Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The No-Fail Gift

Do you remember that crazy, silver spray-painted macaroni wreathe that you made in kindergarten and presented proudly to your parents as soon as you got home? Ever wonder why your mom keeps it hung up on the wall after all these years, talks about it to every guest, and yet that beautiful angora sweater that you bought her for her birthday last year hasn't been worn even once? Well, it's because what your kindergarten teacher told you was true: the best gifts are the ones you make. The mixed tapes (or CDs .. or mp3 playlists now a days??), home-made cards, the photo frames with favourite memory pictures ... and the jar of cookies with the bow tied to it. Gifts that come from the heart are almost always ones that you put your love and sweat into by making.
When I want to make a special treat for the ones that I love, I always look to my "no-fail" recipes. They're different for different people. For my Dad, it would be "fluffy cake" (a plain butter and sour cream pound cake), for my sister and best friend, probably chocolate chip cookies, for my cousin it would be peanut butter cookies. For my love, it's got to be apple crumble.

I first made apple crumble with my sister. We guessed at the ingredients and method, and made it quite a few times before writing the measurements down.I remember her saying "So how do you think we get the butter and flour and sugar to be crumbly." And I said, quickly recalling a foodTV episode "Anna Olsen says you rub the butter into the flour and sugar until it looks likes peas." We did just that, and it worked perfectly. Over the years, I've tried fiddling with the recipe, adding oats, cinnamon, or using whole wheat flour. But the original version always gets the best reviews. I made it the other night as a special request and it was, as always, very well received. So please try this recipe -- even if you're like my apple-hating best friend (yeah, she hates apples! Who hates apples?!), I'm confident that you'll take a second bite.

No-Fail-I-Love-You Apple Crumble

2-3 apples (my favourite is Empire), peeled, cored and cut into small chunks
1/2 + 2 tablespoons of brown sugar
a pinch of cinnamon
1/2 cup of butter, cold, cut into small cube, + 1 tablespoon for the apples
3/4 cup of all purpose flour

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

2. Place your apple chunks, cinnamon, 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of brown sugar in a pot and cook on low, stirring occasionally.

3. While the apples are cooking, make your crumble. Put the flour and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl and stir around until mixed together. Add the butter and rub it against the flour until the mixture has lumps the size of peas (just like Anna Olsen said!). Put half of this mixture in the bottom of a pie plate or cake pan and bake for about 15 minutes or until it gets golden and fragrant. Remove from the oven.

4. When the apples have softened, spread them out on top. Add the remaining crumble mixture and put the whole thing back in the oven for 20 minutes or until the top gets brown and you can smell cinnamon and apples coming from your oven.

5. Present it to the love of your life with pride.


  1. hey Leslie, I agree, food gifts - especially baked goods - are awesome and always appreciated! : ) Do you think I could do a straight substitute of pears or berries for the apples?

  2. hey gigglejuice! if you use pears, you might want to add a tangy fruit to it (i think pears lack the sweet-tangy combo that makes apples perfect for pies etc.) like raspberries or fresh cranberries. you could probably do a straight substitute of berries, but i would add some lemon juice and zest to the berries while their cooking. :)