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Why Emma Hannigan loves the heart of winter PLUS her favourite crumble recipe

The cooler weather and onset of winter doesn’t need to be something we dread, author Emma Hannigan shares her reasons for why she loves this time of year, along with her mouthwatering apple and pear crumble recipe.  

‘As an awesome array of russet leaves litter the ground and trees look as if they’ve shed their summer clothing, I always have a little gleeful moment. While I love bright evenings and the warm glow of sunshine, I am a massive fan of all things winter. There’s nothing quite like sitting in front of my log burner in pyjamas with fluffy socks, with a mug of something warm. But it almost seems rude to have a gorgeous cup of hot chocolate or a cheeky glass of mulled wine without something delicious to accompany it.

I was raised in a home where the smells of fresh baking signalled an evening of togetherness. So while my teenagers are probably mildly allergic to large doses of my company currently, I am smug in the knowledge that I can buy their time and fleeting affection with baked goods! I know it’s called “cupboard love” but hey, I’ll take it.

When the wind is howling and rain is pelting against the windows, I adore the cosiness of warm desserts. I have a sweet tooth like nobody I know. I would happily live on chocolate and when we dine out, my eyes are always drawn to the dessert menu first! I don’t eat crisps or nuts or other savoury treats, and I beat myself up and down the local swimming pool solely so I can indulge in sweet treats at the weekends. I try to behave during the week… Can you see how I’m attempting to justify my baking habit?!

Now that the weather dictates it, (see, I’m passing the blame again), I am fully invested in all things warm. If I haven’t had a busy day of dropping and collecting from various sporting events followed by a plethora of other “Mum’s Taxi” services, I’ll use Saturday afternoon to make something more complicated. But I’m never disappointed by a fruit crumble. I can lie to myself and pretend it’s one of my five a day too… The only rule is that there are no rules when it comes to crumbles. Use whatever fruits you enjoy, while avoiding anything too wet, such as pineapple or melon. They simply don’t work. But anything from apples, pears, blackberries or indeed frozen berries, (available all year from most supermarkets), to plums work deliciously.  I prefer to use brown sugar as it creates a richer syrup when amalgamated with the natural fruit juices. But castor or granulated sugar work too.

If you’re looking for an extra bit of zing, add half the grated rind of a lime or grapefruit. I’m limited with flavours due to fussy eaters, but I’m hoping their palates will expand with gentle coaxing! Crumbles freeze perfectly too. Either raw or cooked, they can be kept on ice until required, and popped into the oven to waft homely and comforting aromas around the house.

Even if you don’t consider yourself a candidate for the next series of Bake Off, I promise you’ll be able to produce a yummy crumble. Who knows, maybe you’ll be rewarded with some animated conversation from your loved ones for your efforts?

This winter, I hope you are cosy, comfy and surrounded by positive people who are delighted to share time and tastes with you.’

Apple and pear crumble


For the crumble topping:

  • 150 g plain flour
  • 150 g jumbo oat flakes
  • 50 g flaked almonds
  • 175 g light brown sugar
  • 200 g cold butter (cut into cubes)

For the filling:

(These ingredients can be changed if you prefer berries)

  • 500 g or approx. 5 pears (peeled, cored and sliced)
  • 500 g apples or approx 5 apples (peeled, cored and sliced)
  • 60 g brown sugar


  • Preheat the oven to 190 °C (375 °F/Gas 5).
  • Put the flour, oat flakes, flaked almonds, brown sugar and butter in a large bowl. Using your fingertips, rub all of the ingredients together until it resembles chunky breadcrumbs. A little texture makes for a tastier topping.
  • In a large baking dish, toss the sliced apples and pears in the sugar until coated.
  • Sprinkle the crumble mix on top, ensuring all the fruit is generously covered.
  • Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes, or until the crumble topping is golden brown, and the fruit is soft and bubbling beneath.
  • Serve with softly whipped cream or warm pouring custard!


Celebrate the magic of winter with the paperback release of Emma’s book, THE HEART OF WINTER in paperback, available to buy on Amazon here.

Liked this? Why not try…

This delicious free recipe from The Clandestine Cake Club