Stress-free Christmas dessert: Individual apple crumbles

Apple crumble

Kids, light your photos properly. Colour correction is a pain..

Everyone who has asked me what I'm making for Christmas lunch gets the same answer: nothing, if I can help it. Cooking is great, but at Christmas time all I want is to relax.

I want to drink a few beers, gorge myself on cheese and dips, enjoy the sun (woo Southern Hemisphere!), and chat to friends and family, all without having the nagging worry that the meat and vegetables might not be done at the same time. But if you do find yourself in charge, you can (and should) make things easier for yourself by getting prepared. Dessert lends itself particularly well to preparation, and with these individual apple crumbles you can serve your guests dessert straight out of the oven without any anxiety on the day.

Apple crumble is a favourite of mine because it's hard to unforgivably screw up. Even if the topping isn't perfectly crisp or the apples are a little crisp it's still pretty tasty (and some good custard on the side is even better for masking any flaws). A good trick I've seen involves adding oats to the crumble to boost flavour and texture. I used to do that until one day I ran out of oats and substituted wholemeal flour. With wholemeal flour you maintain the crumbly texture most people are used to, but still get that earthy, wheaty flavour you get with the oats.

The best thing about this dessert is that it can be easily scaled depending on the number of guests and prepared ahead. Refrigerate the uncooked crumbles until it's time, then on the day put them in the oven an hour before you want to serve dessert.

Individual apple crumbles

Ingredients (makes 2 apple crumbles):

  • 1 small apple (tart granny smiths are my favourite for this)
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • g plain flour
  • g wholemeal flour
  • g unsalted butter at room temperature
  • g sugar
  • A pinch of nutmeg

1. Preheat an oven to 180ºC/350ºF. Peel, quarter, and core the apple, then cut each quarter into quarter-inch thick slices. Layer these in small ramekins until 3/4 full and sprinkle each with 1/2 tsp of lemon juice.
2. To make the crumble topping, place the butter, flours, sugar, and nutmeg into a bowl and combine by mashing with the back of a fork. You won't be shocked to learn that the texture should be crumbly but not completely bone dry. Taste a little to determine if it needs any more sugar or wholemeal flour.
3. Divide the crumble mixture in halves and use it to top each of the prepared ramekins. Pat them down rather firmly to ensure a compact package, then fluff the top of the crumble mixture up to ensure plenty of surface area to make it nice and crumbly.
4. These can be refrigerated now, or put straight into the oven for 45 minutes or until golden and crunchy on top. If you're cooking them from the fridge, allow an additional 5-10 minutes in the oven.

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