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Those Cakes We Like… Are Reaching For The Comfort Food
Cold weather means CUSTARD! But not with fish fingers.
The summer heat is almost over! We’re almost at my favourite time of the year – winter baking! Those wonderful months where comfort food is the name of the game, and using your oven becomes a useful contribution to the heating your home instead of torture.
If it isn’t painfully obvious, I am rather excited about this.
For myself and my family, this time of the year is marked by a very specific baking ritual, I make my first apple and blackberry crumble and custard of the season. Normally I’d use foraged blackberries, however this year the blackberries ripened over a month ago when it was still too hot to even consider eating a crumble and custard – yet another example of how climate change is affecting our world. It wouldn’t have been the end of the world, I could have served a crumble with ice-cream, or even the clotted cream (see last month’s recipe Note if this is unavailable in your area), but for me it has to be homemade custard with that first crumble of the season.
There is some debate over the origins of the humble apple crumble, it is thought that similar recipes have existed for centuries but it wasn’t until rationing during World War I and II that it really began to explode in popularity. The simple reason for this is that the recipe contains fewer ingredients than an apple pie, and so it became a staple of ration book era baking. It made its first appearance in printed recipe books in 1924 in the Everybody’s Cookbook: A Comprehensive Manual of Home Cookery. It’s less popular in the USA than it is in the UK, and it goes by the name of apple crisp rather than apple crumble over there, but it’s more-or-less the same thing. Custard, however, is a much older recipe - can you believe it existed in Ancient Rome? The modern use of custard in tarts and pastries dates back to the Middle Ages and set custards gained in popularity from 17th century as ovens became more advanced.
There are numerous variations you can make to the standard crumble recipe; add oats or almonds into the crumble topping for extra crunch (this will affect the carbohydrate count), add cherries, raspberries, or sultanas instead of the blackberries, spice up the filling with a bit of cinnamon, nutmeg, or experiment with other herbs or spices. You could even leave out the apples entirely and make a summer berry crumble, or a plum crumble. Add a sweet shortcrust pastry base and make a crumble tart, you could even attempt a crumble cake. The possibilities really are endless.
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This crumble recipe is one of the very first things I learnt how to make as a child, it’d a simple recipe that you can get the kids involved in making, especially the crumble topping as it’s easy, hands-on baking.
For my fellow Diabetics, your carbohydrate count is as follows:
Crumble – 387.7g, or 97g per serving (serves 4)
Custard – 88g, or 22g per serving
Electric kitchen scales
Large mixing bowl (or food processor)
Pie/casserole dish (2 inches deep, 8 inches wide)
Medium mixing bowl
Your apple and blackberry crumble ingredients:
For the filling;
3 medium sized Bramley apples
2 cups blackberries (or other fruit of your choice)
2 tbs sugar
Herbs/spices of your choice (I used 2 tsp of cinnamon)
For the crumble;
175g all-purpose flour
110g cold butter, cut into ½ inch cubes
For the custard;
2 egg yolks (you could use the whites to make meringues)
2 tbsp cornflour
100ml double cream
350ml whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract (or 1 fresh vanilla pod, if you’re feeling fancy)
Preheat your oven to 350F/ 180C.
In your large mixing bowl rub together your butter and flour until it resembles breadcrumbs, don’t worry if there are some larger lumps. Mix in the sugar and set to one side while you prepare your fruit filling.
Peel and core your apples and cut into slices of around ½ inch thickness. Layer your apple slices in the bottom of your pie dish and mix in your blackberries, top with the sugar and any spices you are using. There is no need to stew your fruit filling, you want your fruit to maintain some of its shape and texture.
Spread your crumble mixture over the top and place on the top shelf of your oven for 35-40 minutes, or until the crumble starts to turn golden brown in colour.
Whilst your crumble is baking start your custard; in your saucepan heat the milk and cream until just under boiling temperature. In your mixing bowl whisk your egg yolks, cornflour, and sugar
Pour a little of the milk mixture into the bowl with the egg yolk mix, whisking constantly. Now gradually add the rest of the milk mixture to the bowl, keep whisking whilst you do this. Add your vanilla. Quickly wipe the pan you used to heat the milk and then pour the custard mix back into the pan. Return to the stove top and cook on a low heat whilst using a wooden spoon to stir it. You want to cook the custard until it is thick enough to coat the back of your spoon – this should take around 15-20 minutes
Remove your crumble from the oven, portion it into bowls, and pour over your delicious, hot, custard. Just what you need as the weather starts to cool and you begin to consider turning the heating on – comfort food at its finest.
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