Apple Tartlets 2017

Apple Tartlets
Wotchers!

After six years I decided to revisit the Apple Rose Tarts I created for Season 2 of The Great British Bake Off.

These are essentially the same tarts, but with a bit of a make-over for the apple decoration. Looking less like roses, but still with a floral semblance, these variations are formed from a swirl of poached apple slices on top of a set apple compote.

You can, of course, use the filling from the originals, but this simplified variation means that these tarts can be prepped in advance, and then assembled just before serving, something that was possible, but rather tricky, with the rose tarts.

Puff Pastry Tartlets

I also experimented with using puff pastry. The above shells were created by draping puff pastry over the back of a star-shaped tart tin. The shell on the left was made from pastry cut with a six-petalled cutter. The form on the right was made using a large circular piece of pastry. In order to ensure they kept their shapes, a second tin ‘sandwiched’ the pastry inside, and a wire rack place on top to hold them in place. They were baked at 220°C, 200°C Fan for 15 minutes.

Apple Tartlets

Apple Compote
600g Bramley apples
4tbs water
200g caster sugar
juice of 1 lemon

sweet shortcrust pastry, cornflour pastry or ready-rolled puff pastry
red-skinned dessert apples as required
1 litre apple juice
250g caster sugar
red food colouring (optional)

  • Use the pastry to line and fully bake whichever tartlet shells you prefer.
  • Allow to cool on a wire rack.
  • When cooled, if not using immediately, store in an airtight container until required.
  • Peel, core and chop the Bramley apples.
  • Put them in a saucepan with the water and lemon juice. Cover and simmer over medium low heat until they become fluffy.
  • Stir briskly to remove any lumps, then add the sugar and stir until dissolved.
  • Continue to simmer until the mixture has thickened. Set aside.
  • Prepare the dessert apples. If you have a mandolin that can cut 2mm slices, core the apples and slice them with that. You will need to cut these slices in half before using them. Otherwise, cut the apples in half from top to bottom, remove the core and cut into exceedingly thin, semicircular slices, 2mm if possible.
  • Pour the apple juice into a saucepan and submerge the apple slices as you cut them , to prevent discolouration.
  • Simmer the apple slices gently for 10 minutes or until tender – You need the apples to be soft enough so that you can roll them, but not so soft as to fall apart.
  • Lift the apple slices from the syrup with a slotted spoon and allow to drain/cool in a sieve.
  • When cool enough to handle, lay out the apple slices as follows.

New Apple Roses

  • The slices should be laid exceedingly close together, so there is only about 3mm of each slice visible.
  • The overall length of the strip of apple slices needs to be at least 15cm in order to be curled round into a form that will sit inside a single, cupcake-sized pastry shell.
  • Cover the strips of apple slices until required.
  • Add the sugar to the apple juice and stir until dissolved.
  • Simmer over medium heat, until the juice has thickened into a syrup.
  • Add a little red gel food colouring to tint the syrup, if liked.
  • To assemble the tarts:
    • Warm the apple compote and spoon 1-2 tablespoons into each pastry case. Allow to cool. As it cools, it will firm up and give support to the apple decoration.
    • For each strip of apple slices:
      • Lift the strip from the board and stand it on the flat base of the slices.
      • Curl one end of the strip around in a circle until it meets the other end of the strip.
      • Check whether the form is small enough to fit into the pastry shell. If not, ease the slices round into a tighter circle.
      • Place the curled slices into the pastry shell. Keep a hold of the form with one hand until you’re sure it has all fitted inside. A cocktail stick is handy here for tucking in the ends of any sticking-out slices.
      • When everything is tucked inside, you can stop holding the form, as the pastry case will support it.
      • Use the cocktail stick, if necessary, to tweak the apple slices into place. I particularly like the subtle variations in the finished patterns, depending on the number and curl of the apple slices – see below.
      • Brush the apple slices generously with the apple syrup, and serve.

In case you missed it:

This week on DejaFood.uk: Jane Newton’s mini chicken & bacon pies!


Chocolate Praline Tart

Gluten-free, Dairy-free Chocolate Praline Tart

Wotchers!

A little bit of luxury for you this week. I’m still sticking with the French theme, but it’s a little less obvious than in previous weeks. This week’s recipe is inspired by a newly acquired book which demonstrates that food allergies or intolerances need not signal a lifetime of dull or dismal food.

