Caramel Apple Crumble

Hello January. My last recipe was a healthy salad option. This is a decadent and delicious crumble. Absolutely packed with warming buttery goodness. As you might be able to tell, I don’t really go in for the whole health kick January thing. Yes, some post-Christmas moderation is absolutely fine, if that’s what you want to do to feel better in yourself. But cutting out entire food groups is the road to sadness. January is hard enough for us all without ditching stuff that can bring us pleasure. I plan to spend January eating plenty of tasty homemade food, and that will include salads and soups and stews and fish, but also crumbles and brownies and pie. Because I’m a realist (about this, anyway).


Also, I love crumble. Humble crumble is an underrated dessert. But god, it’s just so delicious. And easy. And adaptable. This week I am bringing you this classic apple crumble number with a caramel and calvados twist. Next week, I am going to bring you a completely different crumble recipe. It will use the exact same proportions and method, but I’ll tweak the ingredients to make a different dish.


As I write this, it’s flat and grey outside. The trees are bare. It’s pouring with rain. The cat is bored and fed up of hanging out with me, but doesn’t want to leave because the weather is so grim, so she’s just giving me evil looks as if I am the one who has ruined the outside world. This is the morning that most people have gone back to work – as, indeed, have I, but I get to do the work from my living room. This month can be rough on us all, so let’s try to be kind to ourselves and each other. For instance, I am going to continue to lavish affection on the cat, even though she keeps sitting on the keyboard while I am trying to type because she’s cross that I’m working instead of playing with her. Baby steps.



Once you have the basic proportions and method down, you can do a million different things with a crumble recipe. I’ll give you another example next week. Because I care about you all.

This will make 6-8 portions. I am not saying it will feed 6-8 people, because we can happily polish this off between the two of us. Not in one sitting. I think crumble makes a great breakfast.


For the crumble topping

240g plain flour
120g golden caster sugar
130g cold butter, cut into pieces
100g hazelnuts, blitzed in food processor or finely chopped

For the base

200g sultanas
100ml calvados (or brandy of your choice, or feel free to skip the alcohol)
6 medium eating apples
70g unsalted butter
70g light brown soft brown sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
100g caramel (homemade or from a jar)

Cream or ice cream, to serve


  1. Pop the sultanas and the calvados in a bowl together so the sultanas can absorb some of the alcohol.
  2. Heat your oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5. Tip the flour and sugar into a large bowl. Add the butter, then rub into the flour with your fingers until you reach breadcrumb texture. Stir in the hazelnuts. Spread the crumble evenly over a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, or until lightly coloured.
  3. Meanwhile, peel, core and cut the apples into chunks. Put the butter and sugar in a large saucepan and melt together over a medium heat. Cook for a couple of minutes until everything is dissolved, and the mixture is a caramel colour. Stir in the apples, and cook for 5 minutes. Add the sultanas, any remaining alcohol that hasn’t been absorbed, and cinnamon, and cook for 5 minutes more. Tip the mixture into your chosen crumble dish. Dot it with spoonfuls of the caramel.
  4. Top the fruit with your crumble. Cook the whole thing in the oven for around 15 minutes, or until hot through, golden, and bubbling. Serve with cream or ice cream.

Peanut, Banana, and Caramel Brownies

I would be exaggerating if I said my favourite thing about our trip to Seville was the peanut, banana, and toffee brownie I ate at Regadera. But it was definitely among my top five favourite things of the holiday. That and the kitten we met. And, uh, the architecture. Obviously.

I knew I wouldn’t be able to recreate it exactly at home. Part of the joy of that particular dessert was delivered in the form of an incredible banana ice cream, and I don’t have an ice cream maker. But I couldn’t get the idea of a peanut, banana, and caramel brownie out of my head. Yes, it seemed like a lot of ingredients to throw at a brownie. But I know that chocolate and banana are good together. And that banana and peanut butter are good together. And that banana and caramel are good together. I mean, it at least didn’t seem like a terrible idea.


I’ve made chocolate banana bread many times before, so I was hoping that the bananas in brownies idea would work in a similar way – that the bananas would make the brownies even more moist, dense, and fudgy. And, happily, this is exactly what they did.

These brownies are undoubtedly a bit much for some people. There are plenty of purists who like their brownies plain, perhaps with one addition if they’re going wild. But, as you might be able to tell if you’ve read this blog at all, I’m not really one of those people.



If this is all a bit much for you, you could skip out one of the peanut/banana/caramel triumvirate. But I promise it’s tasty.

Brownies keep really excellently well in the freezer. You can make a batch, cut them, freeze them, then whip one out and microwave it for thirty seconds every time the brownie urge strikes.


