I am very bad at winter.
More precisely, I never really got the hang of winter. Despite my decade in New England, I never quite learned to navigate an ice-glazed sidewalk, never quite figured out the correct combination of outerwear and underwear to withstand freezing winds, and never went a single December without wishing for the ability to hibernate.
While many of things I never got the hang of – rollerblading, the one-loop method of tying shoelaces, applying mascara without threat of injury – are entirely avoidable, or very occasional irritations, winter is a more intractable problem. My plan to move south having changed, winter is still on my calendar this year, and in much the same form. After moving several degrees in longitude, but not much in the way of latitude, there’s less ice, but more biting wind, and I still find myself wishing for the ability to hibernate.
I have grudgingly accepted that the closest I may come to hibernation is sitting in a warm kitchen, bundled up in an unflattering woolly cardigan with a very large mug of tea in hand as I wait to take something out of the oven. Of the many possibilities for that something, I have a soft spot for apple slump.
Slump is appropriately named: it's like cake on its day off, lounging at home in a fuzzy old robe and slippers. A quick assemblage of sliced fruit and basic batter, it's dished out of the baking pan rather than cut into neat slices, more like cobbler or crisp than a traditional cake. Slump is neither glamorous nor photogenic - it also goes by the name of "pan dowdy" - but it's agreeable and thoroughly comforting, an excellent winter tea treat.
This version builds on the basic idea, opting for browned butter rather than plain melted, and offering the option of brandy-soaked dried apricots to liven up the apples. It's still very much on its day off, however. Maybe it's not lounging in a fuzzy old robe and slippers, but it's sitting in a warm kitchen in an unflattering woolly cardigan, at the very least.
Apple-Apricot Brown Butter Slump
(Serves one for a few days. Leftovers will keep in the fridge; warm them up for breakfast.)
Melt three-quarters of a stick of butter (three ounces) in a nine or ten-inch ovenproof pan. Cook until butter foams and deepens in color; stop when butter is golden brown. Transfer to a mixing bowl.
To the same pan, add three or four apples, cut into eighths, plus a handful of dried apricots (soaked in Calvados or brandy, if that's your fancy.) Season with a sprinkling of cinnamon and nutmeg. Cook over low heat until the apples start to soften.
Preheat the oven to 375F.
Stir a quarter-cup of sugar, three-quarters of a cup of flour, a scant teaspoon of baking powder and a pinch of salt into the melted butter. Beat in two eggs. Add enough milk to make a pourable batter (think pancake batter.)
Pour the batter over the apples. Place the pan in the oven and bake for thirty to thirty-five minutes, or until golden and faintly browned on top. Allow to cool for ten minutes before serving.
Serve warm, preferably with custard.