Conticini GF DF book

This is the latest pubication by Philippe Conticini, creating mouthwatering desserts and treats that are both gluten free and dairy free. Although I purchased my copy from the French Amazon site a few months ago, it is now available with just UK shipping charges here, or order through your local bookshop. Alas, it is only available in the original French, but anyone with O-level/GCSE French and a working knowledge of baking will manage easily.

Sidebar: for the digitally inclined, there is a free Translate app that will allow you to photograph text with your phone, which it will then scan and translate on the go. Also, Chef Conticini has many of his recipes freely available on his website here, as well as numerous demonstration videos on his Facebook page here.

The first recipe in the book is for a kind of chocolate nut sponge, and it is filled with a ganache and glazed with a slightly thinned version of the ganache. It is delicious! It is also very hard to believe it is both gluten and lactose free.

I was so impressed with the ganache, I thought it deserved a starring role, so here it is in a very elegant and sophisticated tart. Gluten and dairy free chocolate is available in supermarkets – I found both milk and dark chocolate in Morrisons.

This tart is made up of bits and pieces from different recipes, tweaked to fit in with my overall idea: I like to think of it as the Lego™ approach. The praline paste is Philippe Conticinis, as well as the ganache – I’ve not messed with either. I’ve tweaked the sweet pastry recipe by adding cocoa (reducing one of the flours) to make it chocolate.

I’ve used a long, rectangular tart tin, but any shape will do. Since everything tastes so rich, the tart doesn’t have to be very deep and you could probably stretch the pastry to a 24cm flan tin. Otherwise, use a 20cm flan tin and, exercising your will of iron, cut the slices very thin.

Chocolate Praline Tart

For the praline

NB Because it is a bit of a Faff™, this deliberately makes a LOT of praline. However, it will keep for months in the fridge if necessary. If you really don’t think you’ll use it – I mean, it’s not like it tastes AWESOME or anything – consider making a half batch.

300g of whole raw hazelnuts (with skin)
300g of whole raw almonds (with skin)
400g caster sugar
100g water

  • Put the sugar and the water in a pan over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved.
  • Bring the syrup to a boil and when the temperature reaches 118°C, add the hazelnuts and almonds.
  • Stir the nuts in the sugar, making sure that they are thoroughly coated. This movement will also cause the sugar to crystallise. This is fine. Continue stirring to keep the nuts from burning.
  • Eventually, the sugar will melt again and turn a deep and warm caramel colour.
  • At this point, pour the whole mixture onto baking parchment. Before it cools, pull the nuts apart using a couple of forks, so that they don’t set in a solid lump. This will make processing them easier.
  • When the caramelised nuts are cold, break them up either by hand or by battering them with a rolling pin and transfer to a food processor fitted with the cutting blade.
  • If you want to use some of the nuts as decoration, as in the photo, set some aside before the mixture becomes paste.
  • Process the nuts into a smooth paste using a series of short bursts with the blade. If you keep the blade moving for too long, it will heat up the paste, so short stints are best. For a long time it will seem like you’re just making a racket with the machine, but it will eventually break down into smaller pieces.
  • When the mixture is smooth, transfer to an airtight box and store in the fridge.

For the pastry

This recipe uses clarified butter. Before everyone starts shrieking dairy, let me remind you that clarified butter is pure fat, WITHOUT any of the dairy solids. If you’re not convinced, as an alternative you can use Indian ghee or coconut butter.

50g clarified butter
30g icing sugar
30g ground almonds
25g chestnut flour
25g Green & Black’s cocoa powder
25g cornflour
50g rice flour
pinch of sea salt

1 large yolk
½ large egg – whisked

  • Use a little clarified butter to grease your tin and shake over some cornflour (to help keep the pastry from sticking).
  • Put the butter and the dry ingredients into a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  • Whisk the yolk into the beaten egg and add gradually to the dry ingredients until the mixture comes together. It might not come together in the bowl, only resemble damp crumbs, but it will hold once tipped out and pressed firmly.
  • Roll out thinly and use to line your prepared tin. Alternatively, just use the damp crumbs into your tin and press into the sides and base until covered. I opted to roll the pastry and got it impressively thin, but then I found I couldn’t move it across into the tin in one piece, so I just patchworked it together.
  • Preheat the oven to 160°C, 140°C Fan.
  • Line your pastry with baking parchment and add cooking beads/rice.
  • Bake until the pastry is fully cooked (20-30 minutes).
  • Set aside to cool. NB Your pastry might crack as it cools. Fear not. Just melt some GF DF chocolate and literally paint over the cracks. And everywhere else if you like. Put the tart shell in the fridge to set. The layer of chocolate will help keep the pastry crisp underneath the rich filling.