200g 70% dark chocolate
140g butter
200g caster sugar
2 eggs
100g plain flour
2 very ripe bananas, mashed
100g roasted peanuts
3 tbsp peanut butter
5 tbsp salted caramel (buy in a jar or make your own)


  1. Break your chocolate into pieces and chop your butter into rough cubes and place them both in a glass or metal bowl over a pan of gently simmering water. Leave them to melt, stirring occasionally. Preheat your oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Grease and line a 20x20cm square tin.
  2. When your chocolate and butter have completely melted, beat in your sugar (I use an electric hand whisk), followed by your eggs. Add your flour to the mixture and beat that in too. Mix in your bananas, then stir through your peanuts and peanut butter.
  3. Pour the mixture into the tin, smooth the surface, and then dollop your salted caramel on top of the batter and swirl it around with a knife or skewer. Bake for around 25 mins – the salted caramel will sit in a liquidy way on top of the batter and make you think the brownies are not done, but they will firm as they cool.
  4. Normally I advocate eating brownies warm from the pan, and while you absolutely can do that here, they will be very gooey. If I need to slice these neatly or take them anywhere I normally let them chill and firm in the fridge for a couple of hours first.

Chocolate Caramel Skillet Cookie

I’ve seen pictures of skillet cookies all over the internet for ages, and I’ve always been a bit scared of them, conceptually. And, thinking about it, it’s only because the term skillet kind of confused me. I always sort of thought I didn’t have a skillet. But it turns out that a skillet is just a frying pan. I have lots of frying pans. All you need for this is a frying pan you can put in the oven, and then you’re away. There is very little standing between you and a giant chocolate caramel skillet cookie right now.


The joy of this recipe is that it’s incredibly easy. It’s actually simpler than making regular cookies (which is pretty simple anyway), because you don’t have to bother with shaping individual balls of dough, or with chilling your mixture down. It’s quicker than most cake batters. It bakes up very quickly in the oven. And then you don’t have to bother with turning it out, like a normal cake. The charm of the chocolate caramel skillet cookie is that you can serve the whole thing at the table. Or, er, on the sofa. You know, if you were eating it by yourself. Which obviously you wouldn’t do. Nope.


It’s called a cookie, but really this is a bit of a cake and cookie hybrid. The texture is not quite cookie, but not quite cake either. Or, to put it another way, it’s the best of both worlds. Cookie and cake in one. What more could you ask for?



As with any cookie, you can add whatever you like to this. I have kept it simple here, but any chocolate you have would be lovely in this recipe, as would the addition of nuts.

I had a jar of dulce de leche to hand, but caramel would work too, and you could of course make it from scratch (my recipe is here, if you like).

I didn’t grease my skillet because it’s non-stick, but if yours isn’t then I advise greasing it well with butter.


150g butter, cubed
100g brown sugar
50g caster sugar
1 egg, whisked
1 tsp vanilla extract
230g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
100g 70% dark chocolate, roughly chopped
50g caramel or dulce de leche


  1. Heat your oven to 190C/170C fan/ gas 4. Melt your butter and both sugars together in a large saucepan gently, then take off the heat and let cool when combined.
  2. Whisk your egg and vanilla together in a small bowl, then stir it into the butter and sugar mix, making sure the butter isn’t too hot (you should be able to comfortably put your finger into it). Sieve your flour, baking powder, and salt over the mixture, and stir to combine.
  3. Spread your cookie mixture into medium skillet (mine was 20cm diameter), then press chocolate chunks into the top and dot with spoonfuls of caramel. Bake for around 15-20 minutes, or until the top of the cookie is golden and crispy,  but the inside is soft. Finish with a drizzle more caramel and a sprinkle of sea salt, then let everyone dig in. It’s great with ice cream too.

The Bake Off Bake Along: Chocolate & Pistachio Caramel Cake

I was embarrassingly excited about caramel week from the moment I heard of its existence. ‘Now that’, I thought, ‘is going to be a fun bake off bake along week’. I mean, who doesn’t love caramel? People who are wrong, that’s who.

Stroopwafels are one of my favourite things ever… but I don’t have a waffle iron. I was very torn. There was a serious moment when I considered buying one (I got to the ‘looking up prices on Amazon’ stage), but it seems a bit too insane and profligate to buy an expensive bit of kit just for the sake of making one bake off bake along technical challenge. Even on caramel week.

Realistically I would never use it again, and in my teeny tiny kitchen every single bit of kit has to be there for a good reason. It’s a bit rubbish, actually, for them to set a technical challenge that requires an obscure bit of equipment, so people at home generally can’t join in. Also, considering that every single person messed up the stroopwafel caramel, I reckon they were either given insufficient instructions or insufficient time. I mean, if half of them messed it up then fine – but all of them?


