If you were wanting to pick a recipe to illustrate the diversity and imagination available in the culinary world, you could do worse than pick an apple tart. Such simple ingredients, such a basic concept – pastry case, apples, sugar – but the sheer variety of interpretation is exhilarating.
At the most basic level, it can comprise a sheet of pastry folded around a mound of peeled and sliced apples, tossed in sugar, and at the elegant end of the spectrum, we have the beautiful Tarte Tatin of M.Philippe Conticini (La Pâtisserie des Rêves ) seen below – 2mm-thin ribbons of apple slowly baked into a soft confit and presented on caramel puff pastry with a hazelnut streusel.
I saw a photograph of this pastry several years ago and actually had a go at re-creating it, painstakingly cutting apples into wafer-thin slices by hand, long before I discovered how it was actually achieved. Monsieur Conticini employs the use of a very swish piece of equipment called a Turning Slicer. An apple is inserted horizontally and, whilst similar to the more familiar apple peeler gadgets, in this utensil the blade is closer to a razor, and cuts a continual ribbon of translucent apple flesh as the fruit is rotated in front of the cutting blade.
Originally created in Japan for use with firm vegetables such as daikon, and offering fabulous possibilities for different uses, apart from not having the space to home it, the hefty price tag of $350-$700 puts it firmly beyond my pocket.
If we dial back a bit along the apple tart continuum from the elegance of Monsieur Conticini’s creation, we would come to a place into which the Transylvanian Apple Tart would slot very well. Its still very much recognisable as an apple tart, but with a few tweaks and additions to make it intriguing:
- The use of a raising agent in the pastry – after baking, it’s closer to a shortcake than a pastry and wonderfully light and crumbly.
- The addition of an unusual dried fruit – in this case, chopped prunes. Admittedly, it might not be prunes at all, I suspect it having got a little scrambled in translation, but prunes is what I used and very delicious it turned out, so I’m going to run with it.
- The buttery custard that brings everything together – added after the tart is mostly baked, when the majority of the fruit juice has evaporated during cooking, it adds a richness to the filling without causing a dreaded soggy bottom pastry.
- The generous slosh of alcohol – rum!
I found this recipe on several Russian blogs, and it appears to have originated from a book called ‘Bakery’ by Ursula Gruninger. I’ve not managed to track down an English language copy, but on the basis of this recipe, I’m keeping an eye out!
Transylvanian Apple Tart
Makes 1 x 24cm tart
750g Bramley apples – 3 large
50g chopped prunes
4-5tbs caster sugar
5tbs dark rum
- Peel, core and slice the apples.
- Put the apples and the res of the ingredients into a pan and toss to coat.
- Cover and heat gently until the apples start to soften.
- Remove from the heat, stir again, cover and set aside to cool.
180g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
90g unsalted butter
- Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
- When the apples have cooled, put all the pastry ingredients into a food processor and blitz to breadcrumbs.
- Grease and line a 24cm tart tin or spring-form pan with baking parchment.
- Tip the mixture into the prepared tin and press lightly into the bottom and sides. The sides should stand about 4cm high.
- Add the cooled apple filling and smooth.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes.
30g unsalted butter – softened
40g caster sugar
2 large eggs
- While the tart is baking, whisk the above ingredients together.
- Remove the tart from the oven and pour over the custard mixture. Jiggle the tin a little to make sure all the spaces are filled.
- Return the tart to the oven for a further 10 minutes until the custard is golden brown and just set.
- Remove the tart from the oven and sprinkle whilst hot with a further 2-3tbs rum.
- Allow to cool in the tin for 15 minutes, then remove from the tin and cool fully on a wire rack.
- Delicious? You can COUNT on it! Ah-Ah-Ahhh!
Well, Christmas is fast approaching, and so I thought a festive recipe was in order, and this one is fantastic!
