Russian Company CakePosted: September 15, 2013
Week 5 of The Great British Bake Off and it’s Traybakes and Biscuits. Specifically, a traybake for the Signature Dish, Tuiles for the Technical Challenge and a Biscuit Tower for the Showstopper.
Yes. My eyebrow quirked at that particular delight, too. Surely in Britain, when it comes to biscuits, we’re a nation of dunkers, not architects. Has anyone, in all honesty, ever looked at a plate of biscuits and had as their first thought: Hey, I could slap a few hundred of them together and make something really spectacular!?
So moving on, I’ve chosen as this week’s themed recipe, a traybake. But as you have probably guessed, it’s not going to be your run of the mill traybake. I found this particular delight on a Russian blog ( http://josy-bites.livejournal.com/ ), with the story that her grandmother had managed to wheedle it out of some relatives. Well as you may know (or not), I do love a recipe that has been begged for – it gives it a real pedigree in terms of the deliciousness of the result – in my mind anyways.
I’ve changed it a bit from the original -not least because Google Translate service had a shocker of a time with the weights and measures – good job I always double check, is all I can say. I used dried cranberries (because they needed using up) instead of apricots (because I didn’t have any to hand), and used a mixture of both cooking and eating apples to make a puree instead of laying them on the base raw, but I consider these minor and that the recipe still retains it’s origins. This version is also just 2/3 of the original quantities, but scaling up to 3 eggs etc. is quite straightforward (also increase cooking time to 40-45 minutes).
Finally, it’s also a little different to the ‘bakewells, banoffees and brownies’ that the Radio Times tells us is headed our way on Tuesday, which makes for a nice change.
The mixture of apples is refreshing without being too tart, and the cranberries give a zing of sharpness as well as being a great splash of colour. The pastry is crumbly like shortbread, but neither cloying nor overly-rich. The meringue and biscuit topping are light and delicately textured, and the overall taste is indulgent but without the guilt – delish!
Russian Company Cake
Makes 10 slices
2 medium cooking apples (I used Bramley)
2 crisp eating apples (I used Jazz)
140g unsalted butter
265g plain flour
3/4tsp baking powder
2 large eggs – separated
35g caster sugar + 100g-ish more for the meringue
150g dried cranberries
- Grease and line a rectangular bake tin (20cm x 30cm) with baking parchment.
- Peel, core and quarter the apples.
- Cut the quarters in half again, and then slice crossways into chunks approx. 2cm square.
- Put the apple chunks and the water into a small saucepan.
- Cover and put on a medium-low heat until the apples have softened. The cooking apples will break down into a fluff and the dessert apples will hold their shape, which makes for softened apple pieces in a soft puree. This gives a nice not-too-wet texture for the traybake.
- Remove the lid and continue heating until there’s no liquid visible. Set the apples aside to cool.
- Blitz the butter, flour, baking powder and the 35g of caster sugar in the bowl of a food processor until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
- Add the egg yolks and blitz again until the mixture comes together in a soft dough.
- Knead the dough smooth.
- Divide the dough into 2 uneven pieces.
- Shape 1/3 into a cylinder and wrap in cling film and place into the freezer to firm up – 15-20 minutes.
- Either just press the remaining dough into the baking tin, or roll it out first then transfer it across. It is a very forgiving pastry, so if cracks or holes appear, just patch it with other pieces.
- Spread the cooled apples over the pastry.
- Sprinkle the dried cranberries over the apples.
- Weigh the egg-whites and measure out an equal weight of caster sugar.
- Whisk the egg-whites to soft peaks, then gradually whisk in the caster sugar until they become stiff peaks.
- Spread the meringue over the cranberries and apple.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
- Remove the cylinder of dough from the freezer and, using a coarse grater, grate the remaining dough over the top of the meringue. There should be just enough for a light covering.
- Bake on the top shelf of the oven for 20 minutes, then turn the bake around and move to the bottom shelf for a further 15 minutes.
- If the top looks like it is browning too much, cover lightly with either baking foil or parchment.
- Set aside to cool in the tin.