Blackberry and Apple Crumble

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Blackberry and apple crumble is still a great British dish, with the automatic proviso that it can be awful if treated with a leaden hand. Try this version in which the crumble is made buttery to the point of caramelization, the apples used are tart eating apples and the filling, spiked with brandy, is encased in a crisp almond and lemon crust. It all adds up to a blackberry and apple experience far removed from the giant metal tins of schooldays their cement-like topping cracking to allow the lava-like substance beneath to ooze unattractively through the surface, dark-streaked and malevolent.

Ingredients

For the Tart Shell

  • 125 g/ oz caster sugar
  • 60 g/ 2 oz almonds
  • 125 g/ oz flour, plus more for dusting
  • 100 g/ oz butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1 medium egg, plus 1 extra yolk
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • pinch of salt

For the Filling

  • 170 g/ 6 oz blackberries
  • 900 g/ 2 lb crisp, tart eating apples like Jonathan, Braeburn or Granny Smith, peeled and cored and cut into 2.5-cm /1-inch chunks
  • 60 g/ 2 oz butter
  • 60 g/ 2 oz caster sugar
  • 2–3 tbsp brandy

For the Crumble Topping

  • 6 tbsp plain flour
  • 6 tbsp brown sugar
  • 6 tbsp ground almonds
  • 85 g/ 3 oz unsalted butter, softened

Method

Make the tart shell pastry by putting the sugar, almonds and flour into a processor and turning it on at full speed for a few seconds. Add the butter and work until just crumbed. Add the egg and extra yolk, lemon zest, salt and 2 teaspoons of water and work again until the pastry balls. Scrape out on a sheet of cling-film and form into a cylinder about 5 cm / 2 inches in diameter. Chill for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Flour a work surface heavily and roll out the pastry. If it refuses to be rolled, cut the cylinder across in slices and press these into a 25-cm /10-inch loose-bottomed tart tin with your fingers, making a double thickness round the edges and pushing right up to the top as it shrinks as it bakes. Freeze until needed.

Make the filling: if using frozen berries defrost enough in a sieve to give 170 g/6 oz drained. Sauté the apples in the butter. As they start to brown and soften, scatter over the sugar and continue to cook until lightly caramelized. Add the brandy and shake to evaporate.

Make the crumble topping by sifting the flour into a processor with the brown sugar, ground almonds and butter. Pulse briefly to crumb and reserve.

Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/ gas 5. Prick the base of the tart shell, line with baking paper or foil and weight with beans. Bake blind for 10 minutes, remove beans and lining, and bake uncovered for another 5 minutes.

Fill with the apple mixture, but leave space for the crumble. Scatter the blackberries over the top, followed by the crumble, pressing down and smoothing level. Bake for 30–40 minutes, when the crumble should be biscuity and golden.

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