If you’ve ever listened to Tom Ravenscroft’s show on Radio 6 (a course of action which I highly recommend by the way), you’ll know that he occasionally plays a song about crumble. “Everybody’s good at cooking something/and I’m good at cooking crumble,” it cheerily proclaims. It is possibly the best – and only – crumble dedicated song that I’ve ever heard (as well as a massive earworm) and one that I always find myself humming whenever I assemble flour and butter into a tasty crumbly topping. For, as you may have guessed if you’re a regular reader of this blog, I’m quite fond of a good crumble.
However, I have a bit of a confession to make. While I’m a bit of a pro at making crumbles which feature vegetables and meat, or cakes with are topped with crunchy cinnamon crumbly bits, prior to making this, I’d never actually made a fruit crumble. I know. Blame it on my deprived childhood. My parents packed me off to Girl’s Brigade instead of Brownies. Every time I hear someone talk about Brownies, it always involves them reminiscing about cooking lessons which involves being taught how to lovingly pull piping hot batches of baked fruit treats out of an Aga. Whereas us Girls Brigade types weren’t really trusted to be around open flames, leading us to have to be content with making industrial amounts of Coconut Ice. While my peers were climbing trees to gain merit badges while wearing jaunty yellow sweatshirts, I was figure marching around a drafty church hall dressed in possibly the world’s most unflattering polyester blazer-and-skirt combo.
So, when I was gripped by the idea of making a Spiced Apple Crumble with Butterscotch sauce on the first Sunny day we’ve had all Summer, I rolled up my sleeves and finally decided to lose my fruit crumble virginity. And, while it was good, it wasn’t quite right. Yes, the crumble was crunchy and spicy in all the right places. And yes, the butterscotch sauce was so good, I had to restrain myself from drinking it out of the glass in one sugar-scented gulp. But it wasn’t great. It was too sweet, too gloopy, just too much. I sadly left the remnants of my dessert on the kitchen counter, contemplating all the various uses for butterscotch which didn’t just end up with me bathing in it.
Then, the next day, as I was readying myself for work, I decided to take a spoonful of leftover crumble. And it was delicious. A bit of a rest had allowed all of the flavours to settle and do their thing. The topping was full of delicious, toffee-tasting burnt sugar with a nice bit of roughage from the oats. The spiced apples were soft, squidgy and punchy with cinnamon and nutmeg. And, perhaps best of all, the butterscotch sauce had thickened and turned into something that was so good, I had to physically restrain myself from pouring it into a hipflask and taking it to work with me.
Is this crumble good enough to write a song about? I’m not sure. But feel free to try it for yourself and let me know. In the interim, I’ll just be over here in this corner spooning the remnants into my mouth and licking all the crumbs off my fingers.
SPICED APPLE CRUMBLE WITH BUTTERSCOTCH SAUCE (Serves Two)
Butterscotch sauce recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen
For the Spiced Apple Crumble
- 200g cooking apples (you can use either Bramleys or Grannie Smith’s)
- 100g golden caster sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- Zest of a lemon
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp ginger
- 100g cold butter, cut into cubes
- 100g plain flour
- 100g brown sugar
- 50g porridge oats
- Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4 and grease a medium-sized ovenproof dish.
- Core and chop the apples into even-sized chunks and place them into a large bowl. Sprinkle the vanilla, lemon juice, sugar, ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon over the fruit. Stir well until all the liquids and spices form a tasty, sweet-smelling slurry.
- Place the flour and sugar in a large bowl and rub together to combine. Take a few cubes of butter, and rub them into the mixture. Keep doing this until all of the butter has been used up, and the mixture resembles sandy breadcrumbs. (You can do this with your food processor if you wish).
- Spoon the apple mixture into the bottom of your ovenproof dish and then sprinkle the crumble mixture on top. You want to chunk it up a bit, so it looks a bit rough and quite ‘crumbly’. Sprinkle the porridge oats evenly on top of the crumb mix.
- Bake the crumble in the oven for 40-45 minutes until the oats have turned brown and the fruit mixture is bubbling at the edges. Leave to cool until it is hot, but won’t give your mouth second-degree burns when you take a spoonful. I prefer this when it’s a bit cooler though, as this allows all of the flavours to coalesce.
- Dollop a large portion in a bowl, and serve with the Butterscotch sauce drizzled over the top.
For the Butterscotch Sauce
- 125g unsalted butter
- 110g muscavado sugar
- 200 ml double cream
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, plus more to taste
- 1 shot of good quality whisky (I used Bowmore)
- Melt butter in a medium sized saucepan over a medium heat. Add the sugar, cream and salt and whisk until well blended. Bring to a very gentle boil and cook for about five minutes, whisking occasionally.
- Add the shot of whisky, and whisk to combine. Dip a spoon in the sauce and carefully taste the sauce (without burning your tongue!) to see if you want to add additional pinches or salt or splashes of whisky and vanilla. Tweak it to your taste, whisking well after each addition.
- Serve drizzled over the crumble. The sauce will thicken as it cools. The leftover sauce can be refrigerated in an airtight container and reheated in a microwave or small saucepan.