For the ganache

170g GF DF dark chocolate
55g GF DF milk chocolate
150ml Soya milk

  • Break the chocolate into pieces and melt in a bowl over warm water.
  • Heat the milk and slowly add to the melted chocolate, stirring constantly until fully combined.
  • Set aside until required.

To assemble

  • Add a layer of praline to the cooled tart shell. How much is entirely up to you. I am a big fan of its rich taste, but then again, a little does go a long way. I spread a 5mm layer which is enough to give the flavour, but doesn’t overpower. If the praline is cold and too stiff to spread, zap it for a few seconds in the microwave to soften.
  • Pour the warm ganache over the praline paste and smooth. You can also tap the tin lightly on the work surface to get the ganache to level out.
  • Put into the fridge to set. Once set, sprinkle over the finely chopped praline if using.
  • If not eating immediately, cover lightly with cling film – try and keep it from touching the ganache – and store in the fridge.
  • Allow the tart to come to room temperature before serving.

 


Walnut and Coffee Caramel Tart

Walnut and Coffee Caramel Tart

Wotchers!

Coffee and Walnut is one the best flavour combinations you can enjoy.

Of course, it helps if you’re a coffee fiend like myself. The tannins in, and astringency of, the walnut skins both help to balance out any sweetness and also complements the bitterness of the coffee. If, also like me, you don’t have much of a sweet tooth, it is a delicious step back from too much sweetness.

Mary Berry’s Coffee and Walnut Cake recipe is the best cake version of this classic combination. As part of the audition process for season two of The Great British Bake Off, groups of applicants were summoned to a test kitchen and asked to bake Mary’s Coffee and Walnut Cake under filming conditions, to determine both real-time cooking ability and whether you could whisk eggs and answer questions at the same time.

Mary Berry’s Coffee and Walnut Cake is also the cake that I bake for others to enjoy: for the school summer fete, to thank a neighbour for removing a tree that was damaging our fence, for my dentist to apologise for missing an appointment, for the lads at the garage for going that extra mile. It’s the kind of cake that doesn’t sound very interesting, but when tasted, invites a wave of nostalgic memories of traditional tea-times.

coffeewalnuttart0

This recipe is a variation of this classic flavour combination, in the form of a tart: sweet walnut pastry, coffee and walnut frangipane, a layer of coffee caramel over walnut halves and decorated with candied walnuts.

The original recipe wasn’t such a coffee/walnut feast. In fact, it didn’t have any coffee in it at all. I played around with adding it here and there and eventually came up with this variation. The appearance also required attention, which isn’t exactly one of my strengths. In this year’s Bake Off, Mary Berry has found a word to describe bakes of less-than-ideal appearance: they are being referred to as ‘informal’. The first iteration of this recipe was definitely informal – see below. It didn’t help matters that I decided to cut it whilst still warm.

Informal Walnut & Coffee Caramel Tart

Informal Walnut & Coffee Caramel Tart

During the filming of the Bake Off, I’d apparently told Mary Berry that “I don’t do dainty”. Whilst I’ll be the first to admit that this tart still isn’t dainty, I’ve tried to make it a step up from ‘informal’, out of my desire never to earn reproach from the imaginary Mary Berry that will forever be looking over my shoulder, i.e. made an effort to make the pastry thinner, allowed the caramel to cool down before cutting into the tart, less icing sugar, more candied walnuts.

In a week where Mary Berry decided to leave the Bake Off, I’d like to acknowledge my very great affection and respect both for her and her gentle encouragement to always make an effort to finish things nicely.

Walnut and Coffee Caramel Tart

If you’re not a fan of coffee, you can leave it out altogether – it will still be delicious.