It’s an alternative to mince pie. *pauses for the gasps of shock and horror*
Now, I love mince pies (see Exhibit A and Exhibit B ), but I also don’t have a very sweet tooth, and if you’ve had an extended social life in the run-up to the big day, and have sampled nothing but mince pies throughout December (sidebar: where do all the other bakes go in December? Are they on holiday? Sometimes it seems you can’t even turn around in December without bumping into a plate of mince pies!), by the time you get to the 25th, what with the Christmas Cake and Christmas Pudding, you can be all mince-pied out.
Also, sometimes you find yourself fancying something a little savoury at the end of a meal, and this is why this recipe is perfect on so many levels. It’s simple and straightforward – just two main ingredients of fresh cranberries and juicy raisins. The raisins take the edge off the sometimes eye-popping sharpness of the cranberries and the little dash of vanilla also gives the aroma of sweetness, so only the merest sprinkle of sugar is required. It’s festively reminiscent enough of a mince pie to deserve a place on the table, its fresh-tasting, palate-cleansing, sweet but not too sweet, can be served hot or cold, but AlWAYS with a slice of cheese. I’m thinking some vintage cheddar, crumbly white Cheshire or even one of the fruited cheeses – white Stilton and apricot anyone? What’s not to love about this tart!?
It is a traditional (Welsh) border tart, ideal for Christmas – just look at that glorious colour! – and because the original recipe didn’t specify any particular pastry, I’m taking the opportunity to offer for your delectation and amusement, a new pastry recipe! Yes, I know I’ve been saying lately how much I love the cornflour pastry – and I really do, both sweet and savoury versions – but I can’t resist something that has the potential to add a new arrow to my quiver, as it were, and in this case, I’m really glad that I did.
It’s Eliza Acton’s cream pastry and it has my seal of approval for several reasons:
- Simplicity – in its basic form, it can be whisked together with just two ingredients.
- Taste – when baked, it is crisp and dry, without any hint of greasiness or stodginess.
- It can be enriched with butter, but at a ratio of just 1/4 fat-to-flour, it is not as indulgent as it tastes. When enriched with butter, the texture is moving towards the flakiness of flaky pastry, yet with the ‘dryness’ and crispness of the cornflour pastry – Nom!
- And on the practical side, it handles and rolls really nicely.
You can, of course, use your own favourite pastry instead.
Radnor Cranberry Tart
Eliza Acton’s Cream Pastry
This quantity makes enough for a 20cm pie.
225g plain flour
300-450ml double cream
- Put the flour and salt into the bowl of a food processor.
- With the motor running, gradually add in the cream, a little at a time, until the mixture comes together.
- Tip the mixture out and knead until smooth.
- Roll out the pastry into a long rectangle.
- Using the same method as for Flaky Pastry, dot over half the butter.
- Fold the ends over, turn the pastry 90 degrees and repeat.
- Roll out one last time, and fold the ends inwards.
- Wrap in plastic and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
- Make the filling (see below).
- Remove the pastry from the fridge and cut into 2 pieces (2/3 + 1/3 is about right).
- Roll out the large piece and use it to line a greased, 20cm loose bottomed tart tin. Ease the pastry into the sides, rather than just stretching it by pressing down too hard. Leave the excess hanging over the edge of the tin.
- Roll out the smaller piece of pastry to make the lid, and lay it onto a cutting board.
- Chill both pieces of pastry in the fridge for 20 minutes. This will make sure it is relaxed and less prone to shrinkage in the oven.
- By this time, the filling should be cool enough to use.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
- Remove the two lots of pastry from the fridge.
- Fill the lined tin with the cooled filling and smooth over.
- Using a pastry brush, wet the edges of the pastry, then lay the lid across the top and press the edges together.
- Trim off the excess using the back of a knife.
- Crimp the edges to your liking – I used the tines of a fork to make for a good seal.
- Brush the surface of the tart with milk and sprinkle with caster sugar.
- Cut a steam vent in the middle of the pastry lid using a sharp knife.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes until the pastry is crisp and golden brown.
- Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the tin, then remove to a wire rack to cool, if not serving warm.
- Serve with a nice wedge of cheese.
450g fresh cranberries
60ml cold water
0.5tsp vanilla extract
- Rinse the cranberries and put them in a pan with the raisins, sugar and water.
