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So, I've decided to try something new. 
There are few things in life more enjoyable than curling up somewhere comfortable with a good book. But there are also few things more enjoyable than delicious baked goods. So, if you can do tea and book pairings, or even ice cream and book pairings, then why not baked goods and book pairings?

I've decided to start off my baking-book (booking?) adventure with M.G. Leonard's Beetle Boy and Beetle Queen

Although I'd heard good things about Beetle Boy it took me a while to actually read it, mostly because I'd only heard the title I had imagined it was a going to be a somewhat youngish school story about a kid who doesn't quite fit in because he likes beetles (yes, I didn't read the synopsis). While it is indeed about a boy and beetles, I was very pleasantly surprised to find out that it's actually about a kidnapping, biological experimentation, and a potential plot to take over London (and then the world?)

Beetle Boy blurb from Goodreads:
Darkus Cuttle's dad mysteriously goes missing from his job as Director of Science at the Natural History Museum. Vanished without a trace! From a locked room! So Darkus moves in with his eccentric Uncle Max and next door to Humphrey and Pickering, two lunatic cousins with an enormous beetle infestation. Darkus soon discovers that the beetles are anything but ordinary. They're an amazing, intelligent super species and they're in danger of being exterminated. It's up to Darkus and his friends to save the beetles. But they're up against an even more terrifying villain--the mad scientist of fashion, haute couture villainess Lucretia Cutter. Lucretia has an alarming interest in insects and dastardly plans for the bugs. She won't let anyone or anything stop her, including Darkus's dad, who she has locked up in her dungeons! The beetles and kids join forces to rescue Mr. Cuttle and thwart Lucretia.
Beetle Boy is a wonderfully fun read. M.G. Leonard manages to blend a bit of science in with humor, memorable characters, and a grand adventure. I really appreciated that although it is young Darkus and his friends (including a couple human ones) who save the day, the other adults in his life are still competent people who don't fall into the stereotype of "adults who ruin everything by not listening to the kids."

It is no surprise that Beetle Boy has been shortlisted, longlisted and selected for a variety of prizes including the Waterstones Children's Book Prize (winners announced in 3 days!) and the CILIP Carnegie Medal.

When thinking about what might be a tasty pairing, I kept remembering one scene in Beetle Boy where Darkus comes across a whole colony of rare beetles living in a mountain of discarded teacups in the corner of his neighbor's bedroom. It's quite a vivid scene, full of life and movement and color (also a little gross when you think about how icky leftover dishes can get.) I also thought of the person whose room it was, the unpleasant hoarder, Humphrey, who has a penchant for eating cranberry sauce by the handful. Cranberry sauce is lovely so I was a little sad to see it desecrated like that. I thought I'd redeem cranberries by making my dessert pairing cranberry-based.
So, I made apple and cranberry teacups!

First, I did some extensive research to make sure that baking in teacups or mugs is actually A Thing You Can Do.

Following the scientific method of "asking friends" I discovered that it's definitely something you can do. Or at least maybe. Well, someone heard about someone doing it once. But microwaving is definitely safe. So... 

I started with Martha Stewart's apple cranberry crumble recipe but ended up changing a bit, mostly because I wanted to use the ingredients I had on hand (laziness) and because I needed to minimize the recipe. 
For 3 mugs worth of crumble, I used:

  • 1 pound apples, peeled and thinly sliced (when baking I usually use Granny Smith apples, however they tend to be rather tart and when combined with the tartness of the cranberries it could get a little overwhelming. I recommend choosing a sweeter baking apple.)
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen (thawed) cranberries, coarsely chopped 
  • 1/4 cup granulated white sugar 
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
  • salt 
  • 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, plus more for dish 
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped 
  • 1/8 cup all-purpose flour 
  • 1/8 cup rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons packed dark-brown sugar


When choosing the mugs you'll bake in, make sure they aren't made of anything delicate and don't contain anything that might melt or give off toxic fumes. Some mugs actually say "oven safe" so that's your best bet. I take no responsibility for what might happen to your mugs or oven if something goes wrong. If you're at all unsure about baking in mugs, don't do it--using ramekins can give the same cuteness factor.
First, preheat your oven to 425 degrees (220 C for the Brits). Butter the inside of the mugs/teacups/ramekins you're going to use. Cut the apples into chunks and then slice them super thin. They'll need to be smaller than you'd do for a normal crumble because they have to fit into much smaller containers.  
Fancy pink knife not required.
Don't cranberries just have the best color?
In a medium bowl mix the apples with the cranberries, granulated sugar, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt until evenly coated. 

In a separate bowl, mix up the crumble topping: the walnuts, flour, oats, brown sugar, and a pinch of salt, mixed until combined. Work in butter with your fingertips until topping is crumbly, with pea-size chunks.
Make sure the butter is very cold, or the warmth of your hands will melt it too much and you'll end up with a dough rather than a crumble :-o

Spoon the apple mixture into the prepared dishes and sprinkle them with the crumble topping (nice and thick, because we all know it's the best part).

Nom nom nom

Bake until the filling is bubbling and the topping is golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Let these cool before serving.

When everything is cool, grab your book (and some squirty whipped cream) and settle down for a tasty read!
No beetles in this mug!


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