Walnut Sweet Shortcrust
150g unsalted butter
85g light muscovado or soft brown sugar
80g walnuts – ground fine in a food processor.
125g plain flour
1 large egg
1 large yolk

  • Grease and line a 20cm tart tin with baking parchment.
  • Blitz the butter, sugar, walnuts and flour in a food processor until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  • Whisk together the egg and the yolk.
  • With the food processor running, gradually add the egg, little by little, until the mixture comes together into a ball. NB There is moisture in the walnuts and the butter, so you might only need a little of the egg. Do NOT be heavy-handed adding the egg, as this pastry is rather a challenge to work with when made well – too wet and it verges on nightmarish.
  • Roll the pastry thinly (5mm) and use to line your tart tin. It is very fragile, so you’re unlikely to be able to drape it into your tin in a whole sheet. The good news is, it is very forgiving if you just want to patchwork it.
  • Put your pastry-lined tin in the fridge or freezer to chill for 30 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Trim any excess pastry from your tin, line with parchment and baking beads/rice and bake blind for 10 minutes. Remove parchment and bake for a further 5 minutes to firm up the inner surface  of the pastry.
  • Set aside until required.
  • Reduce oven temperature to 180°C, 160°C Fan.

Filling
100g light muscovado or soft brown sugar
2 large eggs
100g walnuts, finely ground in a food processor
60g warm, melted butter
2 tsp instant espresso coffee powder

  • Whisk the eggs and sugar together until light and foamy.
  • Gently fold through the ground walnuts, coffee powder and the melted butter
  • Pour mixture into the blind-baked pastry shell and bake for 15-20 minutes until set and lightly browned.
  • Set aside to cool.

Topping

150g walnut halves

  • When the tart has cooled, arrange the walnut halves neatly over the top.

Caramel
150g caster sugar
50ml water
100g crème fraîche
20g butter
1 tsp instant espresso coffee powder, dissolved in 1tbs hot water

  • Put the sugar and water into a pan over medium heat. I prefer my non-stick frying pan for this task.
  • Allow the sugar to dissolve, then turn up the heat and allow to boil until a golden caramel colour is achieved.
  • Remove from the heat and whisk in the cream, butter and coffee.
  • Pour the caramel over the walnut halves. I found it best to spoon a little over each nut, to ensure an even coating, then to drizzle the remainder into any gaps.
  • Allow to cool, then chill in the fridge until required.

Candied walnuts
8 walnut halves
100g caster sugar
2tbs water

  • Dissolve the sugar in the water and bring to a boil.
  • When the sugar begins to caramelise, add the walnut halves and stir over medium head until coated.
  • Lift the sugared nuts from the pan with a fork and set onto parchment to cool.

To Serve

Dust lightly with icing sugar and top with the candied walnuts.


Retro Tarts

Three sweet tarts

Dark Butterscotch (back left), Toffee (back right) and Gypsy Tart (front)

Wotchers!

Despite the above picture, this post is really all about pastry. Sweet, shortcrust pastry.

Some time ago *waves hand vaguely* I introduced you to an all-butter pastry which I had adapted from an old Victorian commercial baker’s book. The crust for my Cheese and Potato Pies has about 25% cornflour, which makes it fantastically silky-smooth to handle and which also bakes beautifully crisp and dry.

The recipe this week is for a sweet version, also from the same baking handbook: slightly different flour/butter proportions and enriched with the yolk of an egg, it is both more crisp and more delicate than the savoury version and a perfect foil for the three sweet fillings I’ve lined up for you, because I thought it rather a cheek to give you just a pastry recipe this week and let you get on with it. Plus I couldn’t get a lump of pastry to look tempting all by itself, so here we are.

The fillings are very much variations on a theme of dark muscovado sugar and I’m really pleased with the three differing flavours that resulted. The Butterscotch is really dark and very much a ‘grown-up’ flavour – you could even add a slosh of real scotch to ramp it up to dinner-party level. The Toffee is very child-friendly in flavour – almost mild – and a real comfort food. The Gypsy Tart is a 2-ingredient classic that harks back to memories of school dinners. There are many recipes for the filling ‘out there’, most of which generally have too high a proportion of sugar and too much milk, resulting in gigantic pies of tooth-aching sweetness. This version makes for a light and frothy filling with just the right balance of flavour and sweetness. It is the only one of the three that needs any further cooking once poured into the pre-baked pastry shell, but at just 20 minutes in a cool oven, these too are ready in a flash.

