An opinionated essay on baked goods

Fri Jun 08 2018

It has been far too long since I last wrote (one could see this as a good thing, since it means I've been busy), and even now I'm not sure how much I intend to write. We're in our last few days of school, and things have been simultaneously hectic and boring. I didn't have a single real class this week - the only class that met at all was Programming, and that was just for coffee and to do a year-end wrap-up and give feedback to the teacher. We also had mentorstid, which Americans may know as "homeroom", yesterday, but that hardly counts.

Wednesday, two days ago, was Sweden's national day. Neither I nor anyone I am aware of celebrated in any way, but our school would have been canceled, had it been scheduled in the first place. Hanna and I went out for ramen at Ai Ramen on Södermalm, which I can recommend to anyone in the area. Their gyoza were kind of weird; I wouldn't order them again, but the ramen itself was delicious. I ordered a glass of sake and was not carded, which felt kind of strange - the sense I get is European countries (even Sweden, with its relatively strict liquor laws) are much more lax about checking IDs, even for a rosy-cheeked twelve-year-old like myself.

At some point, probably about a week and a half ago, someone in my host family bought a lot of apples. I want to say about 10 each Granny Smith and Red Delicious apples (don't even get me started on Red Delicious apples) entered in the house, and slowly but surely progressed from under-ripe to over-ripe. I turned the worst offenders into a crumble late Tuesday night, which was delicious and leads me into an aside about pies and crumbles.

Crumbles are better than pies. I'm not saying that every crumble is better than every pie, or even that the best crumble is better than the best pie - I think the best pie is probably better than the apple crumble, and there are some pie fillings that don't translate to crumbles, like pumpkin, cream, and french silk. However, I do think that the average apple crumble is both easier and better than the average apple pie, and I think that baking a crumble is a much better choice for a low-skill amateur baker like me. To that end, I'd like to offer you a simple recipe which I devised on Tuesday. I have one of these cooling right next to my laptop, and it both looks and smells amazing.

Apple Crumble

  1. Core and chop (do not peel) 4-5 apples into 0.5 cm – 1 cm slices. I like to use 2 Granny Smith and 2-3 Red Delicious 1 depending on how large they are. Drizzle 1 tsp lemon juice over the apples 2 and mix with a wooden spoon to spread.
  2. In a small bowl, combine:

    • 1/2 cup brown sugar
    • 1/2 cup granulated sugar 2
    • 4 tsp powdered cinnamon
    • 1 tsp powdered allspice
    • a healthy grating of nutmeg

    and stir until homogeneous.

  3. Sprinkle the sugar mixture over the apple slices and mix with a wooden spoon. The sugar will combine with moisture from the apples to form a syrup.
  4. Spread the apples at the bottom of a buttered crumble tray or Swedish-style pie tray 3 and press down with a plastic spatula, or that wooden spoon from earlier. Drizzle any syrup left in the bowl over top.
  5. In a clean bowl, combine 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour_ with 75 g cold butter, cut into 1 cm (1/2 inch) cubes. Mix and knead by hand until a mealy… meal forms, then add:

    • 1/4 cup brown sugar 4
    • 1/2 cup oatmeal 5
    • 1/2 tsp powdered cinnamon

    and stir with a spatula, that wooden spoon from earlier, or some similar large instrument until incorporated. The mixture should still be mealy and retain a lot of texture.

  6. Pour the mealy mixture from step 5 over the apples in the pie tray and spread with a fork until evenly distributed but not perfectly flat.
  7. Sprinkle some raw walnuts, cut into manageable chunks, over the top of the crumble if you happen to have them sitting around. Don't worry if you don't.
  8. Bake at 190℃ (375℉) for 45 minutes. The topping should be browned and crispy on top. If you're lucky, the syrup will be bubbling up around the edges, which you can take a video of and post to your Snapchat story.
  9. Let cool for at least 30 minutes 6. Serve with vanilla ice cream, vanilla sauce 7, whipped cream, or rum whipped cream 8.

Footnotes:

1 Red Delicious apples are often criticized, fairly, for tasting strange and having a weird texture. That said, they are excellent baking apples.
2 If brown sugar is unavailable, perhaps because you ran out and haven't bothered to buy more, instead use 1 cup granulated sugar in step 2 and drizzle 1 tbsp dark molasses over the apples along with the lemon juice in step 1.
3 This is a large, shallow tray - mine is round, roughly 30 cm (1 foot) in diameter and 5 cm (2 inches) deep. A 16"x9" baking dish would probably work well for any Americans following along at home.
4 As a substitute for brown sugar in step 5, use 1 tbsp dark molasses and 1 tbsp granulated sugar.
5 In order of decreasing preference, use: rolled oats, steel-cut oats, or instant oats.
6 Honestly, I usually cut a slice at the 15 minute mark because I'm very impatient. If you're serving this to other people, though, have it ready at least 30 minutes before you're planning to eat it, because it will look nicer and be easier to eat.
7 Does this exist outside of Sweden? It's like strongly vanilla-flavored whipped cream, only not as whipped. It's thick, but still decidedly liquid, and it's stored in the refrigerator, and it has the same flavor as vanilla ice cream.
8 Just make normal whipped cream, but add some dark rum. I would combine 2 tbsp confectioners' sugar, 2 tbsp dark rum, and 1 cup heavy whipping cream, then beat with an electric or stand mixer until soft peaks form.