After making successful pastry for my mince pies a few weeks ago, I said that I would conquer my fear of pastry. And with the inspiration of Mamma’s Gotta Bake’s mini apple pies and the ever dependable Martha Stewart’s recipe for easy pie crust, I made my first apple pie ! I’ve a long way to go from a presentation perspective, but the taste and texture came out just how I wanted it to (I’m so thrilled).
A few rules that I followed while making my pastry:
- Keep everything as cold as possible – butter should be chilled (I popped mine in the freezer). The reason for this is to keep the butter from melting into the flour, giving you a more crisp and flaky end result. For this reason you should minimise contact with your hands as much as possible, use your fingertips or the heel of your palm, which are the coolest parts of your hand, or better, use a pastry cutter or a food processor.
- Add just enough water to the pastry to bind it together – too much and the water will evaporate while cooking and steam, making the pastry soggy.
- Don’t overwork the pastry – quickly work the ingredients to just bring it together. Overworking the pastry will release more gluten in the flour, making your pastry less delicate.
- Make sure you rest the pastry for at least an hour – I rested it for two for good measure – this helps the gluten to relax, giving you a more tender texture.
- I love the idea from Martha Stewart to double the quantity of dough, and freeze half for use later.
My first apple pie makes 4 individual 10cm pies
For the pastry:
- 2 1/2 cups plain flour
- 230g chilled unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 4-6 tbls iced water
For the filling:
- 6 tart apples (granny smith or fuji), peeled, cored and diced into 1/2 cm pieces
- juice of half a lemon
- 1/8 tsp nutmeg (freshly grated if you have it)
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 cup brown sugar, tightly packed
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- good pinch of salt
- 2 tsp cornstarch
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 tbls granulated sugar
- Make the pastry first to give enough time for it to rest while you make the filling
- Add the cubes of butter to the flour, salt and sugar in a food processor and pulse on low until combined – it should resemble course breadcrumbs
- Add 2 tbls of the chilled water to the mix and pulse once or twice – just enough to bind the ingredients together for you to be able to tip the mix onto a board for kneading
- Continue to add 1 tbls at a time until the dough comes together
- Divide into two, wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least an hour
- For the filling, add a few teaspoons of lemon juice to the cut apples to stop them going brown
- Add the sugars, nutmeg, cinnamon and cornstarch and mix to coat the apple pieces
- Cook in a large saucepan for a few minutes until the apples soften – I like my apples to still have a bit of bite when cooked – if you want them softer, cook them for longer
- Add more lemon juice to the mix to taste – the sourness will mellow as the mix cooks
- Remove from heat and cool – about 30 minutes
- When ready, preheat your oven to 220C/425F
- Roll out your pastry to 3mm and I used the foil pie trays to cut out two circles per pie – one circle the size of the edge of the tray, one 1/2cm larger
- Use the larger circle to line the tray – you can use a muffin tray if you don’t have the foil trays
- Spoon the cooled apple mixture into the trays
- Top with the smaller circle and seal the edges (I used my thumb and you can also use a fork)
- Brush with the beaten egg and sprinkle the granulates sugar on top
- Bake on a baking sheet to catch any apple filling that may bubble out for 18-20 minutes, until the top is golden brown
- Remove from the oven and rest for 5 minutes
- Serve while warm with a big dollop of cream or ice-cream
I love a good mince pie. How could you not love a festive, icing sugar topped tender pastry, enveloping a deeply comforting warm mix of fruit, candied peel, spice, even some nuts and brandy. There’s the additional joy of being able to eat one you made yourself, still warm from your oven.
I found a jar of Tiptree brand mince filling in my supermarket. My favourite store-bought jams are Tiptree, so into my basket that jar went. I do need to caveat though, that the Tiptree mince ended up being very treacly (for want of a better word) and almost too alcoholic (never thought I’d ever say those words) for my liking. I have since found that Marks & Spencer do a mince filling which is Red-Riding-hood just right.
Nigel Slater has a really easy recipe that I used – I used a variety of tart cases rather than a tart tin just because I don’t own a tart tin, and perhaps my pastry was thicker, I only managed to make 12.