I’ve left all three unadorned, but you could add embellishment if you like – unsweetened whipped cream or creme fraiche rather than more sweetness in a chantilly or buttercream, is my recommendation. A smattering of chocolate sprinkles for the toffee tart, perhaps? Your call.

slices

Dark Butterscotch (left), Toffee (middle), Gypsy Tart (right)

Sweet Shortcrust Pastry

This quantity makes enough for one large tart or 4-8 individual tarts.

170g plain flour
56g cornflour
125g unsalted butter
15g caster sugar
1 large yolk

ice water to mix

  •  Put the flours, butter, sugar and yolk into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  • With the machine running, gradually add the cold water a tablespoon at a time until the mixture comes together in a ball.
  • Tip the mixture onto a floured surface, knead smooth then wrap in clingfilm and chill for at least 30 minutes.
  • Roll out thinly and line your greased tart tin. If making smaller tarts, cut the pastry into 4 and roll out individually.
  • Leave the excess pastry hanging over the side of the tin/s and chill in the fridge for another 30 minutes. The pastry will shrink as it chills and then you can trim the excess. If you trim it first, the pastry will shrink down inside your tart cases, probably unevenly, and your pastry cases won’t have a nice finish.
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180ºC Fan.
  • Prick the bottom of the tart/s with a fork to prevent blistering, line with baking parchment and fill with beans/rice/beads.
  • Bake for 10 minutes for small tarts, 12-14 minutes for a large tart.
  • Remove the parchment and beans and bake for a further 3 minutes for small tarts, 5-8 minutes for a large tart, until fully baked.
  • Allow to cool.

Butterscotch filling

170g unsalted butter
170g dark muscovado sugar
35g plain flour
100ml milk

  • Melt the butter and sugar in a pan, stirring.
  • Make a paste of the flour with a little of the milk, then stir in the rest of the milk.
  • Pour this milk mixture into the butter mixture and whisk vigorously.
  • Continue whisking until the mixture comes to the boil. Simmer for 2-3 minutes, stirring, to ‘cook out’ the taste of the flour. The mixture will thicken.
  • Remove from the heat. Add a little extra milk – or scotch! – if it seems too thick, then pour into the bake pastry case/s and allow to cool.

Toffee filling

Warm the golden syrup before measuring it out, it will be much easier to pour accurately.

100g butter
40g plain flour
250ml milk
60g dark muscovado sugar
100g golden syrup

chocolate sprinkles (optional)

  • Melt the butter in a pan and add the flour. Whisk until frothed and starting to darken.
  • Warm the milk and sugar together and pour into the butter mixture, whisking briskly.
  • Keep stirring over the heat until the mixture thickens, then remove from the heat and stir in the golden syrup.
  • If the mixture seems too thick, add a little extra milk to loosen it.
  • When you’re happy with the consistency, pour into the pastry shells and set aside to cool.
  • Scatter over the chocolate sprinkles, if using, before serving.

Gypsy Tart filling

1 x 170ml tin evaporated milk
120g dark muscovado sugar

  • Chill the tin of evaporated milk in the fridge overnight. Do not skip this step. It will not whip up to its frothy perfection unless the milk is thoroughly chilled.
  • Get rid of all the lumps in the sugar by pounding it in a pestle and mortar. Work a little at a time rather than trying to get the whole batch lump-free in one go. It’ll give you something to do while the milk chills.
  • Put the sugar and the chilled milk into a bowl and whisk for AT LEAST ten minutes. You want the sugar to dissolve and the milk to increase in volume and become light and frothy, like half-whipped double cream. You can test whether the sugar is fully dissolved by rubbing a little of the mixture between finger and thumb – it should not feel grainy at all. If you have a stand mixer and a balloon whisk attachment, this might take a little less time, but not much.
  • Preheat the oven to 120°C – NO FAN
  • Pour your mousse-like mixture into your pre-baked pastry case/s. It will not rise much in baking, so you can fill them pretty full.
  • Bake for 20 minutes or until the filling has set: no wobble when gently shaken.
  • Set aside to cool.

Caramel Apple Crumble Tart

Caramel Apple Crumble Tart

Wotchers!

Here’s a recipe I came up with for a charity a couple of years ago. Seeing as the weather has been a bit on the brisk side lately, I thought it would be the ideal treat to enjoy all snug and cosy on a Sunday afternoon. Or at 11pm, straight from the fridge. Your call.

