A. is out of town. He left us for a translation seminar in Greece. For eleven days. The gorgeous Greek island, Paros, actually.
I'm pretty much fine with it. Maybe a teeny tiny bit envious, but that's all. We miss him! But Fe. and I are having a pretty good time on our own.
I've had to get a little bit more creative with the entertainment for Fe., since it's all on me. Of course, I immediately turned to a cooking project. The surest way to entice Fe. into the kitchen is with the preparation of any kind of dessert. Cookies, ice cream, sorbet, these are all huge hits.
I had a substantial bag of apples in the fridge (thanks, M0!) that were long overdue for some attention. I was thinking, cobbler, crisp, or buckle and then I yanked Nigel Slater's Tender Volume II off the shelf, and quickly settled on crumble.
Have you seen Slater's Tender Volume I and II?
They are stunning editions that alphabetically catalog most vegetables (Volume I) and fruits (Volume II). They are essentially, as Slater himself says, cooks' guides to the vegetable and fruit garden. The photography is exquisite and Slater not only offers an abundance of enticing recipes for each crop, but adds helpful tips on seasonality, varietals, and how to include any given fruit or vegetable in your own garden. If you need to know how to prune gooseberries, Slater can help. If you're hankering for a tempting recipe for lamb with quinces, Slater is your man.
Really invaluable stuff.
Turns out if you are trying to entertain a toddler and cap off a lovely family dinner, Slater is again the guy you can trust. I saw his recipe for A Deeply Appley Apple Crumble and I was sold. I'm really digging recipes with just a very few ingredients. This crumble has four. We had everything in the pantry. We just needed to turn on the oven and peel some apples.
You should feel free to use any sort of apple. In my head I always assume that Granny Smith apples are the only apples for baking. This is malarkey. We used two week old (due to my laziness) Galas (I think) from a sweet friend's tree. The crumble was a winner. With the exceptional variety of apples available to us these days, I wouldn't hesitate to experiment with whatever I discover at the farmers' market.
The apples need peeling and coring and hacking into hunks. They are then tossed with sugar and lemon juice in a bowl. You empty the bowl into a hot sauté pan, stirring infrequently, to caramelize the apples. The caramelization process will have you in fits wanting to shovel the dangerously hot apples into your mouth. The toffee perfume is scrumptious. Fe. kept shouting, "I can smell it Mama! I can smell it!"
I have the British version of both volumes of Tender. I couldn't wait for the American additions. I'm not even sure if there is an American Tender Volume II. While my need for instant gratification was satisfied, the British editions do require a little extra work interpreting the recipes. For goodness sake, what is golden caster sugar? I've never seen that ingredient at the market. I used a combination of brown sugar and granulated sugar, which worked just fine, but I think a super-fine baking sugar would have been more on point.
Measurements also need translating, so a computer and a scale help tremendously. And Gas 4? I'm belatedly finding out that it is 375 degrees Fahrenheit not 350 degrees. I would have had more color a bit faster. Oh well, one learns.
The crumbly bits themselves are lovely buttery pebbles. I recommend using an exceptionally delicious high-fat butter for this, because you can really taste it. I still swear by Kerrygold Irish butter. The fun part is smooshing the butter into the flour and sugar with your fingertips. What child doesn't like to get there hands into the mix? Fe. absolutely adored this, although he was having trouble understanding exactly where the tips of his fingers were.
I considered warming the crumble before serving it, but it was a already sufficiently toasty in the house, so I served it at room temperature with heavy cream drizzled over. The simplicity of this dessert is its beauty. That so few ingredients can come together to create something so purely delicious is almost magic.
Slater mentions in the preamble to the recipe that the world doesn't necessarily need another apple crumble recipe. He may be right, but this is a damn good one.
Nigel Slater's Apple Crumble
For the filling:
850 grams cooking apples (30 ounces)
Juice of half a lemon
75 grams golden caster sugar (2.65 ounces)
30 grams butter (1 ounce)
For the crumble:
95 grams butter (3.35 ounces)
150 grams all purpose flour (5.3 ounces)
45 grams golden caster sugar (1.6 ounces)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Peel, core, and cut the apples into one inch hunks. Toss them into a large bowl with the lemon juice and sugar. Mix until the apples are well coated.
Melt the butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the apples and let cook, stirring very infrequently to promote caramelization. The apples should be golden brown in places.
Tip the apples into a baking dish, making sure to collect any pan juices.
Place the flour into a bowl and rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips. When the mixture looks like bread crumbs add the sugar and combine. Add one tablespoon of water and shake the mixture in the bowl to form different size crumbles. Turn the crumbles over the apples.
Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until golden.