Ingredients makes about 12 – 18 tarts, depending on thickness of your pastry
- 150g unsalted
- 300g plain flour
- good pinch of salt
- 1 egg yolk
- a little cold water
- 375g good-quality mincemeat
- icing sugar for dusting
- Cut the butter into small pieces and add to the flour in a food processor. Pulse until you have what looks like coarse, fresh breadcrumbs
- Add the salt and pulse to mix
- Add the egg yolk and pulse again to mix well
- Add just enough cold water to bring the dough together. Add one teaspoon at a time – it’s surprising how little you actually need
- Bring the dough together on to a floured board and knead gently for a few minutes until it softens
- Reserve half of the dough, then roll the remainder to about 5 mm
- Preheat oven to 200C/390F
- Cut out 12 discs of pastry to fit the bottom of your tart tray/tart cases. Place the pastry in the bottom of your case, smoothing them up the sides so the edges stand very slightly above the top of the edge
- Fill each one with a dollop of mincemeat. Be generous.
- Roll out the remaining pastry and make a further 12 discs of pastry
- Slightly dampen each of these round the edge with cold water then lay them over each tart and press firmly to seal the edges.
- Cut a small slit in the centre of each pie and bake for 20 minutes till golden
- Let them calm down for a few minutes, then serve warm, dusted with icing sugar
- Store any leftover pies in an airtight container
Who doesn’t love decadent sweet treats ? Choc Chip Uru’s wonderful blog Go Bake Yourself is pretty much full of chocolately goodness and it’s always such a delight to visit and escape in all that sugary goodness. Everyone should take a peek into her happy happy life at least once (I challenge you not to go back after one visit) – I can guarantee if you are having a bad day you’ll feel better after.
And guess who was lucky enough to be able to write a guest post ? Yes, yours truly ! You can check the post on Uru’s blog and I’m reposting it here because I actually really love this tart 🙂
Ingredients serves four
- 75g unsalted butter – melted
- 90g caster sugar
- 80 ground almonds
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (or vanilla paste)
- pinch salt
- 1 sheet of puff pastry
- handful of blueberries (I use frozen but you can use fresh)
- additional sugar for sprinkling
- Optional: clotted cream or good vanilla ice-cream to serve
- Mix together the sugar, ground almonds, vanilla and salt
- Add the melted butter and mix well to combine
- Take the sheet of puff pastry and cut into quarters
- Lightly score about 1cm around the edges using the edge of a pointed knife
- Spread the almond mixture evenly over the pastry within the scored area
- Place the blueberries on the almond mixture
- Bake in a hot oven (200C) for 15-20 minutes until the puff pastry and almond mix are golden brown
- Serve hot with a dollop of cream or good vanilla ice-cream
Scraping the bottom of the jar to get out the last of my marmalade, I decided this weekend to make my own. (I think subliminally I have also been reading a lot of jam recipes, presumably to preserve the last of the summer fruits in the Northern hemisphere). I used Delia Smith’s recipe for traditional Seville orange marmalade with a few brave changes – using 50% brown and 50% white sugar and also a whole lot less sugar than her recipe calls for, which was still a terrifying large amount.
I’d seen/read/heard that the worse thing that can happen to jam is that it doesn’t set, so I also added some extra peel from some oranges I ate, and while I think the sugar part worked out just fine, the extra peel added so much pectin to my mix that the consistency was too firm. The brown sugar makes a dark marmalade with a strong molasses flavour – perhaps that’s why I could get away with using less – but I think maybe 50/50 was too strong and next time I’ll try 25% brown 75% white.
The good thing is that making your own jam is straightforward and fun enough to want to try it again, and guess what friends and family will be getting as gifts soon?
- 900g oranges – Seville would be perfect for their intensely sharp flavour but I made it with naval and that turned out fine
- 1 lemon
- 500g soft brown sugar
- 500g white sugar
You will also need:
- A large, heavy-based saucepan
- 6 x 350g jam jars
- Add the juice of the oranges and lemon to 2.25l water
- Scrape out the insides of the cut fruit and add the pips, the pith and everything else into the centre of the cheesecloth. Leave nothing behind – the pith and pips contain all the precious pectin that will help the jam to set
- Cut the remaining peel into thin strips and add to the juice and water. Don’t worry about the excess pith on the rind, it will boil off
- Tie up the cheesecloth tightly and pop that into the pot
- Bring to the boil and simmer gently, uncovered, for 2 hours
- In the meantime chill some saucers in the fridge
- Once the peel is soft, remove the cheesecloth bag and allow to cool. Make sure the peel is soft enough so you can rub it to nothing between your fingers and before you add the sugar. Adding sugar arrests the softening of the peel and you don’t want tough rind in your marmalade
- Add the sugar to the pan and stir gently over low heat to ensure all the crystals have dissolved
- Once the bag is cool enough to squeeze, turn the heat to high and squeeze the contents in the cheesecloth bag. You can do this with two saucers if it’s still too hot. This part is messy, sticky and intensely satisfying as you watch the almost jelly-like goo that contains the pectin ooze out
- Stir into the mixture
- Once the mixture comes to a rapid, rolling boil, start timing. 15 minutes to start. After 15 minutes spoon a little of the marmalade on to one of the cold saucers from the fridge, and let it cool back in the fridge. Once it has cooled, you can see if your marmalade has ‘set’ by pushing the mixture with your little finger: if it has a really crinkly skin, it is set. If not, continue to boil the marmalade and give it the same test at about 10-minute intervals until it does set.