- Cover and warm on a low heat until the mixture comes to the boil and you can hear the cranberries starting to pop.
- Simmer for just five minutes, then turn off the heat.
- Taste to make sure of the sweetness, but remember, this is not supposed to be a really sweet tart, however, it shouldn’t be too sour either. If you think it needs a little more sugar, add it by all means.
- Stir in the vanilla and leave to cool.
As you may know, my book Great British Bakes: Forgotten Treasures for Modern Bakers was published on November 7th.
I spent a long time researching, baking and photographing the recipes, and not all of the pictures could be squeezed into the book itself, so I thought I’d display some the ones that didn’t make the cut here on the blog. Enjoy!
Things are getting a little busy round here, with the publication of the book only days away, but I’ve already skipped a week without posting,and my conscience wouldn’t let me do it a second week. So here is something short on intro, long on recipe. This tart is perfect for these early autumn days, creamy like a summer cheesecake, autumnal with apple, crunchy with oats. Have at it, my pretties!
Creamy Apple Crunch Pie
120g plain flour
ice cold water to mix
1 large egg – beaten
- Put the flours and butter 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 roll out thinly.
- Grease a 20cm tart tin.
- Line the tart tin with the pastry. Leave the excess pastry hanging over the sides as it will help prevent the pastry from shrinking.
- Using a fork, poke holes in the bottom of the tart to let the steam out.
- Cover the pastry lightly with cling film and return to the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
- Remove the tart from the fridge and discard the cling film.
- Cover the pastry with baking parchment and weigh it down with baking beads, rice or dry beans.
- Bake for 10 minutes, then remove the parchment and the weights and bake the pastry for a further 5 minutes.
- Whisk the egg and paint a layer of beaten egg over the partially cooked pastry and return the tin to the oven for 3 minutes. This will help keep the pastry crisp and avoid a ‘soggy bottom’.
- Remove the tin from the oven and set aside.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 175°C, 150°C Fan.
2tbs plain flour
75g caster sugar
A pinch of salt
3-4 medium cooking apples
1 large egg – use the rest of the egg left over from glazing from the pastry.
1tsp vanilla extract
125ml reduced fat crème fraiche
- Mix the flour, caster sugar and salt together and tip into a large plastic bag.
- Peel, core and chop the apples into roughly 2cm pieces.
- Add the apples to the sugar/flour mixture and toss to coat the fruit pieces.
- Tip the mixture into a bowl.
- Mix the remainder of the egg, vanilla and crème fraiche together and pour over the apples.
- Mix thoroughly.
- Pour the apple mixture into the partially baked pastry and smooth the top.
- Return the tart to the oven for 45 minutes.
- While the tart is baking, prepare the topping.
Pinch of salt
60g plain flour
40g rolled oats
20g Demerara sugar
1/2-1tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
- Put the butter, lard, and flour into a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs, or rub it in by hand.
- Tip the mixture into a bowl and stir in the oats, sugar and spice, if using.
- After the tart has baked for 45 minutes, remove from the oven and sprinkle over the topping evenly
- Return to the oven for a final 15 minutes.
- Let the pie cool for 30 minutes before serving, or cool completely and then chill in the fridge for something that resembles cheesecake but without the guilt!
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.
This week we have a re-visit of a recipe I posted when I started blogging – Jim Lahey’s No Knead Bread.
A few years after word got out about Jim’s fabulous no-knead bread, he opened a pizza restaurant. The whole theme of the restaurant was to be bread, from the name Co. – pronounced ‘Company’, from the Latin com- “with” + panis “bread” – down through his menu. From his website:
Co. celebrates the communal dining experience with bread as the centerpiece of the meal. Our menu features a variety of toasts, soup, salads, artisanal meat and cheese selections – and, of course, pizza.
So here is my suggestion for adapting Jim’s bread recipe to make delicious, airy pizza bases that you can have on hand whenever you like.
