Rum Raisin Apple Crumble
I hope everyone who’s tried one will agree that Japanese apples are absolutely delicious. They are sweeter and have a much softer texture than most US apples. (Hint: If you cut open an apple and find a somewhat clear area all around the core, you know it’s super sweet.) Half the apples I ate during college in Massachusetts were incredibly mealy and unpleasant. Not so with Japanese ones! And at this time of year, they’re in season.
Coming from a place where the apples come into season in late fall, it’s really surprising to be told they’re ripe in the dead of winter here in Japan. But I won’t question the fact for too long, because it means that instead of buying one apple for something like ¥200 or ¥300, you get a whole bag of 3 for the same price. Okay, so you still pay about ¥100 for a cheap apple, but it’s well worth it in my opinion. My father, whose not as familiar with Japanese prices, said on the phone recently that the time he found out the price of an apple he had while visiting friends’ in Nagoya was the only time he ever felt guilty for eating an apple.
I love chopping half an apple up in the mornings for my müsli, but to fully enjoy the bounty of apples, I’ve taken to making this apple crumble. Every time I make this recipe, it’s delicious. The ingredients are easy to put together and the result is a gently sweet desert with contrasting soft, warm apples and a crunchy crumble. A dollop of ice cream on top creates the perfect balance of hot and cold, fruity and creamy. This recipe also stands up to experimentation.
The original recipe doesn’t call for rum or raisins, but after eating it with rum raisin Häagen Dazs ice cream, I had to try injecting those flavors into the recipe itself. So when my roommate finished her national exam on Sunday, I gladly took the excuse to make another apple crumble. Although the rum flavor essentially evaporated in the long baking time, I think the result is the best apple crumble so far. The rum mixed with the apples, a lower baking temperature, and a longer time in the oven made the apples softer on the bottom and pleasantly chewy where they stuck through the crumble.
For this recipe, I use a ceramic, shallow gratin dish that fits into my microwave/oven. Most people I know in Japan don’t have a real oven, only these metal-lined microwaves with an oven function that heats only from above. I like to think that using a ceramic dish absorbs the heat and re-releases it from below. In any case, I’ve had great results with this method so far.
Rum Raisin Apple Crumble
(Adapted from a Chocolat & Zucchini recipe.)
1 1/2 large apples (or enough of any kind of apple to fill your baking dish)
3 tbs dark rum
1/8 cup (or more) raisins
1/4 cup salted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
3/4 cup oatmeal (instant or old-fashioned, I found it in a baking store)
2/3 cup flour
(Note: These amounts make twice as much crumble as filling. You can freeze the extra crumble for about a week. Don’t thaw it, but use it frozen to top your next crumble.)
Peel the apples and cut into small pieces. Set into your baking dish and mix in the rum. Cover the dish with saran wrap and place in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes (while you run out to buy the raisins… or make the crumble). Preheat the oven to 150°C.
In a food processor, mix the butter and sugar until it forms tiny clumps. Dump the mixture into a bowl and add the oatmeal and half of the flour. Work the butter and flour mixtures together between your fingers. Slowly add more flour and work it into the dough until the texture is dry, but still clumpy.
Mix the raisins into the rummy apples. Cover the filling with a good layer of crumble, and put the baking dish into the oven for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the apples are mushy and the crumble is gently browned. (Note: If the crumble isn’t brown after 60 minutes, set the oven to 180°C and bake for another 5 minutes.)
To serve, scoop some into a bowl and top with a small scoop of vanilla (or your favorite flavor) ice cream. As Julia Child would say, “Bon Appetite!”