My favourite apple pie

Sour cream apple pie



I’ve been going a little crazy with the apples. The two young trees in our small city garden (a Bramley, because you have to, and a James Grieve) are bent low with fruit. Friends arrive from the country, or from their own corners of the city, with more bags of apples. The whole house smells of them.

I’ve juiced them and stirred them into cakes and puddings. At night, I let the dog out, turn on the dishwasher, lock up the house and spoon another batch of cooked apples into their muslin hammocks so they can drip drip drip their juice into bowls, to be made into herb jellies in the morning.

Friends arrive with apples.

And twice now, I’ve made this pie. It comes from TheSilver Palate Cookbook, an enormous favourite of mine, picked up on a trip to America in the 80s and now falling apart from decades of love and overuse.

I’m terribly keen on the cosy look of lattice-topped pie, something that would look good cooling on Laura Ingalls’ window sill in Walnut Grove. I could try and tell you how to do it here, but it would go on for ages and we might fall out. What you need is something from YouTube like this (if only for the use of the word ‘cattywampus’ at 8.05). For happiness, try to banish from the kitchen anyone who might be inclined to chip in with ‘You’re doing it wrong!’ at any stage.
Silver Palate Sour-Cream Apple Pie

Making the lattice.


This makes a deep pie with a tender crust – as it cooks, the topping bubbles and melts into caramelised lusciousness under the pretty lattice.  Serve it warm or at room temperature with thick cream, clotted cream or good vanilla ice cream.

I’ve metric’d the ingredients here, because we’re not actually in Walnut Grove, and I link here to the methodfrom epicurious.  I used a mixture of James Grieve apples and Cox’s Orange Pippins – you don’t really want the fluffiness of Bramleys here.  I like to toast the walnuts very lightly in the oven before mixing them into the topping, about 5-6 minutes on an oven tray at 180°C/160°C Fan/Gas 4 should do it.

For the crust:

320g plain flour
60g caster sugar
¾ tsp salt
¾ tsp ground cinnamon
90g butter, chilled and cut into small cubes
90g lard, chilled and cut into small cubes
4-6 tbsps chilled apple juice or water

For the filling:
5-7 tart apples
160ml sour cream
75g caster sugar or vanilla sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp plain flour

For the topping:

3 tbsps light muscovado sugar
3 tbsps granulated or demerara sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
120g shelled walnuts (see note in introduction), roughly chopped

Filling the pie.

Crimped.

Learning to love the muscat (it didn’t take long)

DSCF1676

 
I now discover I really like the muscat. This is the reverse of that syndrome where you drag home from your holidays a lurid liqueur (it’s almost always a liqueur), the drink that was so delicious over five-hour lunches on the terrace, only to find that back home it has all the charm of a Fairy Liquid daiquiri. I think the Ms Murderous Heels sour puss made the muscat taste of ashes in my mouth.
Anyway, I like it now. So that will teach her.

I’m always on the hunt for small cookbooks, the sort sold to raise funds for the church roof or the local sanctuary for tap-dancing owls, the ones with four-line recipes and no glossy pictures. So I was very happy to find Recettes d’un Petit Village en Languedoc. It’s a collection of recipes from the residents of Saint Xist, a little village in the Aveyron, collated by Denis Cristol to raise money for their twelfth-century priory. It contains a recipe by Régine Fargier for a simple cake made with muscat which, along with a bowl of very pretty purple plums, inspired a bit of tinkering about and this is the result. Try it. It’s very easy and looks impressive. If you like, you can serve it straight away, warm, as a pudding with cream, crème fraiche or custard. Or serve it cold. Whichever way you serve it, naturally a glass or two of muscat goes very well with it.


Plum and muscat cake

DSCF1685

This is really good with the plums, but in summer I imagine it would be really lovely made with peaches or nectarines too.


For the plums:
4-5 plums, just ripe, not too soft
3 tablespoons demerara sugar

For the cake:
250g caster sugar, vanilla sugar if you have it
200g unsalted butter, softened, plus a little more for greasing the tin
4 eggs, separated
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
250g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
A good pinch of salt
200ml muscat

Some icing sugar for dusting, if you like
Serve with crème fraîche or lightly whipped cream

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas 4. Lightly grease a 23cm springform baking tin and line the bottom with baking parchment. Butter the parchment.

