Autumn fruit crumble

Seasonal autumn fruits for a crumble
One of my first ever recipes on this blog was for a rhubarb crumble, spiced with star anise and vanilla and served with homemade custard. While rhubarb crumble is a celebration of spring, this recipe is the ultimate, turbo-charged celebration of autumn. I mentioned the combination in that first post about crumble: a mixture of apples, pears, plums and brambles. These fruits are the absolute joys of autumn produce and come in a wide variety throughout the season, so you can make this recipe slightly differently each time. Use blackberries instead of wild brambles (though picking wild brambles is another joy of autumn in itself), use eating apples instead of cooking apples, use whatever types of ripe plums you can find at the shops.

One ingredient I highly recommend making the effort to get hold of is a bag of damsons, which are tiny darkest-blue plums that have an incredible jammy texture when cooked. They’re also quite sour after cooking, which balances out all the sweetness in the rest of the crumble. They are difficult to find in supermarkets, but you should have better luck getting them at a greengrocer.

I wished I’d had ground almonds in the cupboard when I made the crumble topping, as I think almonds go so well with fruits like pears and plums. Add a few tablespoons to the mixture with the oats if you have some. This makes a very generous quantity of crumble topping, which freezes very well, so if you don’t end up using it all just pop the remainder in a labelled plastic bag and store in the freezer for another time.

One year ago:
Meatloaf
Stewed apples and plums
Ingredients for seasonal autumn fruit crumbe
Ingredients (makes one very large crumble to feed a crowd)
150g cold unsalted butter
250g plain flour
75g soft light brown sugar
50g oats
1.5kg autumn fruit (approximately – I used 3 cooking apples, 3 pears, 8 greengages and 3-4 handfuls each of damsons and brambles)
2 tbsp granulated sugar

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas Mark 4. Cut the butter into small cubes.
Chilled butter cut into small cubes
2. Add the butter to the plain flour and rub together with your fingers until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
Adding chilled butter to the plain flour
Rubbing the cold butter into the plain flour
3. Add the sugar and mix well.
Adding light brown sugar to the butter and flour mix
4. Add the oats, and ground almonds if using, and mix again. Set the crumble topping aside.
Adding oats to the crumble topping mix
5. Prepare the fruit by peeling, coring and chopping the apples and pears into chunks and removing the stones from the plums and halving. Arrange the fruit in a large, deep ovenproof dish.
Preparing the seasonal autumn fruit 1
6. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of sugar over the fruit.
Sprinkling sugar over the seasonal autumn fruit
7. Pile the crumble topping over the fruit, pressing down gently with the back of a spoon.
Topping the autumn fruit crumble 1
Autumn fruit crumble ready to bake
8. Bake for 30-40 minutes until the crumble is golden brown and the juice from the fruit is bubbling up to the surface.
Close up of Seasonal autumn fruit crumble
Serve with lashings of warm vanilla custard, with the curtains drawn, the heating on and surrounded by flickering candles. Comfort food done right.
Seasonal autumn fruit crumble served with vanilla custard
Seasonal autumn fruit crumble

Victoria plum and frangipane tart

Victoria plum and frangipane tart 2
As the Starks are so keen to tell us, Winter Is Coming. And they’re not wrong, but first we have my favourite season of the year to enjoy: Autumn. For the next few months plums in the UK are at their prime and they come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and flavours and colours. There are tiny, intensely sweet greengages or plump, juicy Black Amber and Denniston’s Superb varieties or dark indigo-blue damsons with their sharp, distinctive flavour. One of the most commonly available plums in our shops and supermarkets is the Victoria plum. Oval in shape and red or yellow in colour, Victoria plums are sweet and have a firm texture so are perfect both eaten straight out the fruit bowl or used for baking.

Almonds are a perfect pairing with the sweet and sharp flavour of plum, so a frangipane tart seemed like an ideal way to incorporate this seasonal fruit into some baking. Frangipane is a sweet filling used in cakes and pastries, which combines ground almonds with butter, sugar and eggs, and sometimes a little flour or flavourings like vanilla or alcoholic liquors. When cooked in a tart frangipane puffs up in a most satisfying way to create a light, moist filling.

