*Another of my delicious recipes previously published in my newspaper column.
In 2009 Bramley Cooking Apples celebrated its 200th birthday, a year which saw many UK TV chefs promote what is considered the best cooking apple in the world. Bigger in size than all dessert (eating) apples its sharper flavour makes it ideal for pies, jellies and sauces.
What’s in a name?
The Americans call it a crisp, whilst we in the UK call it a crumble. After lengthy consideration, I decided to use the word crisp in the hope of singing the praises of Bramley apples to a broader audience. Wanting to make this “apple crumble” extra special I will share some professional tricks on how to make your crumble topping crisp and melt in the mouth. It’s such a simple dessert but a soggy and stodgy mess if not done right.
At the end of this recipe you can read a little more about the history of the world’s most famous cooking apple.
Ingredients (serves 4)
4 x 4-inch tartlet cases with removable bottoms.
250g (10oz) Plain flour
160g (6 ½ oz) butter
1Tbsp caster sugar
1Tbsp cold milk
- Rub the flour and the butter into fine crumbs, mix the sugar with the egg then add.
- Add the milk and work the paste just enough to bring it together, then rest for 15 minutes.
- Roll slightly less than a quarter of the pastry out on a lightly floured surface until it is 4mm (1/5 inch) thick then gently line a butter tartlet case and trim off the excess, repeat until you have 4 cases and prick the bottom with a fork a few times.
- *Blind bake the pastry cases in a preheated oven 200 C for 20 minutes then remove the parchment and baking beans and return to the oven for 5 more minutes at 160 C until lightly brown, then allow to cool.
650g (1lb 8oz) peeled and cored Bramley apples
25g (1oz) butter
1 Tbsp caster sugar
- Cut the apples first in quarters then slice each quarter into thin wedges.
- Place into a medium-sized stainless steel saucepan with the sugar and butter.
- Cook on a low heat stirring from time to time until the apples are softened but not fully cooked.
- When the wedges are cool fill the pastry case with a good amount of the apple making sure they are not too wet, use 4-5 slices to covers the edges of the pastry.
50g (2oz) Plain flour
25g (1oz) butter
1dessertspoon of oats
1 Tbsp brown sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Rub the flour and butter into a sandy texture, add the oats, sugar, cinnamon and mix well.
- Spread the crumble topping onto a non-stick baking tray and bake in the oven at 180 C gas
mark 4 until golden brown turning the mix over from time to time to help it brown evenly and keep it from clumping together. At the same time bake the apple tarts on a lower shelf until the apples are fully cooked.
Use a dessert spoon and carefully sprinkle the topping into the middle of each tart leaving a small amount of apple visible. Serve with homemade vanilla custard or vanilla ice cream.
You will have a little of the pastry spare because getting the balance of ingredients is critical in pastry, and didn’t want to start measuring half an egg etc.
Bramley Apples Brief History
The first ‘Bramley’s Seedling’ tree grew from pips planted by Mary Ann Brailsford when she was a young girl in her garden in Southwell,Nottinghamshire in 1809. The tree was later included in the purchase of the cottage by a local butcher, Matthew Bramley in 1846.
In 1856, a local nurseryman Henry Merryweather asked if he could take cuttings from the tree and start to sell the apples. Bramley agreed but insisted that the apples should bear his name.
The first recorded sale of the variety is in Henry Merryweather’s book of accounts on 31 October 1862. He sold “three Bramley apples for 2/- to Mr Geo Cooper of Upton Hall”. Which was a very high price at the time.
Fruits of the grafted apple were first exhibited before the Royal Horticultural Society’s Fruit Committee on 6 December 1876. They were highly commended.
Bramley Seedlings received a First Class Certificate by the Committee of the Royal Jubilee Exhibition of Apples held in Manchester in October.
1889 and 1893
Bramley Seedling was awarded a First Class Certificate by the Committee of the Nottingham Botanical Society and at the Gardening and Forestry Exhibition in September 1893. The Royal Horticultural Society’s Apple Show awarded further First Class Certificates to the Bramley in August 1893.
Disaster struck when the original Bramley tree blew down during violent storms at the turn of the century. However, the tree somehow survived and continued to bear fruit.
During the early 1900s, the Bramley trees were extensively planted, with the fruit a useful source of food during the First World War.
The 1944 fruit census comprised more than one-third of six and a quarter million Bramley’s Seedling trees in commercial plantations in England and Wales.
Bramley growers themselves are working closely together to expand their market opportunities and, through the Bramley Campaign, which was set up in 1989, are running successful consumer campaigns funded by voluntary subscription.
The Bramley tree was one of fifty great British trees chosen by the Tree Council’s country-wide network of tree wardens, as a special way to mark the Golden Jubilee and to celebrate fifty great years – one for every year of the Queen’s reign.
Because of the spread of Bramley’s to other parts of the world, specialist fruit wholesalers can offer Bramleys to their customers for 12 months of the year. The original Bramley apple tree, amazingly enough, continues to bear fruit to this day you can view this short BBC clip here.
Those few pips planted by a little girl in her garden in Nottinghamshire 200 years ago are responsible for what is today a £50 million industry, with commercial growers across Kent, East Anglia and the West Midlands, Bramley apples are also grown in the Canada and the USA.