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Cold comfort desserts

Cold comfort desserts

In the summer months we want fresh, bright flavours that quench our thirsts and don’t fill us up too much but the autumn and winter months call for depth of flavour that comes from slow cooking and layer upon layer of ingredients. Autumn is a time to turn inwards, to hunker down and happily potter about in the warmth of the kitchen. It’s made for bubbling crumbles and deep-filled pies, spiced cakes and gooey sticky toffee puddings. We want food that will comfort and warm us from the inside, just as these two beauties do.

Oaty apple and blackberry crumble

A comforting crumble made with seasonal fruits is a must as the days get chillier. Served with a good dollop of hot and creamy vanilla custard or lashings of cream, there’s nothing quite like it. Best of all? It requires minimum effort.


For the fruit filling

  • 3 eating apples, peeled, cored and diced
  • 2 large cooking apples, peeled, cored and diced
  • 300g blackberries
  • 100g demerara sugar
  • 30g unsalted butter
  • 2tsp ground cinnamon

For the crumble topping

  • 175g plain flour
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • 140g soft brown sugar
  • 35g porridge oats
  • 80g cold unsalted butter, cubed


  1. Preheat the oven to gas mark 3.
  2. Heat the sugar and butter in a medium saucepan, cooking until the mixture turns to a light caramel, and then add the apples for 3 minutes. Add the blackberries and cinnamon and cook for a further 3 minutes. Cover the pan and remove from the heat, allowing the fruit to cook for 2-3 minutes more in the heat of the pan. Turn the fruit out into an ovenproof gratin dish.
  3. To make the crumble topping, mix the flour and cinnamon in a mixing bowl and then add the sugar and oats. Add the butter to the mixture, rubbing it in with your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs but do not overwork it or it will become heavy and doughy. Sprinkle the crumble mixture over the fruit, ensuring it is of a fairly even depth.
  4. Bake the crumble for 40 minutes, or until the topping is golden and the fruit bubbling underneath.

Sticky toffee pudding

Cosy and comforting, like a great big, warm hug, sticky toffee pudding is perhaps the ultimate cold weather dessert. This one is self-saucing and therefore needs nothing more than a scoop of vanilla ice cream, a good pour of double cream or a healthy dose of custard. The perfect ending to a meal after a long walk.


For the cake

  • 225g whole dates, stoned and diced
  • 250ml boiling water
  • 2tsp vanilla extract
  • 100g dark brown muscovado sugar
  • 175g self-raising flour
  • 125ml full cream milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 50g unsalted butter, melted

For the sauce

  • 200g dark brown muscovado sugar
  • 25g unsalted butter
  • 500ml boiling water


  1. Preheat the oven to gas mark 5 and grease an 18cm cake tin.
  2. Place the dates in a bowl and pour the boiling water over them. Leave for 30 minutes, until cool and well-soaked, then crush with a fork and stir in 1tsp of the vanilla extract.
  3. Meanwhile, mix the sugar with the flour in a large bowl. Pour the milk into a separate bowl and beat in the egg, remaining vanilla and butter, before stirring it all into the sugar and flour mixture. Fold in the soaked dates and scrape the mixture into the prepared tin.
  4. Sprinkle the sugar over the cake mixture and dot with the butter. Pour over the boiling water and transfer to the oven.
  5. Bake for 45 minutes, or until it is springy on the outside, with a rich sauce underneath. 
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