The cooler Autumnal weather always generates strong feelings of nostalgia for England. They have been especially strong this year in Melbourne, with the prevalence of numerous large deciduous trees surrounding the residential colleges and university (sound familiar? I can’t help myself when it comes to Autumn leaves. It’s an odd fascination, I know). The varying red-golden hues take me back to my six-month student exchange program nigh on four years ago. As the days drew shorter and the darkness crept in, apple crumble became a mainstay pudding at family ‘Sunday dinners’. Like many other experiences, such as running around like a lunatic, kicking up the crisp leaves in the back yard – something I may or may not still do – Sunday dinners were quite the novelty. It wasn’t lunch, yet at 4pm it wasn’t quite ‘dinner’ yet either. Completely baffling. However, the ensuring pudding of apple crumble (occasionally interchanged with pie or the inherently classic Victoria Sponge) was more than baffling, it was a pure shock. It. Wasn’t. Crumble. Surely castor sugar, flour, a dash of milk and butter did not equate to crumble topping? Turns out that one particular sixteen year old did not know her crumbles as well as she thought she did – there was, would you believe, more than one type.
Crumble was not only a mainstay in my English household, it was also the prime candidate for dessert back in Australia. We were brought up only eating dessert every few weeks or so, usually on a Friday or Saturday night as a ‘treat’. Dad prides himself as a crumble aficionado, therefore it was usually the pud of choice. On a cold wintery night he’d do his darndest to whip up the dish after dinner without us knowing, until the sweet cinnamony smell permeated through the house and we wandered into the kitchen, noses twitching like a couple of hopeful puppies in search of a treat. It was, we thought, one of the best kinds of surprises. His version, dolled up with rolled oats, brown sugar, whole-wheat flour and desiccated coconut was an entirely different specimen to that encountered in Britain. One certain sixteen year old was also quite competitive – once she knew there was more than one variation of crumble out there, of course she had to craft her own.
The result (five years in the making) is a far stretch from the ‘classic’ British specimen – satisfyingly crisp, studded with pecans and laced with maple syrup and vanilla. Feeling even more daring? The whole-wheat flour can be substituted with brown rice flour and the rolled oats with quinoa flakes for a gluten-free twist. The cooking of the apples is another facet of serious crumble variation. It is also a major point of contention between father and daughter. His edges on the ‘mushy’ side of things, whilst hers are sliced into thin wedges and cooked until just tender. Different toppings, different degrees of ‘cooked’ fruit (and we haven’t even delved into the realm of flavouring the fruit spice, sugar, alcohol, you get the idea)… it goes to show that the definition of crumble is tenous at the best of times.
Apple crumble. There’s nothing quite like it for conjuring up that sense of nostalgia, of the naivety (and at times the smarty-pants nature) of childhood, the excitement of pudding on a cold winter’s night, the endless debates over custard versus vanilla ice-cream, the “heeeey you took way more topping than your share, eat more apple!” style comments. No matter which style you choose, it’s always going to be that pudding.
Serves 3 (or 4 dainty serves)
450g apples peeled, cored & thinly sliced
2 tbps water
¼ cup wholemeal flour
¼ cup rolled oats
2 tbsp shredded coconut
2 tbsp chopped pecans
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
15g butter, melted
2 tbsp maple syrup
¼ tsp vanilla essence
Preheat the oven to 200C. Grease a 1 litre (4 cup) capacity oven-proof dish. Place sliced apples and the water in a small pot. Cover and simmer over a medium-low heat for 10 minutes or until just tender, stirring every now and then.
Meanwhile, place the dry ingredients in a bowl and whisk together to combine.
In a separate small bowl whisk together the melted butter, maple syrup & vanilla essence. Pour over the dry ingredients and use a fork to work it in to form a just moist mixture.
Bake for 20 minutes or until bubbling and the top is golden brown and crisp.
Serve with vanilla ice cream or custard.
Source: A Taste Without Waste original.