Yesterday was bitterly cold and dusted with snow – the kind of day that encourages the drinking of steaming beverages and the reading of good books while snuggled under cozy blankets. In my world, a grey wintry day like that is also the perfect opportunity to bake up some yummy love to share with my family.
At my core, I am a simple baker. I gravitate toward uncomplicated recipes with common ingredients that are routinely available in my pantry or fridge. Frosting a cookie or a cupcake is about as fancy as I care to get. However, preferring simplicity doesn’t mean I settle for mediocrity. Simple only works for me IF the end result is deliciously satisfying to body and soul. Magic really can happen as easily with a few humble ingredients mixed and baked in minutes as it can with many rare and expensive ones fussed over for hours.
You don’t believe me? As proof, I offer a recipe I stumbled across in Williams-Sonoma’s Cooking At Home. I found the cookbook tossed on the sale table at my local store after Christmas last year. The price was just too tempting to resist so the book came home with me. Apple Crumble was the first recipe I tried and it remains my favorite of the collection. With just eight ingredients and almost a one bowl preparation, it certainly fits the definition of simple. The apples swim in a pool of cider, cinnamon, and allspice and are sprinkled with a soft layer of flour, sugar, and butter. After an hour of slow magic in the oven, the crumble emerges, thickened and bubbling with a sweet and tender crust.
The whole idea of crumbles (and crisps, cobblers, brown bettys, and such) is that they are meant to be eaten right out of the oven. This apple version is no exception. Topped with a scoop of creamy vanilla ice cream, a bowl of this piping hot jumble of goodness and a cup of tea are the perfect complements to a cold and snowy day. Or any day, now that I think about it.
Apple Crumble (Cooking At Home, Williams-Sonoma)
5 large apples, peeled, halved, cored, and thickly sliced (Any baking apples will do – pick your favorite. I used Granny Smith this time.)
1/2 cup (4 oz/125 ml) apple cider
Juice of half a lemon
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 ground allspice
3/4 cup (6 oz/ 185 g) sugar
3/4 cup (4 oz/ 125 g) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (4 oz/ 125 g) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Generously Butter a 2½ qt (2½ l) baking dish. Arrange apple slices in prepared dish, then sprinkle evenly with lemon juice, cinnamon, and allspice. Toss gently to combine.
In a bowl, stir together the flour and sugar. Scatter the butter pieces over the top. Using your fingers, 2 knives, or a pastry cutter, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Sprinkle the crumb mixture evenly over the apples in the baking dish.
Bake until apples are tender, the juices are bubbling, and the topping is a light golden brown, about 1 hour. Serve right away (highly recommended), or let cool on a wire rack and serve warm or at room temperature directly from baking dish.
Soul satisfying, indeed.