You probably didn’t know that I am an expert apple stacker.
It’s cool, I don’t blame you. I like to keep it on the DL. It’s just one of the many hidden talents unemployment has highlighted in myself (along with: thinking up crazy career ideas, e-mail begging, and savings account decimation).
Unlike these apples (you will find), I am not going to sugarcoat my feelings about today. It is a shitty day. It was snowing when I woke up, and that was wonderful. But now it’s raining and foggy and generally miserable. I have no job (still) and there’s nothing on tv and god help me if I have to write a cover letter today. It might go something like this:
Please give me a job so that I will no longer be forced to be the poster child for These Trying Times. I am capable, and did you know I can stack 5 apples on top of each other?
Not Interested In Grad School, Thanks For The Suggestion Though
Chances are you have eaten apple crumble before. You have probably even made it. Here’s what I want you to do: Throw out your recipe for apple crumble. I’m telling you, it sucks, and unless you are making this version of apple crumble, you are doing some sort of grave disservice to apples and crumbly toppings (Employer: have I mentioned I am both bossy and overly emotional?). Now, let’s make it again, the right way, together (Or, Let’s Get Ready to Crrrrummmmble! [Employer: have I convinced you of my hire-ability yet?])
You are going to look at the recipe and be all “VANILLA BEAN? Oh hell no…” but LISTEN, kind reader. There is a way around it (not that you want to get around a vanilla bean…that’s like purposefully avoiding a beautiful flower garden or something). You are going to look at the recipe and be all “I don’t really know how to make brown butter….” and I will ask you, can you put butter in a pan on the stove and leave it for like 5 minutes? Because then you can make brown butter. You might even skim the process and say “Hold the phone! I don’t have a food processor!!” to which I say, nonsense. You don’t need a food processor. Your hands make the quickest crumble topping EVER.
I have made this crumble 3 times now. I rarely repeat recipes. I like nothing more than to try new things. But I will never ever need to try a new crumble. This is the one. I am wedding this crumble for life. I don’t even care if something better comes along, me and this crumble are in it for the long haul, and I want to sleep next to (read: eat) it every night and wake up next to (read: eat) it every morning.
So, what I am going to do on this shitty day is wrap myself in my favorite fleece, put on my new slippers, make a cup of Earl Grey tea in my owl mug, and curl up on the couch with this crumble and today’s crossword.
I suggest you do the same. Ooooh, unless you’re at work. You’re at work, aren’t you? Hm. Maybe unemployment isn’t so bad after all….
from Pastries from the La Brea Bakery, by Nancy Silverton
For the Filling:
7 to 8 (3 lbs) large, tart green apples, peeled, cored and cut into 3/4-in cubes to equal about 6 cups (I used Macintosh so I reduced the sugar quite a bit)
1/3 cup granulated sugar (I omitted this completely)
2 tbsp light brown sugar, lightly packed (I used 1 tbsp for my Macs)
3 tbsp (1 1/2 oz) unsalted butter
1 vanilla bean (You can just plop in 1 tsp vanilla extract into the butter if you don’t have a bean)
2 tbsp cornstarch
2 tbsp apple juice or water (I used apple cider)
For the Streusel Topping:
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp unbleached pastry or all-purpose flour
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp granulated sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 stick plus 2 tbsp (5 oz) unsalted butter, cut into 1-in cubes and frozen
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp rolled oats
6-cup-capacity baking dish
In a large bowl toss together the apples and sugars. Set aside for an hour until the apples start to break down and just begin to release their juice.
To prepare the topping: In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade or the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, and cinnamon and pulse or mix on low to incorporate. Add the butter and pulse on and off or mix on low until it’s the consistency of a coarse meal. (You can do this by hand…the butter should be cold but not frozen…just kinda mush it all together until the butter is evenly distributed, then add the oats)
Transfer to a bowl and, using your hands, toss in the oats. Chill until ready to use.
To prepare the filling: In a medium saucepan over high heat, begin to melt the butter. Using a small paring knife, split the vanilla bean lengthwise. With the back of the knife, scrape out the pulp and seeds and add the scrapings and the pod to the butter. Swirl the pan to ensure the butter cooks evenly and doesn’t burn. It will bubble somewhat vigorously as it browns. Continue cooking 3 to 5 more minutes until the bubbles subside and the liquid is dark brown with a nutty, toasty aroma. Remove the vanilla bean. Pour the butter and brown flecks over the apples, tossing to combine.
Adjust the oven rack to the upper position and preheat to 425˚F.
In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch with the apple juice or water, mixing well to remove lumps. Place a strainer over the bowl of apples and strain the cornstarch liquid over the apples (I skipped the strainer…you know how I feel about them). Toss together and transfer to a baking dish.
Crumble the topping over the apples, squeezing it together in your fist to create a coarse, uneven, lumpy texture. Place the dish on a baking sheet and bake for 35 minutes, until the juices are bubbling. Turn the oven down to 375 degrees and bake for another 50 to 55 minutes until the top is nicely browned and the juices are caramelized.