Friday, December 27, 2013

Apple Crumble with Brown Bread Crumbs

by Sheila Connolly

Okay, it’s two days after Christmas and you’re just plain cooked out.  You’re still eating leftovers, and may be for another week.  Maybe you’re even pizza-ed out too.

But I want comfort food, and that usually means dessert, and particularly one with apples.  No, not a pie, with those pesky crusts, which I still can’t make.  I want a crisp, a slump, a grunt, a Brown Betty, or call it what you will.  Often in Ireland and the UK it’s called a crumble.  I kind of like that. I know, you’ve seen a million of these, but there’s always room for one more, right?

A Bramley apple--it must have weighed a pound
I think I decided on this recipe because I wanted to share with you the picture of a single Bramley apple that I bought (and used!) in Ireland recently.  I like Bramleys, the green cooking apple used in a lot of English and Irish cooking.  It’s nicely tart and it holds its shape in cooking.  And if you use big ones, you don’t have to peel so many.

But then, I have the heel of a loaf of Irish brown bread that I made, that I wanted to use up.  Just like with the pie crusts, I am brown-bread challenged, even though I have at least a dozen recipes from many sources.  I just can’t seem to get it right, but I keep trying.  Anyway, this loaf came out with a strong resemblance to concrete, and (no surprise) we didn’t eat all of it.  So I figured, aha! I shall crumble it up and use it with apples. (I did a dry run of this in Ireland—with bread that someone else made.)

Except I couldn’t find a recipe.  I found many that had the same basic ingredients for the topping:  cold butter, flour, cinnamon, often oats and/or chopped walnuts.  All tasty, I’m sure, but not what I wanted.

So I improvised:  first, I reduced that megalithic brown bread to medium-size crumbs (in a food processor).  Then I segued to the typical recipe and where you mix the crumble part with your fingers with brown sugar and butter.  Cinnamon if you’re in the mood. 
The fruit bit.  Take some apples, peel and slice or chop into chunks.  Toss with sugar, flour and cinnamon.  Place in a buttered casserole dish, then sprinkle the aforesaid crumble over them.  Bake.

In a fit of optimism I bought two pounds of fresh cranberries a while ago (we live a mile from the nearest cranberry bog) but never used them, since we were a couple of thousand miles away on Thanksgiving.  They’re hanging in there, so I threw in a cup or two of those too.  If you do, increase the amount of sugar in the fruit mixture, since the cranberries are a bit sour. It's up to you. If the result is still too tart, add sweetened whipped cream at the end.

Fresh local cranberries

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Generously butter a 2-quart casserole or baking dish.


2 pounds cooking apples (greenings, granny smiths, or whatever you have—I used Cortlands and Northern Spys from my own trees!)
Two pounds of my own apples
1/2 cup white sugar

1 Tblsp white flour

1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional)

1/2 pound fresh cranberries (optional)

In a large bowl, toss the ingredients to cover the fruit pieces, then transfer to the baking dish.


2 cups (brown) bread crumbs, (if you’re not using crumbs, substitute rolled oats and/or chopped walnuts)

4 oz/1 stick cold butter, cut into small pieces

1 cup brown sugar, packed

¾ cup white flour

½ tsp cinnamon


Mix all the ingredients together with your fingers—the mixture will be chunky.  Sprinkle it over the fruit.
Ready for the oven

Bake in the preheated oven for about 30-40 minutes, or until the juices bubble around the edges and the top is nicely browned.  Serve with whipped cream, ice cream, or whatever you like.
And ready to eat!
Coming in February 2014!  If you're a fan of Downton Abbey and/or classic mysteries where all is explained in the final scene in the drawing room over tea, you'll enjoy this.

And may 2014 be filled with wonderful things for you.





  1. Interesting take on the traditional sugary crumb topping, and I am sure the cranberries add a nice tartness to the pie. Thanks for sharing, Sheila.

    ~ Cleo

  2. Wonder what the challenge is with brown bread? Ingredients? I find that if I use too much Irish wheat meal (King Arthur flour) the bread is too "toothy". Although, the Irish peasants certainly didn't have a lot of all purpose flour (in the sense we mean it) around to use!
    Great recycling of the bread, by the way.

  3. Looks yummy, Sheila! You're right--dessert is comfort food, especially when it involves baked fruit.

  4. The apple is gorgeous Sheila. How about shipping some of your crop to your friends??? xo

  5. Sheila, what a creative combination. The cranberries add just the right amount of color!

    Daryl /Avery