Halve the plums, stone them, and cut each half into four pieces. Toss them with the demerara sugar and line the tin with the pieces of plum. Try to cram them as closely together as possible.
Beat together the sugar and butter until pale and light. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla.
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt into a separate bowl.

In another, scrupulously-clean bowl whisk the egg whites until they form peaks.
Begin to add the muscat and flour mixture to the batter in alternate batches, starting and ending with some of the flour (flour/wine/flour/wine/flour), folding in well with a spatula after each addition.
Fold in a third of the beaten egg whites with a spatula to lighten the batter. Then stir in the rest, lifting the batter with the spatula and gently folding it into the mixture. It should be well combined but you want to keep in as much air as possible. Spoon the mixture over the top of the plums, smooth the top with a spatula, place the tin on a baking tray and bake in the oven for about 55 minutes – a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake should come out clean. It may need a little bit longer. Put it back into the oven and test every 5 minutes.

Place the cake tin on a cooling rack. Run a palette knife around the sides of the tin but leave it to cool for 15 minutes before releasing the sides of the tin and turning it out onto a plate. Gently remove the base of the tin and the baking parchment; serve warm or cold.

A taste of figs

 

DSCF1038

A box of figs, £3.49.

When we went to the Turkish Food Centre on Sunday I bought a whole case of figs for £3.49. They were sticky and ripe, the kind you can eat greedily with the skin on, spitting out only the stalk. I think there’s something a little revolting, life-denying, about peeling figs. They look so raw and unappealing, like dead baby mice.

Of course, when you’re buying them as ripe as this you need to use them within a day or so. I like them with yoghurt for breakfast or cooked on the griddle with some slices of halloumi and a trickle of honey, maybe a few slivers of toasted almonds. But there are a lot of them in a box.

DSCF1081

Figgy lunch, with halloumi , almonds, thyme, olive oil and honey.

I’ve wanted to try making a fig liqueur since Séan and I were offered sticky little glasses of the stuff to round off dinner at one of our favourite local restaurants, the almost painfully charming and invariably delicious Oui Madame! on Stoke Newington High Street.

I’m not sure if what we tried was Figoun, the Provençal fig liqueur made from red wine, figs, vanilla, angelica, oranges and tangerine among other, secret ingredients, but I thought I’d try combining figs, vanilla sugar, orange zest, red wine and a slug of cognac and see how I get on.

I think it should be quite good by Christmas, even better by next Christmas. If you’d like to try it, I’m giving you the recipe I’ve used here but of course it’s something of a leap of faith. I’ve never made this before. I’ve no idea if it will work, but if it does won’t we all be enormously pleased with ourselves on Christmas Day?

Fig Liqueur

hp_scanDS_622816322951

This lovely illustration is by my Twitter friend, artist Anna Koska (@gremkoska). Do take a look at her website here.

[Copyright: Anna Koska]

When you’re buying figs, especially if you’re buying them by the box, lift them out of their pretty paper cases and inspect them for mould – the mortal enemy of figs everywhere. One mouldy fig will turn the rest very quickly indeed.

Should make about 1.5 litres. We’ll see.

600g figs
225g caster sugar or vanilla sugar, I used vanilla sugar
1 strip of orange peel, pared with a very sharp vegetable peeler, any white pith removed
1 bottle fruity red wine, plus a bit, enough to almost fill the jar
100ml cognac
You’ll need 1x2l cold, sterilised jar and some cold, sterilised bottles to decant the liqueur into

DSCF1042

Cut figs…

DSCF1085

Macerating in sugar…

DSCF1088

Add the wine and cognac.

Wash the figs, trim off the hard stem and cut into eighths. Place some in the bottom of the jar and scatter some of the sugar on top. Continue layering fruit and sugar until you’ve used them all up. Seal the jar and put in a cool place for 2-3 days, turning it every day until the sugar has dissolved.

