As some of you may know, I made it into Series 2 of The Great British Bake Off. The show is currently being shown in the UK on BBC2 on Tuesdays at 8.00pm. Each episode has a baking theme, and this week it was tarts. For the final round, we bakers had to present 24 miniature sweet tarts, of two differing types – so two batches of twelve. My butterscotch brulée tarts in pecan pastry didn’t get any airtime (*sob*) – but my apple rose ones did, and so I thought I’d post about them.
There’s three separate elements to these – the pastry, the filling and the decoration. The pastry is a crisp sweet shortcrust, and the filling, a delicious apple custard, is based on several 18th and 19th century recipes I found. The crowning glory though, are the apple roses – slices of apple poached in apple juice and sugar and then rolled into a beautiful rose. I’ve included a little diagram I put together to help show how the roses are created.
When my daughter saw these cooling on a rack, she exclaimed “Oooh! Apple posies!” – which I am REALLY tempted to use as a name because they’re so cute!
A name for the tarts, that is – not as a name for me. I couldn’t pull off cute in a million years.
Anyhoo – on with the recipe!
Apple Rose Tarts
Sweet Shortcrust Pastry
250 g plain flour
125 g butter, chilled and diced
75 g caster sugar
1/2 lemon, grated zest only
1 egg, beaten
- Blitz the first 4 ingredients in a food processor until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs
- With the motor running, pour in the beaten egg IN STAGES. This is important. Add about a tablespoon at a time and give the flour time to absorb the liquid. The mixture will comes together when sufficient liquid has been added.
- When the mixture has come together, tip it out of the processor and knead once or twice into a ball.
- Cover and chill for at least 30 minutes.
8 red-skinned eating apples – as red as you can find – I used Pink Lady
1 litre apple juice
500g caster sugar
- Stir the sugar and apple juice together in a large pan until the sugar is fully dissolved.
- Cut apples in half vertically.
- Remove core and cut into thin (semi-circle) slices.
- Put the slices into the apple syrup and simmer 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. Depending on how thickly you sliced the apples, probably no more than 15 minutes. You’ll find that the colour from the skins leeches into the syrup, and turns the flesh of the apples a wonderful dusky pink.
- 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.
-  Place 1 slice of apple on the left-hand end of your chopping board, flat side towards you.
-  Lay the next slice so that it overlaps the first by half.
-  Continue in this manner until there are 12 slices laid into a single strip
- Lay out 12 strips, one for each tart. Cover with cling film until required.
Apple Custard Filling
3 Braeburn apples – or apple of your choice.
120ml extra thick double cream
1tbs lemon juice
grated zest of 1/2 a lemon
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
1-2 tbs cornflour
- Mix the sugar, cream, egg, yolks, lemon zest & juice.
- Peel, core and grate the apples finely over a sieve to drain off excess juice.
- Stir into the egg/cream mixture.
- Put the cornflour into a cup and add some of the apple custard mix to it. Stir until fully combined. Stir cornflour mix into the main mixture.
- Heat oven to 200ºC, 180ºC Fan
- Roll out the pastry thinly – about 3mm.
- Line the holes of the cupcake tin with pastry by whatever method you prefer – I quite like the gently folded creases created by using a round cutter and parchment, but for a neater finish you could use the template method suggested here.
- Spoon in filling, 1-2tbs per hole.
- Roll up the apple slices, starting from the left hand side of the board. The overlaps will help keep everything together. Drop the resulting roses gently into each cup.
- Cook for 10 minutes.
- Turn pan 180 degrees, then cook for another 10 minutes, until pastry is cooked and browned.
- While the tarts are cooking, simmer the apple/sugar mixture over a medium-high heat until thickened into a syrup.
- Remove tarts from the oven, leave for five minutes and then remove from the tins. Set aside to cool on a wire rack.
- Brush tarts with the apple syrup and sprinkle with a light dusting of icing sugar to serve.
NB Make apple custard tarts with any leftover filling and pastry – 10-15 minutes in the same temperature oven, or until filling is set. If making tarts larger than cupcake size, blind bake for 10 minutes to avoid the dreaded soggy bottom, then just 10 minutes with the filling!
Gingerbread is such a classic teatime treat – and I’m a huge fan of classics! – it’s just that I don’t usually feel very inspired when I hear the word ‘gingerbread’. I think of a treacle-dark cake, rich, sticky and aromatic with ginger – sounds yum, no? – but the main thing that springs to mind is….a brick slab!
It probably goes back to the large, family bakes of my childhood, where the cake-of-the-week was kept wrapped in foil in a tin and slowly chiseled away at during the week until it was all gone. There wouldn’t be another cake until this cake had been eaten, and it used to lurk in the tin in all its brickiness, standing between me and… any other baked treat. The chances were high that it would eventually be replaced with something equally heavy and fruity – but that new cake’s attraction would be, initially at any rate, mostly due to the fact that it wasn’t the gingerbread.
The image of heaviness and brick-like shape has lurked in my culinary memory ever since – which is a shame because what it SHOULD bring to mind is crisp winter nights, spiciness and fireworks, treacle-richness and bonfires. So I thought I should try and rehabilitate it, and bring it up to date. Ironically, I achieved this by referring to a recipe over 165 years old, from Miss Eliza Acton.
Heroines of Cooking: Elizabeth ‘Eliza’ Acton (1799 – 1859)
Originally a poet, Eliza Acton is considered by many to be the first to write a cookery book as we would recognise it today. Her Modern Cookery for Private Families (1845) was the first to separate a list of ingredients from the methodology, and was aimed specifically at small households. Additionally, the author’s observations on potential problems and recommendations for subtle variations were included, illustrating Eliza’s personal experience with the recipes, unlike many of her contemporaries and cookery authors that were to follow. It was an immediate success and remained in print for almost 60 years. She was to write only one other book The English Bread Book (1857), in which her strong views against the adulteration and processing of food would still be being echoed by Doris Grant almost a century later.
After several experimental baking batches, here is Eliza’s recipe for Coconut Gingerbread Cakes, scaled down to a manageable quantity. Baked in a mini muffin tin, the recipe makes approximately 24 bite -sized cakes with all the dark richness of traditional gingerbread, with the added coconut giving both a lighter texture and more complex flavour. Fresh coconut is a little time consuming to prepare, but very much worth the effort.
Coconut Gingerbread Cakes – Makes 24
75g plain flour
75g ground rice
2 tsp ground ginger
grated rind of 1 lemon
40g dark brown soft sugar
80g fresh grated coconut
- Mix flour, ground rice, ginger and lemon rind in a bowl and set aside.
- Put the treacle, sugar and butter into a saucepan and heat gently until the butter is melted and the sugar dissolved. Remove from the heat.
- Add the dry ingredients to the warm treacle mixture and stir to combined. Stir in the coconut and then set mixture aside to cool.
- Heat oven to 120°C, 100°C Fan.
- Divide cooled mixture into 20g pieces, roll into a ball and drop into greased mini-muffin cups.
- Bake for 30 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
- Keeps very well in an airtight box/tin.
Cost: £1.37 (August 2011)