love it, but you can use any fruit; pears, plums and rhubarb will all be great, although you will have to add more sugar for the rhubarb if you want to avoid a tummy ache.
Crumble with custard is a given in my house. Some people swear by Bird’s, for that schoolday nostalgia, but you can also buy some very good fresh custard from the supermarket now. I often buy this, but if I have time, I love to make my own. I cannot pretend it’s a very easy or quick process. However, don’t be afraid; stick with the guidelines below and you will be beam with pride if someone asks if the custard is homemade. The recipe below is very rich, very creamy and very luscious. It is not an everyday indulgence. I have experimented a lot with different recipes and ingredients; sometimes you want a blowout and have the full fat version, but if you want a lighter version, you can used all semi-skimmed milk instead of the milk and cream option below. Be aware that making it this way means you will be standing a stirring the mixture for about three times longer than with a full fat version. It will seem like it is never going to thicken. Your will to live may wane slightly, but keep at it, as it will thicken eventually. If your patience doesn’t stretch that far, you can always reach for the Bird’s.
Deconstructed Apple Crumble
For the apple part
700g Bramley apples, peeled, cored and chopped into large chunks
2 large eating apples, peeled, cored and chopped into large chunks-Coxes work nicely
75g caster sugar
zest of 1 lemon
For the crumble
175g plain flour
75g demerara sugar
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Start with the topping. In a large bowl, rub the butter into the flour until it has a breadcrumb texture. Add the sugar, mix. Begin to work through the mixture, pinching it together with your fingertips to create different sized lumps. Spread the mixture out on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for about 15-20 minutes, turning occasionally. Once it looks crunchy and golden, you can take it out and set aside until you need to use it. Once cool if you put it in an airtight container, it will last a few days.
For the apple base; melt the butter in a large pan and add the apple. Turn in the butter and then add the sugar and lemon zest. Turn the heat right down and cook for about 15 minutes until the apples are soft. Try to resist the urge to stir them too much, or you will end up with apple puree.
When you are ready to make the crumble, put the cooked apple in a baking dish, top with the crumble mixture and heat in the oven for about 10 minutes. You can also reheat the apple in a pan or in the microwave and just top with the crumble if you wish.
8 egg yolks
75g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod
300ml full fat milk
300ml double cream.
Pour the milk and cream into a pan. Split the vanilla pod, scrape out the seeds and add to the milk and cream. Throw in the pod as well. Bring the mixture to the boil, then remove from the heat. Leave to cool slightly.
Beat the egg yolks and sugar together in a heat-proof bowl until well mixed. Put the bowl over a pan of simmering water and pour in the cream mixture. Stir continuously-it is vital to keep it moving, so you don’t get lumpy custard. I find a wooden spoon works best for this.
As the eggs cook, the custard will start to thicken. The test to know when it is ready is to coat the back of the wooden spoon with the mixture, then run your finger over the back of it. If the line you have drawn stays open as in the picture below, the custard is ready, if it fills up straightaway, you need to cook it for a bit longer.
If you are not using this immediately, cover the mixture with some greaseproof paper to avoid a skin forming.
You can serve this cold or warm, but do not let it boil when reheating it, or it will split.