I have always wanted to be one of those people who could look at ingredients and intuitively combine them to create something wonderfully delicious, no recipe needed. I have combined recipes before, taking and leaving different pieces of up to 7 or 8 different recipes, thus creating my own. I’ve always been slightly intimidated to simply go forth without any reference point, though.
Last month, while in Israel, I received a special request to make apple pie. I was there doing research and visiting my cousin J who moved to Tel Aviv to marry Y, an Israeli girl who has since become more like a big sister to me. It seems that one of the things J missed most from the US was apple pie! (Is there anything more quintessentially American?)
Now, I’m not a huge apple pie maker – there are usually blueberries or peaches, or both! (why not go wild?!) involved – and to find spelt flour in Tel Aviv at such late notice, while certainly possible, was a task made that much more challenging by the fact that it was Shabbat. So, I improvised. Despite Tel Aviv’s ardent refusal to jump on the religious bandwagon and shut down for Shabbat, the only grocery stores open are AMPM, so, of course, a trip there was necessitated.
J and I had a fabulous hummus dinner (more on that later), after which I scoured the meagre, though sufficient, selections of the nearby AMPM to see what I could do about this apple pie. No Meghan-friendly flour, so…. How about a crumble? No whole almonds – that’s okay, they had bags of chopped and crumbled almonds and walnuts. No brown sugar? Demerara will do – just adds a bit of an extra crunch. The apples looked “meh”, but the pears looked pretty “all right”, so why not combine the two? Plus, they’re getting cooked, so who really cares about a few surface-level blemishes. What we care about is flavour!
Ingredients bought we headed home. It was already quite late, but that’s never stopped me before. I think J & Y were a bit surprised that I was baking at such a late hour (we actually fell asleep and didn’t even try it until the next morning!), but after being robbed by the AMPM’s monopoly on Shabbat grocery shopping, there was no way I was going to wait until the next day to be faced with the knowledge that I could have made this crumble for half, or even a third, of the price… [Note to self – don’t let Shabbat get the better of you, next time think ahead!]
The recipe below is the result of this late night endeavour as well as two subsequent trials and tweakings. It’s still lacking a certain something, which if you figure out what it is, I’d love to hear it! But, I am particularly proud of this recipe, because it has inaugurated me into the club of intuitive, recipe-less bakers. So, yay!
Apple & Pear Crumble
Preheat oven to 180C
4 medium-sized tart apples, chopped in large chunks
3 pears, chopped in large chunks
~ 1 inch of ginger, grated
juice from 1 orange
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg (optional)
¼ tsp ground ginger (if you don’t have fresh ginger)
juice from 3-4 passion fruits (optional)
3-4 TBSP date syrup (depending on how sweet the fruit is)
juice from about half a lemon (depending on how sour the fruit is)
Combine above ingredients in a bowl, making sure the fruit is well coated with the spices and juices. Pour into pie pan or whatever vessel you’re using.
~ 1 ½ cups rolled oats
¾ cup chopped nuts (any combination you like – I generally do almonds and walnuts)
½ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
½ – ¾ cup brown sugar (depending on how sweet you want it)
5-6 TBSP (or glugs) melted butter or vegetable oil
Combine the dry ingredients in another bowl and then add the butter or oil and mix with your fingers until you have a sand-like consistency. Crumble the mixture on top of the fruit mixture.
Bake for 30-40 minutes in an oven that has been preheated to 180C. It should be bubbling, the fruit should be tender (if stick a knife or fork into it), and the top should be brown. If the top browns before it is finished cooking, cover with foil. Alternatively, if the top is not crisp or brown enough for your liking, you can turn the oven heat up to 200C for 5 minutes to brown it.