Apple Crumble and Elves

Apple crumble illustration

It started because I bought Jon a set of espresso cups for his birthday, and wondered aloud what we could do with the saucers. Since poor co-ordination so early in the morning had been the downfall of the last cups, it seemed a fair bet that adding saucers to the mix could only end in disaster.

“Fill them with milk and leave them out for elves,” quipped Jon.

Um, what?

“For elves. You put out a saucer of milk, so they don’t steal your children. I think so, anyway.”

So many questions:

When should you do this? Is it an every night thing, or just on special occasions?

What if you don’t have children to steal? Do elves take treasured Kate Spade bracelets, or brand new laptops, or exceedingly precious and secret stashes of British chocolate instead?

Why would an elf want to steal a child? To what end? Other peoples’ kids are great and everything, but it’s usually helpful to set some kind of time limit. Are we really expected to believe that elves, who, after all, are much smaller than the kids they would be stealing, can both think of something useful to do with them and persuade them into doing it?

“Oh,” said Jon, casually, “I don’t know if it’s such a modern day issue now. But I guess back in Yore, elves were a huge problem.”

Yet another reason, along with the invention of the iPod and the lack of plague epidemics that makes me grateful to be alive in modern times.

“Don’t believe me? Google it,” said Jon. Google confirmed his position, adding this fascinating fact to the picture:

“In India, elf spirits disguised as tigers (or vice versa) steal mortal children and leave behind disguised tiger cubs.”

It’s the “vice versa” that intrigues me here the most. Elves disguised as tigers, sure, ok. But tigers disguised as elves? Another one of life’s mysteries to ponder while peeling apples.

Apple illustration

Apple Crumble

6 apples – tart ones – not golden delicious
3 tbsp sugar
Squeeze of lemon juice
4 tsp cinnamon
1 stick of cold butter (75g)
1 ½ cups of flour
½ cup oats or chopped nuts
½ cup of sugar plus 1 tbsp

  • Pre heat the oven to 400 (200 if you’re in Britain)
  • Peel and core the apples, cutting into bite sized chunks
  • Squeeze lemon juice over to stop them from browning and place in a baking dish
  • Mix with 1tbsp sugar and 2 tsp cinnamon
  • Cut the cold butter into cubes and mix with the flour either in a processor or by hand until the mixture resembles sand
  • Add in 2 tsp cinnamon, the ½ cup of sugar and the ½ cup of oats or chopped nuts
  • Scatter the crumble mixture over the apples
  • Bake for 35 minutes, then let cool for 10 minutes before serving with cream of vanilla ice cream

If you can make that you can make this:

  • Add a handful of blackberries to the apples and another tbsp of sugar
  • Add a handful of golden sultanas that have been soaked in 1 tbsp of rum for ten minutes to the apples
  • Use half pears and half apples and use ground almonds instead of half of the flour I the crumble topping
  • Bake individual crumbles in ramekins for a dinner party


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