I know I’m a Type A personality. I’m a planner, detail-oriented, and punctual. I hate it when other people are late. I like to do the same things at the same time each day. I eat the same breakfast every day, a steady theme made colorful with variations, swapping winter’s oranges for spring’s strawberries for summer’s blueberries. But I swear, despite all this Type A business, I have a pretty strong hippie undercurrent. I have a freezer stuffed with various whole-grain flours, a pair of hippie sandals on my feet, and the occasional desire to tell the man he can bite me as I ride off into the distance in my VW hippie bus. I believe in civil rights for all, marriage for those who want it, and that morality and justice are not the same thing.
But most of all, I believe in apple crumble.
Okay, maybe I don’t believe in apple crumble more than civil rights. That would be silly. But I do believe that those of us with hippie tendencies like to pile our fruit crumbles high with oatmeal, and that is the point where I am about to diverge from classic hippie cookery. In my past, I have enjoyed oatmeal-gilded crumbles, such as this simple blueberry one, which I think would benefit from even more of that delicious, streusel-like oatmeal topping. Blueberries get along well with oatmeal. Apples probably do too, but hear me out on this one: an oatmeal-less crumble, especially one that’s packed with two kinds of nuts, rum-soaked raisins, and big tender bites of apple, is a revelation.
It’s not just the rum talking either, though giving raisins a boozy bath does infuse this dessert a little bit of a rum raisin ice cream feel, especially if you eat it with good ice cream. Which you should. (Ammie, my dear, I hope your ears just perked up when I wrote “rum raisin.” I blame you for introducing me to the addictive combination of raisins, booze, sugar, and cream. Help!) This apple crumble is really one of those magical recipes where each part, each delicious component, is present and accounted for, flavor-wise, but the overall effect is so much better than a simple sum of parts. We’ve got apples for the base (duh), walnuts for crunch, almond flour for a softer nutty crunch, butter for richness, sugar for sweetness, and salt for that wonderful savory undercurrent that supports any good dessert these days. The original recipe started in Nigella Lawson’s How to Eat, but I’ve taken enough liberties with it that it feels like my own. Not that I’m particularly possessive about recipes and adaptations, but I’m just saying that I really like my version of her recipe.
I find that making this crumble is a wonderful way to spend a weeknight evening—calmly peeling and chopping the apples, soaking the raisins, squishing my fingers into a bowl of flours and butter to make the crumble topping. It’s enough of a project that I can let myself sink into the preparations, but it’s not so overwhelming that it feels like too much after a day at work. But the best part is definitely the part where I make myself a little bowl of crumble with a scoop of vanilla ice cream to gild the lily. The combination is ambrosial, delightful, and so very delicious that it justifies buying apples instead of blueberries in June. No, scratch that. You should buy apples AND blueberries. Yes. June is a month to indulge yourself in fruit and fresh food. And like every other month of the year, it’s a month in which you can bake this apple crumble.
Apple Crumble, Hold the Oatmeal
Adapted from How to Eat by Nigella Lawson
Vegans, feel free to substitute Earth Butter or another vegan margarine for the butter here. I can’t imagine that it would be anything but completely delicious as a vegan dessert.
3 tbsp. rum
2 tbsp. raisins
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup almond flour
1/4 tsp. salt
4 tbsp. (half a stick) cold butter
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
4 tbsp. granulated sugar, divided
4 large apples
For serving: vanilla ice cream, optional
1) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
2) In a small saucepan, heat the rum gently over medium heat. Take the rum off the heat, add the raisins, stir them around a bit, and let them soak while you prep the rest of the recipe.
3) In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, almond flour, and salt. Dice the butter into small dice, add it to the flour mixture, and use your fingers to rub the butter into the dry ingredients until you get a rubbly, shaggy pile. Stir the walnuts and 3 tbsp. of sugar into the flour/butter mixture. Stash this bowl in a cold place—I usually tuck it in the freezer because my fridge is always way too full to find room for a mixing bowl.
4) Peel and core the apples, then cut them into chunks about 1/2-1 inch in size. Put them in a medium- or large-sized saucepan with the rum, raisins, and remaining 1 tbsp. sugar. Stir everything around a bit, then cook over medium heat for about five minutes, stirring or shaking the pan once or twice.
5) Spray a 9-inch pie pan with nonstick spray. Pile the apple mixture into the bottom, then top with the flour mixture. Place the pie pan in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes. The crumble topping should be golden brown and your kitchen should smell amazing. Remove from the oven and serve warm or at room temperature with a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream on the side.