I first made this tart a couple of weeks ago, and by happy coincidence the following weeks Great British Bake Off episode (only the best television show ever amirite?) was pastry themed, and what did they have to make in the first challenge but frangipane tarts. This inspired me to add a layer of jam between the pastry and frangipane filling when I made the tart again last weekend. The addition got a resounding thumbs up from the lucky taste-testers. Finally, since frangipane requires a fairly long bake, there’s no need to blind bake the pastry first. Of course, we don’t want any soggy bottoms here, but we also don’t want burnt pastry. Paul Hollywood would not be happy, and that thought is scary enough, let alone imagining Mary Berry’s disapproving face.

One year ago:
Dark chocolate mousse
Ingredients for plum and frangipane tart
Ingredients (makes a 28cm tart)
500g shortcrust pastry
12 small Victoria plums (about 400-450g)
100g unsalted butter, softened
100g caster sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp plain flour
100g ground almonds
Optional: 2-3 tbsp plum jam
Crème fraiche to serve

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas Mark 4. Roll the pastry on a floured surface until it is just bigger than the tart case and about half a centimeter thick.
Ready made shortcrust pastry
Rolling out shortcrust pastry
The first time I made this recipe (shown in the picture) I went very thin with the pastry, so it was almost see-through, but I think it’s better to keep it a little thicker so the tart has a good, solid base and you can appreciate the short, crumbly texture of the pastry.

2. Carefully place the sheet of pastry into the tart case – drape it over your rolling pin and use this to lift it up and over. Gently, but firmly press the pastry into the case. I tear a little pastry from a corner, roll it into a ball and use this to press the pastry into all the edges, so that my nails don’t puncture the delicate pastry.
Lining a tart case with shortcrust pastry
3. Trim the excess pastry with a sharp knife, prick the base with a fork and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Trimming the pastry case and pricking with a fork
4. Halve and stone the plums.
Halving and stoning the Victoria plums
5. Place the soft butter and caster sugar in a large bowl and beat until light and fluffy.
Softened butter and caster sugar
Beating the butter and sugar until light and fluffy
6. Pour in the eggs a bit at a time, beating well in between each addition until fully incorporated. Add the vanilla and flour and mix well again.
Adding the eggs, vanilla extract and flour to the butter and sugar
7. Fold the almonds through the mixture, ensuring they are evenly combined.
Ground almonds to be folded through the frangipane mixture
Frangipane mixture
8. If using the jam, then spread a thin layer on top of the chilled pastry. Next carefully spread out the frangipane mixture into an even layer.
Filling the pastry case with frangipane
Spreading the frangipane evenly on the pastry base
9. Arrange the plums on the top of the tart, cut side down, and push gently into the frangipane.
Arranging the plums in the pastry case 2
Arranging the plums in the pastry case 1
10. Place the tart on a large baking sheet and bake for 35 minutes until the frangipane filling has risen, the surface is golden brown and a skewer comes out clean when pushed into the frangipane. Leave the tart to cool on a wire rack.
Cooling the baked tart 2
Cooling the baked tart 1
Serve warm or cool with some thick, creamy crème fraiche. The tart will keep for a few days in an airtight container, though it is best eaten on the day it’s made so tuck in!
Victoria plum and frangipane tart
Victoria plum and frangipane tart served with creme fraiche 1

Upside-down plum cake

Upside down plum cake served with creme fraiche
This was a bit of an experimental recipe, which turned out to be absolutely gorgeous (forgive me if I blow my own trumpet on this one, but it really was a scrumptious cake: light, moist, rich, sweet and spicy). Obviously the idea comes from a pineapple upside-down cake, which has become to be regarded as somewhat of a retro cake that would fit in at a 70s themed dinner party along with prawn cocktail, cheese fondue and duck a l’orange. Now I don’t mind telling you: that sounds like a great menu to me, “retro” or not. With plums still in season they seemed like the obvious fruit choice, and they work well with festive spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. A simple vanilla sponge cake recipe made using the all-in-one method was all that was needed to top (or bottom, depending on which way round you look at it…) the fruit.

