There is scientific evidence that hugging is good for your health. It increases oxytocin (the ‘love hormone’ which promotes relaxation, trust, and a feeling of stability) and reduces blood pressure and cortisol (the stress hormone).
A Japanese company called UniCare has created the “tranquility chair”, which is essentially a soft larger-than-life fabric doll built onto a rocking chair. The doll has a soft hat, friendly smiling face, and long arms that wrap around the user in an affectionate hug. Although anyone can use the chair, it has been specifically designed to meet the needs of the rising elderly population in Japan. It is currently being sold for JPY46,000 (USD420).
In the foodie world, the equivalent of a “hug” is a warm seasonal fruit crumble fresh out of the oven. Fruit crumble is so easy and versatile, and as long as you keep a few staple ingredients in your kitchen you can decide to make it on the spur of the moment. This comes in handy when you have a glut of ripe fruit sitting in your kitchen and not enough time to finish it all.
I recently bought too many apples, planning to juice them. But when the time came, I decided that instead of a cold cleansing juice, what I really wanted was something warm and bubbly and cinnamon-y. Something which made me feel like I was getting a hug.
I love using ‘apples & pears’ or ‘peaches & raspberries’ in my fruit crumble. What’s your favorite filling?
ALMOND CRUMBLE WITH SEASONAL FRUIT
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder (or any other spice you like)
1 tsp brown sugar
6 cups of freshly chopped seasonal fruit (one or a mix of the following: apples, pears, berries, peaches, plums, nectarines, cherries, or any other fruit which bakes well)
NOTE: The amount of fruit you need will depend on the size of the baking dish you are using. The round baking dish I use is 26cm (10 inches) in diameter and 4cm (1.5 inches) deep and I use about 6 cups of chopped fruit. Ideally you want enough fruit to ALMOST fill your baking dish to the top because the fruit will shrink to about half it’s height after baking. If you are not sure how much fruit is enough, cut it directly into your baking dish and stop when your fruit almost reaches the top.
55g / 2 oz plain flour
55g / 2 oz almond powder (if you don’t have almond powder, then you can use plain flour)
100g / 3.5 oz brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg (if you don’t have ground nutmeg, then you can use cinnamon powder)
100g / 3.5 oz cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- Preheat your oven to 190C/375F and place a rack in the lower third of the oven.
- You can either make your crumble mixture in (a) a food processor or (b) by hand. (a) If you are using a food processor, put all the crumble ingredients into the bowl of your processor and pulse until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. (b) If you are making the mixture by hand, put all the dry crumble ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Drop the cold unsalted butter pieces into the dry ingredients and rub the butter into the dry ingredients until it looks like breadcrumbs. Make sure you do not over-mix.
- Set the crumble aside in a cool place (the refrigerator is good if your kitchen is warm).
- To make the fruit filling, wash and dry your fruit.
- Cut your fruit into small bite-size pieces, making sure to discard all stems, seeds, and stones. Toss your fruit with 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder and 1 tsp brown sugar. (NOTE: If you are not sure how much fruit is enough, cut it directly into your baking dish and stop when your fruit almost reaches the top.)
- Get your baking dish (no need to butter the dish) and spread the fruit evenly into it. Try to keep the fruit the same height throughout the dish.
- Get your almond crumble mixture and scatter it over the fruit. Depending on the circumference of your dish, you may be able to cover the fruit completely, or you may end up with gaps (don’t worry, either way is fine).
- Put the baking dish in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove the crumble from the oven, cover it with aluminum foil, and bake for another 30 minutes (this is to ensure the crumble topping does not burn while the fruit cooks). Remove the foil and bake for 6-10 minutes until the crumble topping is nicely browned and crisp. The total baking time should be 46-50 minutes.
- Remove your ‘Almond Crumble with Seasonal Fruit’ from the oven and serve warm or cold. Ice-cream or cream is always a welcome addition. Crumble is best on the first day, but will keep well in the refrigerator on the second day. By the third day, the crumble topping starts losing some of it’s crispiness, but it still tastes good!