It’s a tart of contrasts: crumbly pastry, crunchy oats, rich caramel and sharp apples. I love it!

And with a tin of caramel in the cupboard, it comes together in just a few minutes.

Probably gone is as many, too.

Short and sweet. Like this post.

To the recipe!

Caramel Apple Crumble Tart

Pastry
112g plain flour
30g cornflour
40g icing sugar
70g butter
zest of ½ lemon
1 large egg
egg-whites for glazing

Filling
30g butter
3 Bramley Apples
1 tin homemade Banoffi Pie filling (method here) or 1 x 397g tin of Carnation Caramel

Crumble
20g butter
20g lard
20g Demerera sugar
60g plain flour
Pinch of salt
40g steel rolled oats

  • Make the pastry:
    • Put all of the pastry ingredients except the egg into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
    • Whisk the egg, then gradually add to the mixture while the motor is running until the mixture comes together in a ball.
    • Tip out the pastry and knead a little until smooth.
    • Wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
    • Grease a 20cm loose-bottomed tart tin.
    • Roll the pastry out thinly, about 5mm.
    • Line the tart tin with the pastry, easing it gently into the sides of the tin. Do not trim the excess pastry, but let it hang over the sides of the tin.
    • Chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.
    • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
    • Remove the tart tin from the fridge and prick the base of the pastry with a fork, to prevent blistering.
    • Line the tin with parchment and pour in some baking beads/beans/rice.
    • Blind bake the pastry for 10 minutes.
    • Remove the tin from the oven and lift out the parchment paper and its contents.
    • Return the tin to the oven for another 5 minutes to allow the pastry to finish baking. If the edges of the pastry seem to be browning too much, cover them with foil.
    • Brush the inside of the pastry with whisked egg white and return to the oven for three minutes to dry. Set aside.
  • Make the crumble:
    • Put the butter, lard, sugar and flour into a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
    • Tip the mixture into a bowl and stir in the oats and salt. Set aside.
  • Make the filling:
    • Peel the apples and cut each into 8 slices.
    • Remove the core and chop each slice into chunks – about 5-6 per slice.
    • Melt the butter in a pan.
    • Add the chunks of apple and cook gently over a moderate heat until the apples have softened and any juice has evaporated. NB Bramley apples WILL reach a point where they just collapse in a pile of fluff if you cook them fully. You need to stop before this happens. They will continue cooking in the oven, so don’t worry about making them soft, it’s making sure the excess juice evaporates that is important here, otherwise you’ll get soggy pockets of apple in your tart.
    • Add the caramel and stir gently until thoroughly combined and warmed through.
  • Assemble the tart:
    • Pour the caramel and apple filling into the pastry shell and smooth over.
    • Sprinkle the crumble mixture over the top.
    • If you’ve not already done so, cover the edges of the tart with foil to prevent them from becoming too brown.
    • Return the tart to the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until the crumble topping is crisp and golden.
    • Cool in the tin for ten minutes.
    • Trim the pastry edges neatly with a sharp, serrated knife, then carefully remove the tart from the tin and cool on a wire rack.
    • Serve warm or chilled, with cream.

Apple and Butternut Squash Pie

Apple Butternut Squash Pie

Wotchers!

Here’s an example of how a passing comment I read turns into something delicious – which I find even more enjoyable for it being over 250 years old!

William Ellis was a gentleman farmer in Hertfordshire for most of the early 18th century. He was passionate about agriculture and husbandry and wrote extensively about his life and experiences. His reputation seems to have suffered somewhat both during his lifetime and afterwards, as his efforts to make money by writing about his knowledge of country matters was looked down on by ‘true’ gentlemen. Nowadays, his work is regarded in much higher esteem.

Ellis’ The Country Housewife’s Family Companion (1750) is delightfully scatty, wandering off on digressions and anecdotes at every opportunity.The inspiration for this recipe came from the final paragraph of a section on puddings, vinegars and savoury pies (I told you it was scatty!).

The original mentions a mixture of pumpkin and apples, however, it wasn’t pumpkin season when I first read it, and what I had on hand was an early season butternut squash, so that is what I used. Paired with some fluffy Bramley apples and just the slightest amount of sugar, this pie is light and refreshing, moist enough to hold it’s shape, but not so soggy as to ruin the pastry. Since modern Bramley Apples are probably much juicier than those available in the 18th century, I have included a little cornflour to thicken any excess liquid.