I do have a confession to make about the execution of this recipe, which will demonstrate how things in my kitchen don’t always go so smoothly (as if you needed that after mayonnaise-gate). The oven was at temperature, the cake was layered in the tin and I popped it into the oven with great anticipation. Less than five minutes later acrid black smoke was billowing from the oven as a little of the sugar and butter mixture (and presumably some juice from the plums) oozed out the bottom of the cake tin and hit the hot oven floor. At the speed of lightning I whipped the tin out, onto a baking tray and back into the oven, to prevent it getting worse. Luckily, neither the opening of the oven door at the start of baking or the smoke seemed to affect the quality of the cake in the end. SO, if anyone has any bright ideas about how to prevent this from happening do leave a comment below! For now, my advice would be to put the cake tin on a baking tray from the start or perhaps to use a cake tin that doesn’t have a loose bottom (though in this case I would grease the tin extremely well as it may be more difficult to turn out).
Ingredients for upside down plum cake
Ingredients
50g softened butter, plus extra for greasing
50g light soft brown sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ fresh nutmeg, grated
1 tsp vanilla extract
6-8 ripe plums

200g softened butter
200g caster sugar
200g pain flour
4 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas Mark 4. Grease a 21-23cm cake tin generously with butter.
2. Cream together the butter, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla until smooth and well combined.
Butter and sugar for creaming
Creamed butter and sugar
3. Cut the plums in half and remove the stones.
Halved plums
4. Spread the creamed butter and sugar onto the bottom of the cake tin and push the plums into the mixture, cut side down. Pack the plums tightly together – you may need to cut the final one into more than halves in order to fill all the gaps.
Top layer of the upside down plum cake
Plums pushed into the creamed butter and sugar
5. Place the ingredients for the sponge (butter, sugar, flour, baking powder, vanilla and eggs) into a large bowl. Using an electric whisk beat together the ingredients until everything is incorporated and you have an incredibly light, fluffy mix.
Ingredients for the all-in-one method
All in one method sponge mix
6. Spoon the sponge mixture on top of the plums and spread evenly. Bake for 45 minutes, or until a skewer comes out the middle of the cake clean and the sponge springs back to the touch. Leave the cake to cool slightly before turning out.
Pouring the sponge mix into the cake tin
Upside down plum cake ready to be baked
When you are ready to serve, gently release the cake from the tin. Place your serving plate on top of the sponge and flip the cake in one brave move.
Upside down spiced plum cake with vanilla sponge
Cut at the table so everything can admire the beautiful pattern and colour of the plums on top.
Upside down spiced plum cake with vanilla sponge
As this is a very sweet and spiced cake, I would recommend serving it with a dollop of crème fraîche or natural yogurt. Enjoy!
Slice of upside down plum cake with creme fraiche

Stewed Apples and Plums

Stewed apples and plums with natural yogurt and ground cinnamon
Just a quick little recipe today, but very much in-keeping with the autumnal theme. Stewing is a great way to use up a large batch of fruit, and means that the fruit keeps well for much longer than it normally would. At this time of year, gluts of apple are a common occurrence and we picked an enormous crop from my grandparents’ cooking apple tree last month. Although I used some of the apples in my mini puff pastry apple pies and a couple for a savoury apple sauce with roast pork belly, most have been used in three separate batches of my mum’s simple recipe for stewed apples. In the final lot I also had some plums in the fruit bowl which hadn’t ripened well, but are absolutely perfect once they’ve been lightly stewed. You can make this without the plums, using just apples, or you could add some pears, or even a handful of blackberries right at the end. Lovely autumnal fare.

Note: this recipe makes a very large quantity, so adjust depending on how much you want or how much fruit you have.
Ingredients for stewed apples and plums
Ingredients
1.35kg fruit (I used about 900g cooking apples, and 450g plums)
550ml water
340g sugar
2 handfuls of raisins

Method
1. Peel and core the apples, then cut into small chunks. De-stone the plums and slice into eighths.
Chopping cooking apples and plums
Chopped plums and cooking apples
2. Heat the water and sugar until boiling.
Boiling water and sugar for stewed fruit
3. Add the apple, plums and raisins and bring back to the boil. Simmer for about 3 minutes and turn off the heat. Leave to cool.
Adding fruit to the sugar syrup
Stewed apples and plums
There are lots of options for your stewed fruit now, depending on how big a batch you’ve made! Use immediately while still warm, or leave to cool in the pan and then transfer to a tupperware tub…
Cooled stewed fruit
This will now keep in the fridge for at least a week, or in the freezer for a few months. The fruit can be spooned over porridge or cereals for breakfast…
Stewed fruit with granola for breakfast
…or topped with natural yogurt and a sprinkle of ground cinnamon either for a light breakfast or a filling snack…
Stewed apples and plums with natural yogurt and ground cinnamon
…of course, the options are endless. Re-heat gently and spoon over vanilla ice-cream, use to top meringues and cream similar to what I did with my spiced rhubarb compote, or smash the meringues up with the fruit and cream to create an autumnal Eton Mess.