One of my favourite childhood memories is of my sister and I collecting crab apples from the tree in our front yard. We knew our mum would use them to make apple crisp. Nothing is as wonderful or as satisfying as a bowl of apple crisp served with custard or ice cream, especially when you’ve spent the day jumping in piles of freshly fallen leaves!

It wasn’t until I moved to England that I became aware of apple crumble. Basically it is similar to apple crisp, but the topping is different. An apple crumble traditionally uses a mixture of flour, caster sugar and cold butter to make a thick, crumbly topping that is ‘crisp’ on top but soft and slightly gooey underneath where it mixes with the apples and spices.

The apple crisp my mum used to make (why don’t you make it any more mum!!?) uses a mixture of rolled oats, light packed brown sugar, butter, cinnamon and chopped nuts. I found the topping to not be as thick, but it was ‘crisp’, sweet and delightfully crunchy. I used to love having it cold the next day with milk poured on top.

I couldn’t find my mum’s recipe for apple crisp so I had a look online. This was where I became confused. In my mind apple crisp was made with oats and apple crumble was made with flour. This was the main difference between the two dishes. However, there were recipes for apple crisp that included flour and oats some just used oats while others only used flour. The same seem to go for apple crumble! Then cobblers started appearing in my searches.


Thanks to this website the mystery was solved. It seems that apple crisp is traditionally made with an oat-only topping and apple crumble is made with a flour-only topping. Cobblers are made with a biscuit topping (definitely on my to bake list!). It seems now that crisp and crumble can be used interchangeably for the same dish, but call me a purist – a crisp uses oats and a crumble uses flour and that’s the way I like it! The dishes are different and as such should have their own distinct names.

What do you think?

Here is my apple crumble recipe.


  • 8-10 medium sized apples peeled, cored and cut into quarters
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries or raisins
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon (or all spice)
  • 1 Tablespoon pure Canadian maple syrup

For the topping

  • 300g / 2 cups flour (most recipes use plain but I only had self raising, which was fine)
  • 112g / ½ cup caster sugar
  • 200g / 7oz cold butter, cubed (I used salted)
  • ¼ cup of chopped walnuts


  1. Preheat the oven to 180 °C / 160°C Fan / 350 °F / Gas 4
  2. Place quartered apples in a medium-sized baking dish and sprinkle with cinnamon and drizzle with maple syrup
  3. Give the apples a very gentle stir, making sure not to break them up
  4. Add the flour and sugar to a large bowl and mix well
  5. Add a few cubes of butter at a time and rub into the flour mixture
  6. Keep rubbing the butter in until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs
  7. Bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes until the crumble is browned and the apples are bubbling
  8. Serve with thick cream, ice cream or custard


Top Tip: Try it cold the next day with milk.

Next week: Apple Crisp!


Apples from the garden


Preparing the apples is the most labour intensive part of this dish


Apples ready for the topping


A traditional crumble topping of flour, sugar and butter


Looks like breadcrumbs to me


Scatter a few walnut pieces and it’s good to go


Comfort food at it’s best


Ice cream? Double or Clotted Cream? Custard? Creme Fraiche? What’s your favourite crumble accompaniment?