Add the orange zest. Pour in the wine and cognac. Seal and store the liqueur in a cool, dark place for a couple of months, shaking the jar every week or so. Strain through a sieve and then strain again through a sieve lined in muslin. Pour into cold, sterilised bottles and seal. Ideally, leave it for a month or so before drinking.

A Sweet Consolation Prize

 

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.

Albert Camus

IMG_00000164

A bowl of Bramleys from our tree.

Summer left like a well-mannered guest, slipping away quietly, without fuss. There are fewer dinners in the garden, sitting around into the night over the end of the cheese, picking at soft fruit and polishing off the last of the rosé. Washing takes longer to dry on the line. We reacquaint ourselves with the sock drawer after weeks of neglect. And then suddenly the greengrocers’ shelves are filled with figs, damsons, cobnuts and ruby-skinned pears.

Hello, autumn. We’ve been expecting you.

If I plunged my hand into a bag of favourite autumnal words, pulled out five, arranged them into an order and then created a recipe from that, this is what would happen.

Browned butter caramel apple cake

IMG_00000189

A slice of cake for breakfast.

I made this cake with the apples from our small, espaliered Bramley, which this year is doing everything in its power to make me love its twiggy self. It is so heavy with fruit it will keep us in pies, cakes, jellies and chutneys all winter.

Don’t be put off by the longish list of ingredients. You probably have most of them hanging about anyway.

IMG_00000177

Browned butter caramel apple cake. I think I love you.


For the cake:
250g unsalted butter, cubed, plus a little more for greasing the tin
200g plain flour
50g ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
100g light muscovado sugar
100g caster sugar
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp cognac, cider brandy or calvados (optional but good, obviously)
About 3 cooking apples, peeled, cored and cut into chunks, about 300g prepared weight


For the caramel sauce:
120g unsalted butter
120g light muscovado sugar
60ml whole milk
Good pinch of flaky sea salt

Preheat the oven to 160°C/325°F/Gas 3. Lightly butter a 22cm springform cake tin, line the bottom and sides with baking parchment and lightly butter the parchment.

Warm the butter in a medium-sized saucepan over a medium heat (a stainless steel pan is better than a dark-bottomed one as it’s easier to see how brown the butter is getting). The butter is ready when it’s a rich shade of hazelnut brown and it smells nutty and delicious. Pour it into a bowl to cool.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, almonds, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.

When the butter is cool, tip it into the bowl of a stand mixer with the sugars and beat until creamy and light, about 5 minutes. With the motor still running, slowly pour in the eggs, pausing from time to time to make sure everything’s well incorporated. Beat in the vanilla and booze, if you’re adding it. On a low speed, beat in the flour mixture being careful not to overmix.

Pour the batter into the prepared tin and scatted the apple pieces evenly over the top. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Place the tin on a wire rack while you make the caramel sauce.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Whisk in the sugar, milk and salt. Keep stirring vigorously until everything blends into a smooth, silky sauce and simmer until thickened slightly. Pour half of the sauce over the cake, making sure it’s evenly distributed, and leave it for 10 minutes until it’s fully absorbed into the cake.

Remove the cake from the tin, peel off the parchment and put the cake on a plate. Pour over the remaining sauce and let it trickle down the sides. Leave the cake to cool completely then serve in fat slices with generous spoonfuls of crème fraiche, greek yoghurt, clotted cream or vanilla ice cream.

Baking for a Sweeter Tomorrow

 

DSCN8467

This cake is my insurance policy for a sweeter tomorrow. When you have a selection of cakes covered in icing, fruit and chocolate as we did for Séan’s birthday, a humble brown cake doesn’t exactly steal the limelight. When all else is but crumbs, there’s every chance you will have a slice or two of apple cake left the next day to enjoy in blissful isolation with a cup of coffee.

DSCN8506

Just the right amount of leftovers.

I based this cake on a recipe I found here. I adjusted it to work in a two-litre bundt tin as I don’t have a three-litre one, and added maple syrup to the glaze. I also sprinkled over some praline, as I think it’s often good to have a little sweet, nutty crunch with your cake, but you can leave it out if you like.