The same quantities that make one large loaf, will make eight, adult-sized pizza bases. You can add toppings to the dough and bake it immediately or, as I’ve found works well, make eight ‘blank’ pizza bases, freeze them and then top and bake from frozen – giving you the luxury of never being more than 20 minutes away from delicious artisan pizza.
I shall shamelessly copy/paste from my previous post, to save you having to flip between the two.
No Knead Pizza Bases
820g plain or bread flour, plus more for dusting
0.5 teaspoon rapid-action yeast
2.5 teaspoons salt
700ml warm water
Semolina, polenta or cornmeal as needed.
- In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 700ml water, and stir until blended; the dough will be very wet and sticky.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave it to rest for at least 12 hours, preferably 18, at room temperature. The dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles.
- Sprinkle flour over a work surface and scrape the dough from the bowl onto it. Sprinkle with more flour and fold each side towards the middle. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let it rest for about 15 minutes.
- Using a long knife or dough scraper, divide the dough into eight roughly even pieces and shape into balls.
- Set aside onto a floured surface to prove for one hour or until doubled in size.
- After 30 minutes, preheat your oven to it’s highest possible setting.
- Line 2 or 3 large baking sheets with parchment. Alternatively, grease the sheets themselves and scatter with semolina, polenta or cornmeal.
- When the dough has doubled in size, it’s time to shape it into pizza bases.
- For each piece of dough:
- Pick it up and, holding the edge lightly between your fingers, work them around the edge of the dough in, as Terry Pratchett put so well “the famous Ai-Senor-Mexican-Bandits-Have-Raided-Our-Village position”
- The weight of the dough will stretch it downwards as you hang on to the edge, so you need to keep shuffling round with your hands to allow the dough to fall evenly. Don’t let it get too thin in the middle.
- When you’re happy with both the shape and the thickness, lay your shaped dough onto one of the baking sheets.
- Alternatively, you could put the risen dough straight onto the baking sheet and tease it out by hand.
- If the dough seems a little too thick in places once it is on the baking sheet, ‘dock’ it by poking your fingertips down into it, as you would do with foccaccia.
- When all the dough has been shaped, sprinkle with flour and bake for 12-18 minutes until cooked through. You want them to be on the pale side, because of the second baking they will get with the toppings.
- Allow to cool on a wire rack, then wrap and freeze.
- Remove from freezer and add your favourite pizza sauce and toppings.
- Place in the oven and turn the heat to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
- Pizza will be warmed through and bubbling after 10-15 minutes.
BBC Good Food Show Summer
The BBC Good Food Show Summer is running from 12–16 June at the NEC in Birmingham and to celebrate the organisers are offering this fantastic prize!
Win one of 3 pairs of general admission tickets to enjoy a day at the Show.
The Show is packed full of celebrity chefs including Paul Hollywood, Mary Berry, James Martin, John Torode and Gregg Wallace demonstrating live on the Supertheatre sponsored by Tesco Real Food. Plus see your favourite TV programmes brought to life including The Great British Bake Off, MasterChef and Saturday Kitchen.
Shop till you drop from over 200 food stands. Visit the Producers’ Village and the Good Food Champions area to find small and artisan produce that you won’t see on the high street and Don’t forget your ticket also gets you free entry to BBC Gardeners’ World Live where you can learn how to grow your own from some of the nation’s top gardening experts!
Not a winner? To book tickets and for more information on the BBC Good Food Show Summer please visit bbcgoodfoodshowsummer.com or call 0844 581 1341
To enter please leave a comment below with a valid email address as I will need to email the winners to arrange ticket delivery.
Your email address will not be used for any other purpose.
Entries close at midnight Friday May 31st, 2013
Winners will be selected using random.org.
Terms and conditions for tickets and giveaways for BBC Haymarket Exhibitions
All tickets are general admission weekday only.
Tickets are non refundable and non-exchangeable. Ticket terms and conditions apply.
Tickets will be mailed out directly to the competition holder (me!) by BBC Haymarket Exhibitions. I will forward tickets to the winners.
Tickets do not include a seat in the supertheatre.