Everyone has his/her own comfort food – the food that you choose to tuck into because you have had a bad day at work, the food that reminds you of childhood or a particular memory. To sum it up, it’s food for the soul – it soothes you, moves you and leave you asking for more. Comfort food is always unpretentious; it’s not dressed to impress, it may look plain, messy or sloppy. But that doesn’t bother you at all. Because the taste memory of your comfort food (be it deepfried potato wedges, Hainanese chicken rice, or even peanut butter and jelly sandwich) is so powerful that the thought of it alone makes you especially happy.
While most people I know find their comfort in savoury food – like my husband, J, in spaghetti bolognese, I find my comfort in the sweet side of things – especially fruit crumbles. Crumbles make me happy, very happy – from apple and rhubarb to stonefruits like plums, peaches, nectarines to berries. I love them all.
Usually I would plunge my spoon straight into the baking dish and dig into the softened bits of fresh fruits still bubbling in its own juices and the sweet hints of vanilla and butter from the crumble, just minutes out of the oven. Not exactly a glamorous moment, I must admit. But when the crumble’s out, there’s only one thing left to do – eat it!
Making a crumble is a piece of cake. Slice/dice up the fruits in any way you want, it doesn’t even need to be neat since it would be covered under the crumble. As for the crumble, it is essentially a sweet shortcrust dough – buttery and sweet. It would be best if you can chill the dough in the freezer for at least 20 minutes, to allow the gluten in the dough to rest and also allow the dough to harden enough so you can grate that dough into your tray of fruits with the slightest effort.
The recipe below is the one I use all the time. It works perfectly for me and it should for you as well. Feel free to tinker with it – throw in some flaked almonds, raisins, dried cranberries, whatever makes you happy.
Now, do share with me what is your comfort food of all time. I love to hear about it!
Apple & plum crumble
Serves 8 to 10
For the crumble
224g plain flour
50g caster sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
125g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
For the topping
5 apples ( I used Granny Smith and Red Gala apples – Try not to use Washington apples for they get a little too mushy)
3 red plums
Juice of 1/2 lemon
120g brown sugar
2 tbsp corn flour
pinch of salt
1. Prepare the crumble dough first. I like to use the rub-in method where by I use my fingers to rub in the cubes of butter into the dry ingredients to a crumbly mixture.
2. Next, I mix in the lightly beaten egg and vanilla extract and combine it into the dough. Try to knead it/handle it as little as possible as you do not want a tough dough. Alternatively, you can use a food processor/mixer to combine the ingredients together – ensure that you watch over the machine and be careful not to overwork the dough.
3. Divide the dough into two parts : 2/3 of the dough will be used for the base of the crumble and should be clingwrapped and kept in the fridge while the remaining 1/3 of the dough should be clingwrapped and kept in the freezer. Leave the dough to rest for at least 20 minutes or more – you can prepare this overnight.
4. Lightly grease your baking tray. Roll out the larger portion of the dough so it fits into the base of your baking tray.
4. Prepare your fruits: Core and chop apples and plums into any way you want. I sliced mine. Toss the fruits in lemon juice.
5. Mix together the rest of the ingredients for the toppings and stir this into the fruit. The corn flour creates a ‘syrup’ for the fruits so that they do not dry out when baking.
6. Spread the fruit mixture over the rolled out base.
7. Use a grater and grate the dough from the freezer over the fruit.
8. Bake the crumble in a 180 degrees celcius oven for about 30 minutes, or until the crumble is golden brown and the fruit filling is bubbling.
9. Let it cool on the rack. Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.