Spiced Apple Bundt Cake with Maple Syrup Glaze

DSCN8500

For the optional praline:

125g shelled hazelnuts
200g caster sugar

For the cake:

200g plain flour, plus a little more for dusting the tin
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp freshly-grated nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cardamom
Good pinch of ground cloves
½ tsp salt
400g apples
225g unsalted butter, softened, plus a little more for dusting the tin
250g caster sugar
80g light muscovado sugar
Finely grated zest of a lemon
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon juice
3-4 tbsp milk

For the glaze:

70g light muscovado sugar
50ml whipping cream or double cream
2 tbsp maple syrup
30g unsalted butter
1 tsp lemon juice
½ tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp salt

If you’re using the praline, make it first. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4. Scatter the hazelnuts in a roasting tin and place them in the oven. If the hazelnuts still have their skins, roast for 7-8 minutes until the skins are just blackened. Tip them into a clean tea towel, cover and leave for a minute before rubbing vigorously to remove the skins – don’t worry too much about getting every speck off. If they’re already skinned, simply roast them for 5 minutes or until lightly toasted.

Line a baking sheet with Silpat or lightly buttered baking parchment. Warm a heavy-bottomed frying pan over a medium heat – it’s best to use one with a shiny interior rather than a dark, non-stick one as it will make it easier to see when the caramel is the right colour. Tip the sugar into the pan in a thin, even layer. When the sugar starts to melt, stir it gently to encourage it to melt evenly. When it has dissolved, stop stirring and watch it carefully. When it has turned a rich, golden amber, tip in the nuts and quickly stir with a fork before tipping out onto the prepared baking sheet. Cool completely then either chop roughly with a knife or pulse in a blender. You’ll have more than you need for this cake, but it keeps well in an airtight jar and you can use the leftovers to decorate other cakes and puddings.

Lower the oven temperature to 160°C/325°F/Gas 3. Thoroughly grease a two-litre bundt tin with butter. Scatter in some flour and cover the tin with cling film. Give everything a very good shake, remove the cling film and tap the tin to remove excess flour. This will show up any spots you’ve missed with the butter, so give them a little touch up.

Sift together the flour, bicarbonate of soda, spices and salt. I sift them twice so that everything is well combined but I’m sure this isn’t strictly necessary.

Peel and core the apples and grate them coarsely. Pat them with some kitchen paper to remove excess liquid. You should have about 225g apples.

In a stand mixer, beat together the butter and sugars until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla, lemon zest and juice. Fold in the flour mixture with a metal spoon and then gently fold in the apples. Mix in enough milk to make a smooth batter. Spoon into the prepared tin and gently smooth the top with the back of a spoon. Bake for about 45-50 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in the tin for 15 minutes then turn out onto a rack set over a plate.

While the cake is cooking, make the glaze. Stir together all of the ingredients in a small, non-stick pan over a low heat until all of the sugar has dissolved. Raise the heat slightly and whisk until the mixture comes together into a smooth, glossy sauce.

While the cake is still warm, pierce the top all over with a skewer and pour over the glaze, allowing it to soak into the cake before pouring over more. Use a spatula to scrape the glaze which has dripped from the cake onto the plate back into the pan. Warm it through and pour it over the cake. Sprinkle on some praline and cool for a further 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

There’s Only So Much Toast



DSCN8465

Every year I make marmalade. I love the restful, rhythmic chopping and the smell of it simmering in the pan. I love the look of a pleasing stash of gleaming, amber jars of it on the shelf. I love it on toast.
But let’s be honest, there’s a limit to how much toast a girl can eat in a year. I’m always looking for ways to include it in things as well as on things. I use marmalade to glaze hams, in a sticky glaze for chicken drumsticks, in steamed puddings and in cakes.
For Séan’s birthday, I wanted to make a marmalade cake based on this favourite Nigel Slater recipe for a loaf cake. In honour of the boy’s birthday, I gussied it up with a bit of booze, a thick layer of chocolate ganache and some sparkling, crystallised orange slices so in the end it was rather like a huge, posh Jaffa Cake.
DSCN8469

Planet cake.


