Apple Crumble

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I’m pretty crazed for apple pie, but pie crusts always defeat me. They turn out very tasty, for sure, but they always look… deformed. I’m being kind; really, I am. I just cannot seem to get pie crust to look pretty. And it is very important to me that my desserts look as pretty as I can make them. I usually don’t hit my goal posts in this regard, but I always keep trying. 🙂

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This apple crumble recipe from Cook’s Illustrated piqued my interest. I thought I might be able to adapt this to something akin to a Dutch apple pie without the bottom crust. I ended up making quite a few changes to the original recipe. This turned out exactly as I’d hoped: a filling to rival that of the best apple pie, and a crumb topping that is both firm and tender, not to mention buttery!

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I thought the baking times given by Cook’s Illustrated would yield some still-tough apples. I increased the baking time for the apples, baking them at 325°F for a while and then increasing the temperature to 350°F before finishing them at 375°F. The apples emerged soft, tender, juicy, and flavourful. To get the filling even more pie-like, I added some butter and brown sugar to the apples and increased the amount of cinnamon; I also added some cornstarch to get the filling to thicken. The finished filling tastes far better than the premade canned apple pie filling you buy at the store, and I’m proud to finally be able to say I created something that does this.

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The crumb topping contains almonds. I was highly skeptical about including them, but I did so anyway, and I’m glad I did! I did change how the almonds were incorporated into the crumb topping by making sure they were completely ground up in the food processor, rather than leaving them in chunks as directed in the original recipe. The texture of the crumb topping is very rich, almost meaty, if you will, and I think this is due to the almonds. They impart a very faint nutty flavour to the crumb topping that gives the overall dessert more complexity and, oddly, makes it more satisfying. (This might also be due to the extra butter I added to the crumb topping. 😉 )

I thought this was unintentionally adorable and hilarious: One of my butterscotch rivulets formed a little heart on its own. I swear I didn’t engineer this; it just happened. Serendipity, I say: Just in time for Valentine’s Day. 🙂

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Apple Crumble

Yield: One 8×8″ dish

Ingredients:

Filling:
1 generous TBS cornstarch
1 TBS + generous splash of lemon juice
generous sprinkle cinnamon (about 1 tsp.)
2/3 c. granulated sugar
pinch Kosher salt
6 Braeburn or similar apples (3 lbs. total), peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes
about 2 tsp. light brown sugar
2 TBS unsalted butter, cut into about 12 – 16 pieces

Topping:
5 oz. (1 c.) all-purpose flour
1.75 oz. (1/4 c.) granulated sugar, plus 1 TBS for sprinkling on top
1.75 oz. (1/4 c.) light brown sugar
pinch Kosher salt
2 tsp. vanilla extract, optional (pretty sure I didn’t use any)
1/2 cup whole roasted, lightly salted almonds
1 stick unsalted butter, divided

Method:
Preheat oven to 325°F.

Topping:
Process flour, sugars, and salt. Add vanilla, if using, and pulse until combined. Add almonds and process until finely chopped. Add 6 TBS butter & process until butter is in pea-sized pieces. Turn mixture out onto baking sheet lined with Silpat or parchment paper and knead with heel of hand, as with puff pastry, until mixture clumps into large, crumbly balls. Spread mixture into even layer (there will be some small, sand-like bits along with mostly large crumbs about 1/2″ to 1″ in size). Set aside.

Filling:
Combine cornstarch, lemon juice, cinnamon, granulated sugar, and salt in large bowl. Stir to combine. Add apples and toss to coat; mixture will thicken. Pour into 8×8″ glass baking dish and smooth top. Sprinkle brown sugar over filling. Dot pieces of butter evenly across top of filling. Cover dish tightly with aluminum foil.

Bake both topping and filling at 325°F for 15 minutes. Remove crumb mixture (it should be lightly browned and firm; if not, bake for a few more minutes) and set aside on wire rack to cool completely. Increase heat to 350°; remove apples only briefly to stir, then bake them at 350°F for 15 minutes. Remove apples briefly to stir; increase heat to 375°F and bake apples for another 15 minutes. Remove aluminum foil and bake at 375°F, uncovered, for about 12 additional minutes, or until apples are starting to bubble in dish and are tender when poked with a fork.

Reduce oven heat to 350°F. Meanwhile, scatter crumb topping evenly over apples. Sprinkle 1 TBS white sugar over topping and bake about 20 minutes, or until tips of crumb topping (but not the entirety of each crumb) is golden brown and fruit is bubbling around edges. Cool 15 minutes on wire rack; serve with ice cream, whipped cream, and / or butterscotch (or caramel) sauce.

Source: Heavily adapted from Cook’s Illustrated (paid content)

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