It’s Friday evening and whew, what a week it’s been. Feeling a bit stretched thin and fraying, and it’s chilly outside. I don’t want to look at any more words or images or think…I just want to feel and smell and live in my senses a little bit. It’s kind of a perfect night to bake, no? I’m not a natural baker, but I play one in my dreams, and I’ve been experimenting with different recipes. There’s just something really nice about a warm oven at night, all the smells of apples, brown sugar, maple, melting butter and other delicious things filling up the room.
One thing I’ve been trying out lately are crumbles. I started reading about them a few weeks ago, when I looked something up about Michaelmas. I was going through this phase of reading about random British holidays and festivals and came across this bit about Sept. 29, when they celebrate the archangel Michael. In terms of paganish things, it occurs around the autumn equinox, and generally denotes the end of harvest and the beginning of fall proper. I’m not Christian or ever will be, but I have always found the whole seraphim and cherubim thing really fascinating — one of those weird rabbit holes of theology to wander around in on a rainy evening at home with some tea and an iPad. I mean, you know, all I had as a kid was the Buddha, and he seemed really intense and remote, a bit like the monks at the temple my parents took me to as a kid. Now angels, though…angels were understandable. They were on Christmas cards! They had iconography! Then as a teen I got the Smiths, so I was all British! British! British! Somehow it all comes together…in an apple-blackberry crumble.
(Funny aside: one of my friends as a wee kid told me once that she imagined Michael as this strong strapping dude with flowing hair, and I kind of pictured Lorenzo Lamas from “Falcon Crest.” Which is of course hilarious to me now.)
Anyway, if you read about Michaelmas and archangels, there’s a bit about Michael wrestling the devil and the devil landing in a bramble of blackberry bushes, and so one of the big Michaelmas traditions is to eat blackberries. Of course, you can eat blackberries on their own, but it is infinitely way more fun to eat them as dessert. (If I could make everything into a dessert or an omelette, I’d be so ace.)
And so I stumbled upon a bunch of delicious-sounding (and looking) blackberry dessert recipes in various cookbooks devoted to traditional British desserts, and decided to try one out. I mean, maybe it’s my weird way of being fascinated by angels and blackberries and deepening my resolve to broaden my culinary repertoire. Or just an excuse to try out a dessert! Anyway, here’s to wrestling devils and throwing them WWF-style into a bramble of blackberries! Enjoy!
Apple Blackberry Crumble (Serves 8)
1 stick of butter
1 3/4 pounds of Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
1/2 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of apple juice
8 ounces of blackberries
1 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour
5 tablespoons of cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
3/4 cup of packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup of old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup of chopped almonds
2 tsp. of ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and grease a 2-quart ovenproof dish.
Melt the stick of unmelted butter in a large pan. Add the Granny Smith apples with the sugar, apple juice and some lemon zest if you want, and cook for 6-8 minutes, stirring frequently, until apples are softened. Add blackberries and toss together, adding more sugar if needed, and then transfer to the greased ovenproof dish.
Sift the all-purpose flour into a large bowl and add the cubed butter. Rub the butter into the flour until the mixture looks like fine bread crumbs. Stir in the light brown sugar, old-fashioned rolled oats, chopped almonds and ground cinnamon. This is your topping!
Spoon the topping over the filling, sprinkle just a bit more brown sugar over the top and bake for about 30 minutes or until the top is a nice golden brown. Serve with heavy cream, custard or cheat like me and add a touch of vanilla ice cream! Om nom nom nom!