Marmalade and Chocolate Cake


DSCN8493

For the crystallised oranges:
1 small orange, thinly sliced and ends discarded 200g caster sugar 750ml water 1-2 cardamom pods, bashed, optional


For the cake:

175g unsalted butter, softened, plus a little more for buttering the tin
100g marmalade Finely-grated zest and juice of a large orange 1 tbsp Cointreau, optional 175g caster sugar 3 eggs, lightly beaten 175g self-raising flour, sifted Pinch of salt

For the syrup: Juice of 1 large orange Juice of 1 lemon 100g icing sugar 1 tbsp Cointreau, optional

For the ganache: 200g dark chocolate 200ml double cream

Start by making the crystallised oranges the day before you want to make the cake. Put the sugar in a pan with the water and cardamom pods if using and stir over a low heat until the sugar dissolves. Raise the heat, add the orange slices and simmer gently for a couple of hours until the oranges are completely soft and have lost all trace of bitterness. Leave overnight to cool in the syrup. Remove the slices with a slotted spoon and pat dry on kitchen paper. Reserve the syrup. It will keep in a jar in the fridge for several weeks. Use it to glaze cakes, poach rhubarb, trickle over Greek yoghurt or to use as a base in cocktails.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas mark 4. Lightly butter a 23cm springform cake tin. Line the bottom and sides with baking parchment and butter the parchment.
In a small bowl, whisk together the marmalade with the juice and finely-grated zest of the orange, and the Cointreau if using.
In a stand mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until pale, light and fluffy. Pour in the beaten egg a little at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the marmalade mixture. Remove the bowl from the stand and gently but thoroughly fold in the flour and salt with a metal spoon. Spoon into the prepared cake tin and smooth the top. Bake for 25-30 minutes until a cocktail stick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
While the cake is baking, make the syrup. Place the orange juice, lemon juice, Cointreau if using and icing sugar into a small pan. Warm over a low heat until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat.
As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, pierce it all over the top with a skewer. Pour on a little of the syrup, let it soak in and then pour on a little more until you’ve used it all up, making sure the cake is evenly soaked. Cool completely in the tin then remove it carefully from the tin (the syrup will make it a bit fragile). Remove the baking parchment and invert onto a plate.
To make the ganache, break up all of the chocolate into small pieces and place them in a bowl. Heat the cream in a pan just until bubbles appear around the sides, then pour it over the chocolate. Leave it for 30 seconds then stir it until the chocolate is completely melted. Spread the chocolate over the cake and top with the orange slices.

Marmalade and Sunshine

 

DSCN8285

When I began slicing the Seville orange peel into pretty slivers, the sky was dark and the treetops were doing a dance in the wind, whipping violently from one side to the other in a maniacal tango. By the time I’d finished, the sky was blue and golden light tumbled across the garden. It’s official. Marmalade makes the sun come out.

I’ve been mainlining citrus recently. It is one of winter’s greatest compensations, along with crocuses, porridge with cream and log fires. Each morning, as I walk back from the park with Barney, I drop in at my favourite greengrocer. At this time of year I often pick up some blood oranges, sherbet-y Sicilian lemons or juicy little limes. And when the Seville oranges appear in all of their bumpy-skinned loveliness, I know it’s time to drag out the preserving pan.

DSCN8283

So good with simit rolls for breakfast.

I used Dan Lepard’s recipe. It’s delicious as it is, or if you like you can add 50ml of whisky at the end of cooking to give your breakfast toast an extra kick.

This year my marmalade making was made a little easier by my new eBay bargain, a citrus press. I bought it because I’ve been making a glass of blood orange juice for breakfast (Tip: add a splash of rosewater. So good.) each morning and I wanted to shorten the distance between my half-awake state and good humour. But it certainly made quick work of juicing all those sevilles and left smooth, clean orange halves all ready to chop up. I’d say that was a tenner well spent.

DSCN8246

Seville oranges, ready to go.

 

DSCN8251

Putting my ebay bargain through its paces.

 

DSCN8255

Chopping the peel.

 

DSCN8260

Soaking the peel.

 

DSCN8262

Already well into the first jar.

DSCN8294