So, down to a choice of two things. I absolutely love a millionaire’s shortbread, but since I have done the signature challenge every single week for the bake off bake along so far, I thought this was perhaps my one chance to give a showstopper a go. You know, when it wasn’t something insane, like a biscuit board game or a bread sculpture. A caramel cake seems pretty reasonable. I make stupid huge cakes fairly often.

It felt like cursing myself to think this, but I have never been particularly scared by the concept of making caramel. One of the things I bake most often is salted caramel brownies, so I make caramel for those all the time. And it hasn’t gone wrong yet. Cue targeted lightning strike from the heavens directed at my kitchen and everything blowing up.


It was actually fine. But I did cheat slightly in that I didn’t use a spun sugar decoration. I’ve done spun sugar at culinary school, and I love playing with it, but… well, to be honest, it’s an absolute and total pain cleaning up little bits of spun sugar when they are scattered and hardened all over your kitchen, and now that I’m working full time I have to cram these bake along sessions into sneaky little grabbed hours.

So here we have it: a chocolate brownie and pistachio cake, sandwiched with a salted caramel layer and a pistachio buttercream, decorated with raspberries, homemade honeycomb, and pistachio caramel shards. It’s not the prettiest thing ever. It’s fairly messy, and I was rushing. But it was tasty. And it has caramel, chocolate, and pistachio. And those are three of my favourite things.


So where’s the recipe?

This might be a bit of a cop out, but I’m not sharing the recipe, because it would be incredibly long and complicated. Two different types of cake, salted caramel, pistachio buttercream, honeycomb, pistachio shards… I am assuming no one is going to be casually making this! Do let me know in the comments if you’re particularly after the recipe for any of the elements of the cake and I will happily provide it.

Another week, another bake off bake along done, and enough caramel made to use up all the white sugar in my baking cupboard. And there was a really serious amount of sugar in my baking cupboard.

The story so far: bake along one, two, and three


Leiths: Foundation Term, Week 6

Before I started at Leiths, I basically hadn’t done any sustained exercise since being on the netball B team in primary school in 1999. I have attempted several different sports – running, swimming, cycling, walking, yoga, badminton, pilates, lifting weights, dancing, roller derby, ice skating, working out at the gym – and every time I try to exercise, the universe steers me away by making horrible things happen to me. You think I am exaggerating, but I’m not. This is neither the time nor the place, but I could tell you many harrowing stories that end with me in tears, disgrace, and/or hospital.

So, six weeks ago when I started at Leiths, I wasn’t in great physical shape. However, what I lack in core strength and lung volume I make up for in wilful, blind, stubborn determination. I essentially thought I could force my body to cycle ten miles a day while carrying heavy loads, on top of being on my feet all the time and never quite having enough sleep, by just… not giving up. This sounds stupid and naive, but up until this week it was actually going pretty well.

Unfortunately, I have now crashed. Previously unable to sleep in public places, I have now become one of those people who is instantly unconscious on the morning train and has to be politely prodded awake by wary fellow commuters when we reach London, whereupon I smush my face into the train window and moan ‘Nooooo, five more minutes.’ If I sit on the sofa when I get home, I fall asleep. I find my eyes sliding closed while waiting at traffic lights on my bike. I frequently come to a complete standstill in the school kitchens, unable to remember what I am supposed to be doing. Luckily, my name is written on all my aprons, right over the school logo, or I’d probably forget who and where I am all the time too.


Correspondingly, my cooking this week started out pretty mediocre. On Monday we had a day of delicious joy, cooking chocolate mousse, blackberry pavlova, and sirloin steak. I love all of these things. However, I managed to over-fold my mouse and over-cook my steak. This last was particularly galling as I like my meat blue, and think over-cooking steak is a very sad thing indeed. However, we were instructed to cook the steaks medium-rare, and I cooked mine for two minutes per side, which turned out to be a massive over-shoot. The picture below shows stages of steak cooking, starting off with blue and progressing up to incinerated. I like my steak at a 1 one this scale, but for class was trying to cook it to a 3, but ended up at a 4. This is sort of like the unhelpful pain scale in hospitals, yes? But more delicious.


Tuesday was another disaster day. Due to general exhaustion and my brain not being in gear, I cut the lamb for my spiced stew into pieces which were too small. That’s a mistake you can’t really undo once it’s done, so I had to get on with the long process of assembling and cooking the stew (which carried on into the next day), knowing that I’d done something fundamentally wrong at the start. We then had to make fresh marzipan for scratch to cover our Christmas cakes, which was surprisingly tricky. Actually, not ‘surprisingly’, more like ‘expectedly’. I thought it would be hard, and it was. Marzipan is delicate and prone to cracking, and so when I tried to cover my cake with it the whole sheet started to fall apart and I had to madly seal up cracks as quickly as possible, without over-working it. It was not a pretty sight. Still, the Christmas cake has been drowned in Calvados, so how bad can it really be?

