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I’m afraid it is rather late in the month to be talking about what I made for Bonfire Night, but this crumble is so delicious that I have to post about it here, no matter how tardy the attention may be.
The recipe comes from Jamie Oliver’s Great Britain, which I checked out from the library with mild curiosity—and then read straight through from cover to cover.
Flapjacks and crumble are two dishes that I have only lately learned to love. I had, of course, a previous, very casual acquaintance with them, but was never truly able to appreciate their delectableness until I arrived in England this summer.
Since then, I have been inundated with crumbles wherever I go—whether at a restaurant, dinner party, or church supper, I am sure to find at least one on the table—and have discovered that they are not, as I once thought, merely an inferior version of fruit pie.
The history books that I turned to neatly circumvented the issue by proclaiming crumbles to be of “British and colonial American origin”—which didn’t help to clear up the matter. This leaves me free, however, to believe that crumble is a British dish, which I will continue to do until conclusive evidence to the contrary is produced.
Flapjacks, the secondary but no less important component of this crumble, are undeniably British—and my family’s latest favourite dessert. I had made flapjacks twice before in my life (once for this blog as a matter of fact); but molasses, I’m sorry to say, despite its many virtues when it comes to gingerbread and spice cookies, cannot compare with the magic of golden syrup when oats and butter are involved. I think someone should start a campaign for golden syrup in the United States; they truly don’t know what they are missing over there. (Suggesting it as an alternative for corn syrup would be a nice place to start . . . and people would be using something that actually tasted good in their baking, instead of that nasty, sickly stuff.)
But anyway, to return to Jamie’s recipe. His philosophy that the whole may prove, in some cases, to be greater than the sum of its parts, is demonstrated triumphantly here. It is a dessert that demands to be eaten thoughtfully, luxuriating in its brilliance.
First you savour a bite of the chewy, treacly flapjack base, sodden with sweet juices from the filling. Then you take a nugget of the orange-scented crumb topping, then a forkful of tender apples, their flesh stained a rosy, translucent purple from the blackberries. And finally you enjoy a bite of everything all mixed up together, appreciating the way the textures and flavours blend and contrast together so beautifully.
Minimally adapted from Jamie Oliver’s Great Britain
Ingredients:For the flapjack base: 8 tablespoons (125 g.) unsalted butter 3 tablespoons golden syrup 175 g. jumbo rolled oats 75 g. dried dates, finely chopped 1 ball stem ginger, very finely diced For the apple-blackberry filling: 4 large cooking apples ½ cup (100 g.) brown sugar ¼ teaspoon cinnamon ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg Juice of ½ orange 300 g. blackberries, fresh or frozen (if using frozen, see Note) For the orange crumb topping: ⅔ cup (100 g.) all-purpose flour ½ cup (100 g.) Demerara sugar Zest of 1 orange 5 tablespoons (75 g.) unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
- Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C. Butter a round ovenproof dish that is 10 inches in diameter and at least 2 inches deep. (I used my cast-iron skillet.)
- In a small saucepan over low heat, melt together the butter and golden syrup for the flapjack base.
- In a large bowl, toss together the oats, chopped dates, and diced ginger. Pour the melted butter-golden syrup mixture over the oats, and stir to coat thoroughly.
- Press evenly across the bottom and up the sides of the greased dish. (Jamie says to use a spoon, but I admit that I used my fingers . . . )
- Place the pan in the oven and bake until the flapjack base is warm gold in colour, about 20 minutes.
- While the flapjack base is baking, peel and core the apples for the filling. Cut each apple in half, and then slice each half into 7 or 8 thick wedges.
- Place the apples in a large, sturdy saucepan and stir in the brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and orange juice.
- Cover with a lid and let stew gently for 5 minutes or so, until the apples have started to soften. Take off the lid and continue to cook for another 5 to 10 minutes, until the liquid in the pan has reduced to a syrupy consistency.
- While the apples are cooking, combine the flour, sugar, and orange zest for the crumb topping in a small bowl, and then rub in the cubes of butter with your fingertips until the mixture is soft and clumpy.
- Once the syrup in the apple pan has reduced, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the blackberries.
- Spread the filling evenly in the prepared flapjack base and sprinkle over the crumb topping.
- Place in the oven and bake until the filling is bubbling and the crumb topping is firm and golden, about 50 minutes. Serve warm or cold, with ice cream or custard—it doesn’t really matter, it tastes marvellous however you devour it. Which you will.
Yield: 8 servings (Jamie said 10 to 12. Excuse me, I don’t think so.)
Note: If using frozen blackberries, remove from the freezer and spread out in a single layer on a baking sheet to thaw completely before using.