Lately, I can't help but be wistful about the US. Maybe it's because I'm going back in a month to spend Christmas, a trip that can't come soon enough. Maybe it's lingering euphoria from election day, an adrenaline-filled 24 hours of more giddiness and pride than I can remember. Or maybe it has just been too long.
Getting out of Beijing on weekend hiking trips has helped. Even though the foliage is nowhere near as breathtaking as, say, New England's, I'm happy to enjoy fresher air, some much-needed exercise, and being surrounded by harvests. Once you get out to the villages there will always a slew of produce stands selling the latest fruits and vegetables, with cheaper prices and better quality than in Beijing.
And of course, apples are everywhere now. You can get a 5-kilo bag of slightly bruised apples for about 11 RMB, or $1.61. These are good for baking, though sometimes I'll splurge on nice unblemished ones for a few RMB more.
The natural thing to bake for any nostalgia-struck American would be apple pie, but I'm what you would call a lazy baker. Apple crumbles, with no need for lattice tops or any other sort of crusts, take much less effort.
For these mini crumbles, I just cored the apples, cubed them, and simmered them for about 20 minutes to soften. Then I mixed in some sugar, spooned the fruit into ramekins, and topped them off with a mealy butter-flour topping laced with cinnamon and nutmeg.
During the 40 minutes of baking and about 30 minutes afterward your kitchen will smell like apple-lovers' heaven. If baked apple aroma can help realtors sell houses, it can also help ward off my homesickness.
More recipes for in-season apples:
Unfussy Apple Cake from 101 Cookbooks
Apple Butter from Simply Recipes
Apple, Raspberry, and Chocolate Clafoutis from La Tartine Gourmande
Maple-Apple Tartlets from The Recipe Girl
Easy Apple Crumble
6 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced into small cubes 3/4 cup sugar 2 cups flour 11/2 cups brown sugar 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg 8 tbsp. butter, chopped into pieces
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a medium to large pan, bring 1 1/2 cups of water to boil. Simmer apple cubes in water until softened, about 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in sugar until uniformly melted and well-combined. Transfer apple/sugar mixture to ramekins.
In a large bowl, combine flour, bown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Work butter into the mixture until it has a coarse mealy texture. Sprinkle topping over the apples. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Let cool for a few minutes before serving.