On Wednesday, I slightly redeemed myself. I finished off the stew and it actually, against all the odds, tasted good. I also made autumn crumble with my table partner, which was pretty delicious. I know this because I wolfed the whole thing down cold for lunch in the dem room out of tupperware with a plastic fork, because I missed my lunch break while trying to adjust a costings spreadsheet. My life: all glamour.


I was reliably informed that the fruit juices bubbling up from under a crumble topping make it look ‘more real’, and thus they are acceptable.


Our Thursday session began with us being reprimanded for how slow we’d been in our Wednesday session. Correspondingly, in our Thursday session we worked so quickly that we were done by 11.30am rather than 1pm, and ended up making choux pastry for Friday a day in advance so that we had something to do. That came after pork tenderloin in Marsala sauce with kale, and pizzaiola sauce for Friday. I surprised myself by making a good Marsala sauce and cooking my pork well. The pork-cooking was a complete fluke and I had no idea it was cooked well until Ansobe cut into it, but shh, they will never know. (I am seriously assuming that Leiths staff will never read this blog and realise what an incompetent fool I am).


By Friday, I was not the only one rendered insensible by exhaustion. Sensing this, perhaps, Leiths gave us what I thought of as the ‘children’s birthday party day’: cooking pizza and profiteroles in the morning, followed by a jelly and ice cream dem in the afternoon. Now, please don’t hate me, but I tend to be a bit lukewarm about pizza. I worked in a travelling food van with a wood-fired pizza oven over the summer, and that produced absolutely amazing pizza which was a joy to eat. As a general rule, though, pizza doesn’t particularly excite me. I tend to think that unless you are getting the absolute best stuff available, it doesn’t taste that amazing. Takeaway pizza and restaurant pizza is usually disappointing, and I’d always go for Thai, Indian, Chinese, or pretty much any other option over ordering a pizza delivery. Unfortunately, making my own pizza didn’t change my mind. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I totally ate it all, but without a proper pizza oven and the authentic techniques, it did not even slightly rock my world. Profiteroles, on the other hand, will always be a source of delight.


The jelly and ice cream dem with Hélène was a lovely, gentle way to ease out of the week. I haven’t done a huge amount of work with setting agents and I found the theory portion of the dem really interesting – learning about powdered and leaf gelatine, what the different gradings mean, what agar agar and rennet actually are, how vegetarian setting agents are made and so on – and it definitely inspired me to be less afraid of making things like panna cotta and made me lust after an ice cream machine all over again. We got to taste lots of things, my favourite of which was a completely delicious Perry jelly with caramelised pears. And I don’t even like cider. I might even make it at home and post the recipe on here if I ever get an hour free (perhaps in 2018).

I have now decided to work through the dems backwards to Monday in a completely chronologically illogical way. Thursday’s dem was shellfish, which was brilliant for me because I love all fish. Phil slightly scared me by warning us that having shellfish poisoning feels a lot like dying and thus it is vital to make sure your gastropods, cephalopods, and bivalves (little bit of mollusc definition lingo for you there) are very fresh and of good quality, lest you kill someone. Sadly, Oxford is incredibly bloody landlocked and I don’t know any good fishmongers around here, but if I ever find one then I will be making the mussel recipe we tasted in the dem because it was great.

Wednesday’s dem was delivered by Angela Malik, who came to visit us at Leiths to teach us about Indian cooking. I knew that Indian cooking is very regional, but I hadn’t understood before what the classic hallmarks of northern, southern, and eastern Indian food are, and it was incredibly interesting to learn about how different the cuisine is in various areas of the country and why. Tuesday’s dem was delivered by Michael and was on meat preparation and cooking. Against really stiff competition, I think it was one of my favourite dems so far in terms of the food we got to taste. Everything was delicious and I wanted to go home and try every single recipe, particularly the chicken with forty cloves of garlic. Although, really, I don’t have the patience for such things and would probably end up doing seventeen and calling it a day. Finally, we began the week (still with me?) with a dem on sugar syrups with Ansobe. I’ve done a bit of sugar work before, but nothing very technical – I tend to make dry caramel by simply dumping a pile of caster sugar into a pan, whacking it on a really high heat and hoping for the best. Unsurprisingly, this approach has given me mixed results in the past. On Monday we learned about the nine stages of sugar syrup, and how to make caramel safely without sustaining extensive and hideously painful sugar syrup burns. Always useful.

Week 7 approacheth, and I have blistered feet, burned knuckles, and lots of choux pastry in tupperware. Onwards.