Today, my very pregnant friend, Shefali Manilal sits at my kitchen table coring, peeling and slicing apples for a baked fruit crumble. It’s a homey, old-fashioned scene; except that Shefali’s happy face appears in the square frame of my computer. We often talk laptop to laptop—Paris to Sausalito via SKYPE video calls while we cook. Shefali feels so close that I want to reach out and touch her—or start prepping the fruit myself.
Shefali and I both love crumbles and serve them year-round using just-harvested fruit and berries that celebrate the seasons. Often there is no specific recipe: it’s what’s on hand—or the cook’s whim. While cobblers are super simple by nature, I sometimes fancy-up the flavors with a shot of fruit brandy like pear or Calvados (French apple).
Family and friends at both our Paris and Sausalito tables go absolutely nuts for the crumble topping made from a mixture of flour, sugar, butter and spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Every now and then we vary it with crushed cookies, oats, chopped nuts, even fresh bread crumbs. My family fights for every last spicy crumb, so I make sure to cover the entire fruit surface with topping. Shefali indulges her group by lining the baking dish with the crumbly mixture, then layering the fruit and finishing it all off with a decadent second layer of topping.
One of the best things about baking a crumble is the amazing warm, spicy fragrance that fills the kitchen. As we continue our on-screen chat, Shefali keeps one eye on the oven and can’t resist taunting me: “Barbara, it smells very good. Want some?” Wicked girl!
Shefali and I differ on what to serve with fruit crumbles. Personally I love a scoop of best-quality vanilla ice cream slowly melting over the warm dessert, but Shefali prefers a generous dollop of velvety smooth
English clotted cream. “It’s not as sweet as whipped cream and does not melt like ice cream”, she explains. I agree to buy a bottle of the cream at the local market and try it on my next crumble.
With perfect timing, Antoine arrives home with a kiss for Shefali and a sweet pat for his baby. While they say their hellos, I sign-off and go freezer-diving for my stash of Hagen Daz ice cream. With spoon in hand, I dig-in and realize that the only negative to our electronic visit is not being able to eat the oven-fresh crumble in Paris with my friends. But hey, the ice cream’s not so bad all on its own. Want some?
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How To Core and Peel Apples for easy reference.
Hi Barbara. That apple crumble looks great!
PS I am back in Novato until Dec 15th.
With thanks! Yet one more notable posting, it is why we returned to your blog site usually!!