When it comes to the pastry, you have several options – obvs! The first time I made this I used a butter puff pastry, top and bottom. This decadence worked deliciously against the, lets face it, rather spartan filling – but the sharpness of the apple, the sweetness of the squash and the flaky crispness of the buttery pastry were truly a delight to savour. You could extend this flaky buttery-ness by opting for filo pastry. Alternatively, as in the photo above, mix-and-match with a shortcrust pastry for the bottom and sides and a puff pastry lid. If you’re planning a deep dish pie, then this would be your best option, as the shortcrust will hold the sides up better than puff – a large, flat pie is ideal for using butter puff pastry.

Apple Butternut Pie with puff pastry

Apple and Butternut Squash Pie

Rather than have a list of vague quantities to cover all the pastry and pie size options, I’ve decided to go with the deep dish pie, as there are a couple of details that require a little attention in order to get the very best results.

300g butternut squash – peeled and chopped, or shredded on a mandolin
300g Bramley Apples – peeled, cored and chopped, or shredded on a mandolin
3tbs caster sugar [1]
2tbs cornflour
1 sheet all-butter puff pastry
1 batch sweet cornflour shortcrust pastry – from here

egg-white for brushing

milk and caster sugar for glazing

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Roll out the pastry and line a 24cm tart tin.
  • Prick the bottom of the tart with a fork to prevent blistering.
  • Line the pastry with baking parchment and weigh it down with rice, dried peas or baking beans.
  • Bake for 10 minutes, then remove the parchment and weights.
  • Brush the inside of the pastry with lightly beaten egg-white and bake for a further 5 minutes.
  • Set pie aside and raise the heat of the oven to 220°C, 200°C Fan.
  • Toss the apple and squash together.
  • Mix the sugar and cornflour together and sprinkle over the filling and toss again.
  • Add the filling to the blind-baked pastry case and press down firmly – there will be some shrinkage during cooking, especially when using Bramley Apples, and you want to try and minimise any possibility of a huge gap opening up between the pastry lid and the filling.
  • If your butternut squash is rather mature, and doesn’t seem very moist, add 2-3 tbs water over the filling before you add the pastry lid.
  • Damp the edges of the pie and lay the sheet of puff pastry over the top. Press together firmly and crimp the edges.
  • Trim the excess pastry.
  • Cut a 1.5-2cm steam vent in the centre of the pie – I find a plain, metal piping nozzle is the best/neatest way to achieve this. This will also help indicate whether the pie is cooked, as the filling will be visible through the hole and a shred or two extracted and tasted if necessary.
  • Decorate with pastry scraps as appropriate.
  • Brush the whole lid with milk and sprinkle with caster sugar.
  • Put the pie onto a baking sheet and bake in the hot oven for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 170°C, 150°C Fan and bake until the filling is cooked, 35-45 minutes more. NB The juice will be visible bubbling through the vent hole when cooked. If the lid is browning too much, cover it with a sheet of either foil or baking parchment.
  • Remove cooked pie from the oven and set aside to cool.
  • Eat warm or cold.

[1] This is the very minimum amount to still achieve a sweet pie. If your apples are especially sharp, add more sugar, but remember, the sugar will also draw out the juice from the apples, so add a little more cornflour as well to compensate.


Mince Pies Royale

Eliza Acton's Mince Pies Royale

Wotchers!

Here is a delicious recipe for stretching a small amount of mincemeat into 30+ rich and delicious seasonable bites.

It is adapted from a recipe by Eliza Acton, and I’ve taken the opportunity to pair it with another of her recipes which she refers to as “Superlative Mincemeat”. Taking as an example my adaptation of Hannah Glasse’s Lenten mincemeat, I decided to try making this recipe suet-free. Now I still absolutely love Hannah’s recipe, but I also love discovering new things as well.

The mincemeat recipe is a delight for anyone who loves citrus fruit. Its also a delight for anyone who loves a healthy slug of booze in their mincemeat. I’ve actually toned down the quantity of brandy because the alcoholic haze rising from the first test batch made my eyes water. Unusually, this mincemeat includes two boiled lemons, chopped finely, which add a real zing to the overall flavour. Once the lemons have been prepared, the method is very similar to the original Guilt-free mincemeat.

