In throwing an Autumnal Tea Party (see yesterday's post!), I wanted a simple but impactful dessert. Apples are plentiful in New York in September, but plain apple crisp, while delicious, didn't feel quite special enough for a tea party.
The British have a long tradition of gleaning from hedgerows in the fall. Hedgerows often have apple trees, sloes, blackcurrants, and blackberries in fall. Sloes and blackcurrants are hard to find here in the US, but blackberries seemed like the perfect accent to the American classic.
This recipe is endlessly adaptable as the crumble topping is great with any kind of fruit. You do need quite a lot of fruit for a crumble, which makes it nice in that it feels a little lighter on the stomach than cake or pie. These sorts of desserts were common in areas where fruit was plentiful and sugar and butter weren't.
Apple Blackberry Crumble Recipe
I never sweeten the fruit for a crumble (similar to a crisp, but without rolled oats) unless it is a very sour fruit like rhubarb or fresh cranberries. This topping has quite a lot of sugar, which is what helps make it so crunchy and delicious, but you definitely do not need additional sugar in the fruit, especially when pairing with ice cream. You can substitute whole grain flour for part or all of this to good effect as well. If you prefer a crisp, use 1/2 cup of flour and 1 heaping cup of rolled oats.
8+ small apples (I used a mix of gingergold and gala)
1 pint (2 small packages) fresh blackberries
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (plus more for the fruit)
1 scant cup white sugar
1/2 cup coldish butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin spice
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Peel the apples, cut into quarters, cut out the core, and slice. Wash the blackberries and drain. Toss the apples and blackberries with flour to coat (this will thicken the juices). Add to the baking dish. Then make the crumble. Mix the flour, sugar, salt, and pumpkin spice. Then cut the butter into small cubes, toss in the flour mix, and using your hands squeeze and rub it into the flour mix until it holds together when squeezed. Crumble gently over the fruit in an even mix, then bake for 40-50 minutes, or until the fruit is bubbly and thick and the crumble is golden brown. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.
There's nothing like a warm crisp with cold vanilla ice cream, and I think this is my new favorite kind. Blackberries and apples seem like a match made in heaven. What's your favorite autumnal dessert?
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Sarah Wassberg Johnson has an MA in Public History from the University at Albany and studies early 20th century food history.
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