- After that remove the pan from the heat (if there’s a lot of scum, most of it can be dispersed by stirring in half a teaspoon of butter, and the rest can be spooned off)
- Leave the marmalade to settle for 20 minutes. This will allow any floating rind to settle
- In the meantime, the jars should be sterilised – washed, dried and heated in a moderate oven for 5 minutes
- Pour the marmalade, with the aid of a funnel or a ladle, into the jars, cover with waxed discs and seal while still hot
- Label when cold and store in a dry, cool, dark place
I have had a bit of an obsession with shortbread since I made Christmas cookies, and I have found a recipe that makes a cookie lighter than air and that literally dissolves on your tongue.
Ingredients (makes about 25 cookies)
- 125g butter at room temperature – get the best you can buy because you can really taste it
- 35g icing sugar
- 50g cornflour
- 90g plain flour
- Good pinch of salt if using unsalted butter
- Cream butter and sugar till light and fluffy
- Add the flours and mix on low speed till you get a soft dough
- Pipe shapes on to a cookie tray lines with parchment paper
- Put into the fridge for 30 minutes to help them keep their shape while they bake
- Heat oven to 180C while cookies are in the fridge and bake straight from the fridge for 20 minutes until golden brown
I’ve made shortbread with rice flour before, and this time I substituted half a cup of plain flour with cornflour to make the shortbread melt in your mouth (rather than have the crispy texture you get with rice flour). Use the best quality butter you can find because you can really taste it in shortbread. I also use a vanilla bean paste but you can use pure vanilla extract. Just don’t use anything labeled “imitation” – apart from being made in a lab, it leaves a bitter aftertaste.
These rich, tender cookies go perfectly with a nice hot cup of tea.
Ingredients makes about 40 stars
- 250g unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 – 3/4 tsp salt (I think every sweet thing needs salt for balance, so it might be a bit heavy for some, adjust to your own taste)
- 1 3/4 cups plain flour
- 1/2 cup cornflour
- Cream the butter till light and creamy (about 1 minute)
- Add the sugar and vanilla and continue beating for another 2 minutes
- Stir flours into the butter/sugar mix until just combined
- Put the dough onto a large piece of clingfilm, shaping into a rectangle as you go, wrap/cover and let rest in the fridge for an hour
- Preheat oven to 180C (350F)
- Roll the delicate dough on a floured surface to about 1/4 inch and cut out whatever shapes you want. Dip the cutter into a bowl of flour before you cut each cookie to help you get the dough out of the cutter
- Place on a baking paper-lined tray and decorate with any sugar or silver cachous you want
- Bake for 10 minutes till lightly brown
- Let cool for 5 minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool completely
- You can decorate with any icing once cooled if you fancy
Triple Chocolate Tea Cake
I have been wanting to bake something for a while now. I’ve missed the smell of the flat as the cake cooks, and for something sweet to have with my afternoon cup of tea or coffee.
But what to make ? I have recently taken to making cupcakes and cookies just because it means that you can have small portions and also not make so much that D and I are forced to eat it all *wink*.
D’s immediate response when I asked him what he felt like ? CHOCOLATE.
So I decided on making the most chocolatey thing I could think of – a simple chocolate cake with chocolate buttons and chocolate butter icing.
I went searching for a recipe for a moist, light cake – nothing too heavy – and I found one that ticked the boxes, with the additional benefit of being able to be made in the same pan that you baked it in. I found this on the trusty joyofbaking site and then used a separate recipe for chocolate butter icing.
