Crumbles and Cobblers for Autumn

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When I think of the different months of the year certain images, feelings and even smells come to mind. September makes me think of lovely ‘Indian summer’ weather, ripening seed heads, dahlias, the new school year and of course - stationary! Remember the excitement of new pencils, pencil cases and the smell of new books and the uncomfortably stiff leather of new, unscuffed school shoes?

In October it is all about the golden light for me, the blaze of leaves turning on the trees, harvest time, blackberries and other hedgerow fruits ripening, woodland walks and the first fires in the woodburner.  Woolly tights and boots.

And so to November, for me always associated with the smell and sounds of fireworks, long dark evenings, bonfires and wood smoke, the first proper biting cold that stings the cheeks and pinches the fingers, bare branched trees all of a sudden …the descent into winter.  Scarves and gloves and wellies.

More happily, however, it also marks the moment I start enjoying hot fruity puddings again, preferably with dollop of cream or custard – practically medicinal this time of year, certainly for the mood if not the cholesterol levels!

I make them for my crew as a weekend treat, when there is more time to make and enjoy them. My two favourites at the moment are twists on traditional recipes, both brilliant for using stores of your own autumn fruit if you are lucky enough to have space to grow them, or perfect for seasonal fruit from the supermarket/farm shops.

Apple and pear toffee crumble. The recipe I use is Sophie Dahl’s - it is easy and scrumptious although I would say it is still totally delicious without the dates or figs. Check it out at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/toffeeapplecrumble_93626.

I love the utterly November vibe of toffee apple flavours and buttery richness – edible cosiness. Honestly the aroma of this bubbling away in the oven is a treat in itself. My little extra twist is to mix in a good generous pinch of ginger to the fruit mix which adds a lovely aromatic flavour and scent.  It is just as lovely with regular plain flour instead of spelt. And I always make double or triple the amount of stewed fruit and crumble topping and put in separate bags in the freezer so I can whip up a quick winter pud when the mood strikes but time is short.

If you prefer a plainer, less sweet apple crumble, make your favourite apple crumble recipe but try my mum’s tip of adding 3 or 4 parings of lemon rind and a squeeze of the juice to the apple chunks, (stew together for 10 minutes or so with a little water and sugar before layering in the bottom of your crumble dish.

Remove the lemon rind and add the crumble topping as per your recipe). The little lemony addition really makes the apple flavour sing. The fun thing about crumble recipes is they are completely tweakable, try different fruit combinations – plum, apple and blueberry, gooseberry and elderflower, peach and apricot or apple and raspberry crumble are all very delicious, if not as autumnal. Toppings can include handfuls of nuts, oats or dessicated coconut – with some brown sugar if you prefer a fudgier taste.  Flaked almonds in the topping go so well with plums and I really like the crunch of the coconut with a peach/apricot crumble.

Really, quantities are a matter of personal taste, but make sure the butter to flour ratio is accurate. If you go light on the amount of crumble topping, I think it is pretty healthy too. I do also have to mention leftover fruit crumble with a good dollop of plain Greek yoghurt for breakfast – nothing more delicious, and all main food groups covered! Another deeply autumnal hot pud is plum cobbler.  Luscious spiced fruits this time covered with ‘cobbles’ of  a light, scone-like topping. I use the following recipe, which is loosely based on a Paul Hollywood one for apple and blackberry cobbler –another classic autumn fruit combination.

The addition of a few spikes of star anise gives a wonderfully deep spice flavour. If you don’t like the slightly aniseed flavour of star anise, you could add a pinch of cinnamon or allspice instead. Serve with cream, custard, mascarpone or good quality vanilla ice cream melting in a puddle. Both puddings work well in individual ramekins or pots, just reduce the baking time to about 20-25 minutes, or until the topping is a golden colour.

There are so many other delicious warm, fruity puddings for this time of year, the sponge puddings and upsidedown cake for example – I would really love to hear of any you love to eat and could recommend here? Or perhaps your own special tweaks to crumble/cobbler recipes  - and I will definitely give them a try and perhaps report back next month?

Lets make this page autumn pudding heaven!

Deliriously happy eating to you!