January is quite a dreary month, plodding relentlessly on with it’s monotonous, grey days and icy cold winds, and there’s nothing more comforting than coming home from a long, brisk walk in the cold winter air, to a warm pear and apple crumble..
I spent the Christmas period in Brittany, walking along bare country roads, listening to the peaceful sounds of nearby streams, taking in the country smells and being generally amazed at how beautiful nature is during the cold winter months, quietly sleeping and patiently waiting for Spring to arrive.. As I walked through a wooded area, one cold, grey morning, the poem The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost popped suddenly into my head. Such a thoughtful and lyrical way to describe a simple yet beautiful bit of scenery..
The Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden back.
Oh, I let the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
As I walked briskly home, I decided to make an apple and pear crumble and to serve it with red holly fruit and freshly whipped cream, which is to me, the prefect winter desert! So sit back and enjoy this delicious, heart warming crumble by the blaze of a crackling log fire, as you dream of woods filled with barren trees, little winding streams and paths coated with curled, dried leaves…
- 5 or 6 pears (prefer a variety which gives the best flavour and a lot of juice, even if the shape doesn’t hold during cooking. Examples of pears you can use: “Bosc” or “Anjou” are usually used because they keep their shape during cooking. I tend to use two different varieties, one that keeps it’s shape + the “Comice”, because even though they tend to fall apart during cooking, they have very juicy flesh which gives more flavour to the crumble).
- 5 or 6 apples (prefer a variety of apples that have a lot of juice, more of a tangy, sour taste than a sweet taste so your crumble won’t be too sweet; Examples of apple varieties you can use: “akane”. Come from Japan and have a tangy taste to them, “Allington Pippin”, come from the UK, keep their shape when cooked and have a pineapple like flavor to them, “Beacon” from Minnesota (US), are great for baking with a lovely juicy flavour.”Campanino” from Modena (Italy), have a crisp, acid taste to them and are good for cooking etc.)
- Half an orange, freshly squeezed
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon natural vanilla essence
- 100g caster sugar (+ 150g for the crumble)
- 50g butter (+ 150g for the crumble)
- 200g flour
- 125g holly fruit (or gooseberries)
- whipped cream
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease a 5cm deep dish and reserve it for later.
Peel and dice the apples and pears. In a large cooking pan, poor the juice of half an orange, the butter and diced fruit. Let the mixture simmer on a low heat until soft. Then add the natural vanilla essence and ground cinnamon and stir. Add the caster sugar and turn the heat up slightly so the fruit will caramelize. Do not burn.
In a large mixing bowl, sift the flour and add the caster sugar. Then, add the butter, softened and cut into small pieces. With a fork (or your fingertips) making large round movements until you obtain a “crumbly” mixture. Poor the fruit into your rectangular dish and sprinkle the “crumble mixture” on top until even. Do not “pat down”, the crumble mixture must “breath”.
Bake for approximately 20 to 30 minutes or until golden brown and slightly crunchy. Be careful not to burn the top.
Serve warm from the oven with whipped cream and some red holly fruit.