For the cake
- 1 1/2 cups (195g) plain flour
- 3/4 cup (150g) granulated white sugar
- 1/4 cup (25g) unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-processed), sifted
- 1/2 cup (50g) dark chocolate drops/buttons
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/3 cup (75g) unsalted butter, melted
- 1 cup (250ml) warm water
- 1 tbs lemon juice or vinegar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
For the icing:
- 6 tbs butter
- pinch of salt
- 1 1/2 cups icing sugar
- 2-3 tbs milk
- Preheat oven to 180C (350F) and place rack in centre of the oven
- In an ungreased 20cm (8 inch) square cake pan, stir together the flour, sugar, sifted cocoa powder, chocolate drops, baking powder, baking soda and salt
- Add the melted butter, water, lemon juice/vinegar and vanilla extract
- With a fork, mis all the ingredients together until well blended
- Bake in preheated oven for about 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick (or raw stick of spaghetti) inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean
- Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool
- Once the cake is cool, ice with chocolate icing. You can even cut the cake in half horizontally and add an extra layer of icing in the middle for that extra chocolate hit
- For the icing, beat the butter and salt together until light and creamy
- Slowly beat in the icing sugar
- Add 1 tbs milk at a time and beat well to get a softer consistency
Super rich, this is a dessert to be served after a light(er) meal but I personally think it should be a compulsory way to end all meals. This recipe is adapted from one I found from Felicity Cloake in the Guardian
Ingredients (serves four)
- 100g dark couveture chocolate – I used Lindt 70% cocoa
- 90g unsalted butter plus more for greasing the ramekins
- 2 tsp cocoa powder
- 2 egg whites and 1 egg yolk
- 85g castor sugar
- pinch salt
- 2 tsp plain flour
- Start by buttering the insides of the ramekins, making sure you butter the bottom edge well
- Dust the inside with cocoa
- Melt the chocolate and butter on the stove over low heat
- In a large bowl, using an electric whisk, whisk the sugar and eggs and salt together until thick and foamy
- Slowly combine the melted chocolate and butter, and then the flour
- Pour into the prepared ramekins and chill in the fridge for at least an hour
- When ready to serve, preheat oven to 200C (390F)
- Take the ramekins from the fridge and bake for 13 minutes exactly. The tops should be set (and slightly cracked) and coming away from the edges.
- Let sit for 1 minute, then gently turn out on to a plate
- Serve with a dusting of cocoa and a dollop of cream or just strawberries
In the middle of my detox, I found myself craving for something sweet (chocolate, to be honest), but processed food is one of the big no nos for me this week, so I was thrilled to find this genius way of getting my sweet hit sans sugar (I replaced the sugar in the original recipe with honey) with the added bonus of quinoea. The original recipe is from Martha Stewart.com. If you’re interested, the basics of my detox are here.
Ingredients (makes about 10)
- 1/2 cup quinoea
- 3/4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
- 1/4 cup shelled raw sunflower seeds
- 1/4 cup shelled raw pistachios, chopped
- 1/2 cup dried apricots, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
- 1 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 2 eggs
- Preheat oven to 180C (350F)
- Bring 1 cup of water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add quinoa; return to a boil. Stir quinoea; cover, and reduce heat. Simmer until most liquid is absorbed and quinoa is slightly undercooked, about 10 minutes
- Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet and bake, fluffing with a fork occasionally, until pale golden, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool in a large bowl
- Spread oats on baking sheet; bake until lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Add oats to quinoea
- Spread seeds and nuts on baking sheet; bake until lightly toasted, about 7 minutes. Add to quinoa mixture; let cool
- Reduce oven temperature to 150C (300F)
- Toss nuts, apricots and salt with quinoa mixture
- Beat honey, oil, and vanilla into eggs; stir into quinoa mixture
- Line a baking sheet with parchment. Spoon 1/4 cup firmly packed batter onto sheet for each cluster – space 3 inches apart and bake until crisp, about 25 minutes
- Let cool on a wire rack. Store, loosely covered with foil, up to 2 days
Honestly. Do not even bother with any other recipe. It’s apparently all about the resting of the dough for at least 24 hours that makes this cookie magical. Add the use of Valrhona chocolate discs, French butter and a sprinkle of Maldon salt on the top of the cookie and how on earth can you go wrong ?
This recipe (adapted from the NY Times – my recipe below uses less sugar and butter) makes a mountain of dough and I like smaller cookies, but just make it once and freeze individual scoops in freezer bags for warm cookies with a big mug of tea any time you want.
Time: 45 minutes plus at least 24 hours for resting dough
Ingredients (makes about 30 3-inch cookies – see freezing tip above)
- 2 cups cake flour
- 1 2/3 cups bread flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
- 250g unsalted butter
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
- 500g bittersweet chocolate – broken, chopped if not in discs. Buy the best you can and at least 60 percent cocoa content
- Sea salt flakes
- Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.
- Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes
- Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla.
- Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds
- Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them
- Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.
- Take out dough about 30 minutes before you’re ready to bake and preheat oven to 180C (350F)
- Scoop mounds of dough (the size of golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie
- Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft – about 18 minutes
- Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes
- Enjoy warm !