Since starting the blog, many people think I’m cooking up a storm of Ottolenghi, Marcus Wareing and other great cooks in my kitchen on a regular basis. The truth is, like most people, most of the time I’m cooking old familiar favourites that I can put together pretty quickly and easily. I rarely ‘entertain’ these days and so am either cooking for myself (and I do cook – I don’t live on ready-made meals or scrambled eggs) or my family. I often cook for the family at weekends and love it. But I also have to confess that most of the time – unless I’m wanting to try a new recipe for the blog (and they’re always willing guinea pigs) or it’s a special occasion, like a birthday – it’s something well tried and tested. In fact, it’s most usually roast chicken followed by apple crumble – and you can’t get much more ordinary than that. Today I thought I’d try something slightly new – an apple (and plum) cobbler. I had a fancy to make one a couple of weeks ago but it didn’t turn out well, despite following a well-known TV chef’s recipe carefully (that’s another thing – I don’t blog my disasters and disappointment; but I do have them too, like every other cook). I told my son the plan this morning when we were organising when we’d eat. He asked, Can’t you make a crumble? Really, the cobbler a couple of weeks ago wasn’t that bad! No, I want to try the cobbler again, I said. So, Mum decided.
Given my shelves crammed full of cookbooks, it was surprisingly difficult to come by a traditional recipe but I found one eventually in my trusty The Times Cookery Book by Katie Stewart, which was published back in 1972 and is one of the first cookbooks I ever bought. It was once my ‘cookery bible’ and I could never give it away. And like today, it can be a great book to return to for a traditional recipe. However, I also looked online and while I pretty much followed Katie’s recipe, I substituted buttermilk for ordinary milk, as that was a common ingredient in newer recipes to gain a lighter topping. Many describe the topping as a biscuit dough but I think that comes from the US where their ‘biscuit’ is much like a UK’s ‘scone’. Katie was the only writer I found who actually used a cutter to create scone-shaped pieces of dough to go on the top, and I liked that so followed her instructions.
Apple & Plum Cobbler
- 6 large plums, stoned and quartered
- 2 dessertspoons caster sugar
- 3 large eating apples (like Cox’s), cored and peeled
- a little water
- 225g plain (preferable spelt) flour
- 1 level tablespoon baking powder
- 75g cold butter
- 50g caster sugar
- 1 egg
- 4 tablespoons buttermilk
- a little milk and demerara sugar to glaze
Prepare the plums and put in a saucepan with 1 dessertspoon sugar and a dash of water – just to cover the bottom and stop the plums sticking. Cook gently over a low heat while you prepare the apples.
Cut each peeled and cored apple into quarters, then halve the quarters again to give you 8 pieces per apple. Add to the plums with the other dessertspoon of sugar. Stir gently and often until the fruit is starting to soften but still retains its shape. It’s going to get more cooking in the final process and this initial cooking is just to ensure it’s cooked through. Transfer the fruit to a deep oven dish (approx. 20 x 25cm).
Now make the topping.
Many recipes did it all by hand to create lightness but I chose to do the initial mixing of the flour, baking powder and butter in my food processor and the rest by hand. Add them and process until you have a ‘breadcrumb’ mix. Then tip into a mixing bowl.
Add the sugar and stir.
Crack the egg into a measuring jug and add the buttermilk. Make up to 150ml (just over 4 tablespoons of buttermilk). Mix well with a fork then add to the flour mixture.
Mix until it comes together into a ball but be careful not to overwork the dough. Pat out on a floured surface and roll until the dough is about 1cm thick. Then cut out 12 ‘scone’ shapes.
Arrange the ‘scones’ on top of the fruit. Brush with a little milk and sprinkle over a small amount of demerara sugar.
Put into a preheated oven at 200C/180 Fan/Gas 6 for 15 minutes. Then lower the heat to 190C/Fan 170/Gas 5 for another 15 minutes.
Remove and serve warm with cream, ice cream or custard – whatever your family’s preference.
My family’s preference is always custard – of the very traditional custard powder variety. I’d be happy with cream but of course only want to make them happy. They were very happy (and that wasn’t just down to the custard). The fruit had nicely softened without breaking down into a mush; the ‘scones’ were fantastic – so light and delicious. You could have eaten them as proper scones with cream and jam! My son Jonathan (having forgotten all about crumble) even had seconds; ‘even’ as he rarely has seconds of pudding. I kindly said – as mums do – that each ‘scone’ was more like half a scone so he’d only really had one. Well, that crumble is going to have to fight to retain its No.1 position at Sunday dinnertime; I think we may be having cobbler quite often from now on!