A portion of this mincemeat is then enriched and sweetened with sugar, fresh lemon, egg yolks and butter and used to fill pastry-lined mini tins. The pastry I’ve used is the sweet version of the cornflour shortcrust, flavoured with orange zest, and cut out using a flower cookie cutter (available as part of a set of 7 from The Range, price just £1.00 per set. Stars and Hearts also available) After an initial baking, the pies are topped with meringue and then baked for a further few minutes until nicely browned.

These little pies are extremely rich, which is why baking them in a mini muffin pan is ideal. The filling sets into a dense cross between Christmas pudding and Christmas cake and the crunchy meringue is a great contrast. This quantity makes about 30 mini pies, perfect as petites fours or to serve with coffee. You can keep them in a tin, but the meringues will go a little soft after 24 hours.

You can, of course, use any mincemeat and pastry you have to hand instead.

Citrus mincemeat
Makes about 1kg of mincemeat

2 small lemons (about 170g)
The weight of the lemons in raisins, currants and chopped dates
85g candied 0range peel, chopped small
85g candied citron peel, chopped small
30-50g caster sugar
60ml  brandy
60ml apple juice
0.5tsp salt
1tsp grated nutmeg
0.5tsp ground mace
1tsp ground ginger

  • Put the lemons into a small saucepan and cover with cold water.
  • Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes.
  • Drain the water and scrub the sides of the pan to remove the bitter lemon oil.
  • Rinse the lemons also.
  • Repeat 3 times, until the lemons are tender and a clove can be pushed through the skin.
  • Cut open the lemons and remove the pips.
  • Dice the pulp and rind finely.
  • Put the lemons and the rest of the ingredients into a small pan over a low heat.
  • Cover and allow the fruit to plump up. Stir occasionally.
  • If the fruit seems a little dry, add more liquid – your choice whether it’s alcoholic or not.
  • If the mixture seems too wet, uncover and allow the excess to evaporate.
  • Set aside to cool.

Orange Cornflour Pastry
225g plain flour
60g cornflour
140g unsalted butter
85g caster sugar
zest of 1 orange
1 large egg

  • Put everything except the egg into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  • Whisk the egg and, with the motor running, gradually add to the mixture until it comes together in a ball. You might not require all the egg, or you might need additional liquid if the mix looks a little dry. If you have extra egg-white, tat would be ideal, otherwise use water.
  • Knead the pastry smooth and wrap in plastic.
  • Chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes or until required.

Eliza Acton’s Mince Pies Royale

225g mincemeat
3 large eggs
30g clarified butter
juice and zest of 1 lemon
40g caster sugar

pinch of salt
caster sugar

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Separate the eggs.
  • Mix together the mincemeat, egg yolks, lemon zest and juice and the sugar.
  • Warm the butter until just melted and stir in.
  • Grease a large (24 cup) mini muffin pan.
  • Roll out the pastry very thinly. It is easier to work with either 1/3 or 1/2 of the pastry at a time.
  • Cut out pastry and use it to line the mini muffin pan. For a lovely, neat edge to your pies, I recommend using a flower-shaped pastry cutter. The petals help to avoid the dreaded folds which can sometimes be an issue with the pastry for mini tarts.
  • Add a teaspoon of the enriched mincemeat mixture to each tartlet.
  • Bake for 7-8 minutes until the middle has set and the pastry is cooked.
  • If you’ve got filling and pastry left over (and you probably will), use them up first by making a second batch of tartlets before making the meringue. Arrange the cooked tartlets on a baking sheet, ready for the meringue.
  • While the tarts are baking, make the meringue.
    • You won’t need to use all of the egg white, so I suggest using just half.
    • Put a bowl onto your scales and set them to zero.
    • Pour in the amount of egg-white you will be using and make a note of the weight.
    • Measure out an equivalent amount of caster sugar.
    • Whisk the egg-whites with a pinch of salt until soft peaks.
    • Whisk in the sugar, a spoonful at a time until the meringue is firm and glossy.
    • Spoon the meringue into a piping bag. You choose what style of nozzle to fit.
  • When all the tarts are baked and arranged on a baking sheet, pipe the meringue on top. Make sure the meringue covers all of the filling and goes right to the edge of the pastry.
  • Return the tarts to the oven for 5-7 minutes until the meringue is nicely browned.
  • Cool the tartlets on a wire rack.