Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Chai-Spiced Apple Crumble

In my undergrad years, my roomie and I lived on the Celestial Seasonings Bengal Spice herb tea. It was caffeine free, ergo, bedtime beverage approved. We went through a box in just a week, infusing our breaths with the comforting, homey scents of cinnamon, ginger, cloves and cardamom. It’s a surprise we didn’t empty the box sooner, since Montreal winters are famous for plummeting to -40°C. 

I was inspired with the idea of a chai spiced dessert using the bounty of apples this fall. But I’m not too keen on warm fruit. Warm pies make me cringe. Grilled pineapples make me shudder. Hot crepes with soft banana slices make me gag. There’s something about the texture of cooked fruit that I have major issues with, I prefer eating fruit plain and cold.

I can’t say I never cook with fruit, since I like to showcase the best of what the season has to offer. If I do bake with fruit, I make sure that the dessert is served at room temperature, like this blueberry galette or this peach clafouti.

But I digress. This apple crumble goes beyond the usual addition of cinnamon in the crumble mixture. Here, a flurry of other ground spices joined the oat-crumble topping: ginger, cloves, and cardamom, similar flavourings as the Bengal Spice tea. When I massaged butter into pea-sized bits with the rolled oats, puffs of flour filled the air, tickling my nose with the spices. I chopped up apples, tossed in sugar and cornstarch (to help thicken the sauce), dumped the crumble mixture on top and baked it at 425°F. In half an hour, my nose was more than just tickled; it was seduced with the sweet perfume of apples and spices.   

The pan bubbled and squeaked with hot fruit juices as I pulled it out of the oven. I waited impatiently for it to cool, but unfortunately, the apples turned out too syrupy sweet (from excess of sugar, but Eureka! Apple crumble dolloped on plain yogurt makes a superb breakfast!). On the bright side, the topping transformed into beautiful crunchy, nubby bits of gold, the pungent mix of spices hugged the apples in all the right places, giving it that exotic zing, that hit of something different other than the old stand by of cinnamon and apples. 

I wonder if I make crumble only for the topping, which I could eat all day long, especially if it’s spiked with chai--I just couldn’t refuse.

Chai-Spiced Apple Crumble 
Adapted from Epicurious 

I tinkled with the original recipe by dialing down the sugar, adding chai spices and reducing the number of apples. I must warn you, the amount of spices here is not for the faint-heartened, it’s a hefty amount, just the way I like it. If you prefer a more subtle hint of spice, feel free to cut the total amount of ground spices in half.

Makes 8 servings

5 apples such as Gala or Granny Smith, washed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2/3 cup sugar, divided
1½ tablespoons cornstarch
¾ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup old-fashioned oats
½ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt 
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1. Preheat oven to 425°F, position rack in middle. 

2. Stir together apples, 1/3 cup sugar, cornstarch, and vanilla and place in a buttered shallow 2-quart baking dish. 

3. Stir together oats, flour, salt, spices, and remaining 2/3 cup sugar. Blend in butter with your fingertips until mixture forms small clumps. Scatter over apples and bake until juices are bubbling and topping is golden brown, about 25 minutes. Cool slightly before serving.

Recipe here!

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