© 2009-2011 Quality Eating and Drinking London Ltd

 

© 2009-2011 Quality Eating and Drinking London Ltd

Apple Crumble Coffee Breads

Or, if you care to reflect pan-European influence on British kitchens, Apple Streusel Focaccia. In actual fact, this is a traditional Latvian recipe familiar to me from festive events held in 1960s Lancashire; the recipe was of course pre-war and itself reflects Nordic and Germanic influences on Baltic cuisine. It’s the first recipe I ever attempted for myself, as tea cakes and iced buns apart, yeast-raised cakes were not a staple of Lancastrian bakeries. Cardamom was hard to come by and wasn’t always included back then; indeed it was, strictly traditionally, reserved — along with that other precious aromatic, saffron — for a ‘golden bread’ served on high days and holidays.

Recipe books were not the most precious possessions of refugees (or were amongst items traded for foodstuffs) and those I have date from the post-war era (1949 onwards). The cake recipes of this era are a curious blend of those raised by hartshorn salt (ammonium carbonate, dry-distilled from deer horn and bones), yeast and the new-fangled baking powder. Even more curiously, while a recipe might specify ‘three quarters of a packet’ of baking powder, quantity of flour might be given as 120g-150g and butter and sugar ‘as required’. Safer to stay with the yeast-raised recipes, despite all the variants of flour softness and absorbency, egg size, room temperature and freshness of yeast. Actually, the following recipe is foolproof and simple — results will indeed vary, but rarely disappoint.

A note about ingredients and method: I have always used fresh yeast, but of course you can substitute dried, following packet instructions; use honey or a little sugar instead of malt syrup if easier; refined caster sugar if you must; and, interestingly, you might prefer the effect of soft rather than strong flour. There’s a lot of yeast in proportion to flour in this recipe, and the result of using soft flour will simply be a mite denser, but more tender. Little kneading is deliberate, to give a cake-like consistency. You can omit the crumble topping and sprinkle the fruit generously with lemon juice, cinnamon and caster sugar — quantity of sugar depends on the tartness of the fruit.

Dough:
500g strong, plain unbleached flour
1 tsp salt
6-8 pods cardamom, husks removed and seeds pounded
25g fresh yeast
2 Tbs warm water
1 tsp malt syrup
200ml milk
100g unsalted butter
2 eggs, beaten, plus 2 yolks (optional, for a richer dough)
100g unrefined caster sugar

Topping:
1 kg eating apples
a little lemon juice, caster sugar and cinnamon to taste — or plenty of crumble

Crumble:
250g plain flour
3-4 tsp ground cinnamon
125g unsalted butter, softened
100g unrefined caster sugar

  • Sift flour, salt and cardamom into a warm mixing bowl, and form a well in the centre.
  • Crumble the yeast and blend with the water and malt, then set aside for 10 minutes in a warm place to activate the yeast.
  • Scald the milk with the butter, then cool to room temperature.
  • Beat the eggs with the sugar to partially dissolve the latter, then pour all liquids — including activated yeast — into the well in the flour.
  • Gradually incorporate the liquid into the flour using a wooden spoon, then beat vigorously for 2-3 minutes with the spoon until the dough is smooth and slightly elastic (it will remain ‘sticky’).
  • Scrape down the sides, but leave the dough in the mixing bowl. Grease the surface of the dough lightly with unsalted butter or vegetable oil then cover and leave to prove for an hour or until almost tripled in bulk. Alternatively, prove in the refrigerator for 4 hours, then a further 4 hours at room temperature if more convenient.
  • Prepare the topping while the dough is proving. Apples should be peeled, cored and thinly sliced into crescent shapes. For the crumble, blend all ingredients using your fingers until rough crumbs are formed. Use a pressing, rolling action to compact and round the crumbs, rather than the light touch you would use for shortcrust pastry.
  • Knock back the risen dough and knead briefly in the mixing bowl, with one hand. The dough will remain slack and somewhat sticky.
  • Butter two Swiss-roll or tray-bake tins measuring 30cm x 20cm.
  • Divide the dough between the tins and press with floured knuckles to fill the tin.
  • Arrange the apples in three overlapping rows over the dough in each tin, and sprinkle with the crumble topping.
  • Let the dough prove a little more while heating the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4.
  • Bake for 30-40 minutes until the dough is no longer raw and the topping a little golden.
  • Place the tins on cake racks and cool the breads in the tins. If not eating immediately, place the tins in plastic bags or cover in plastic wrap. Slice shortly before eating, or freezing.

SD