Monday 11 November 2013

An Apple a Day

One minute it was all season of mists and mellow fruitfulness and suddenly, whether I like it or not, the Christmas countdown has begun....  However, before I go and get completely obsessed with what colour scheme my tree will be this year, I'm giving one last culinary gasp to Autumn.  It definitely wouldn't win me Star Baker on "The Great British Bake Off" (a totally addictive BBC television baking competition for those who are not in the know) but this apple pie is a slam dunk winner around our kitchen table. Nothing makes me happier than seeing my boys out in the garden apple picking and then munching their way through the fruits of their labours a couple of hours later.


The recipe in question is Nigel Slater's " Bramley Apple Shortcake" which comes from his amazing Kitchen Diaries (the first and best one in my opinion). The pastry is crumbly and sweet - it can be fiddly to roll so you need to be patient, and if you do have to patch it, by the time it comes out of the oven all golden and burnished and beautiful, no-one will be any the wiser - trust me.

For the pastry:
butter- 150g
golden caster sugar- 150g
an egg
plain flour - 250g
1 tsp baking powder
a little milk and sugar to finish 

For the filling:
1.2kg Bramley apples (if you can't get Bramleys, choose another tart apple eg Braeburn)
lemon juice
butter - 50g
a heaped tablespoon of caster sugar.

Photo: Andrea Jones

Lightly butter a 24cm shallow metal pie plate. Cream the butter and sugar in a food mixer until light and fluffy.  Mix in the egg, then gently add the flour and baking powder.  Remove and roll into a ball on a heavily floured work surface.  Knead the dough for a minute or two until it it is smooth and soft (it will be quite soft, be warned). 
Cut the pastry in half, roll out one half and use it to line the pie tin.  Wrap the remaining pastry in greaseproof paper and refrigerate it with the lined tin for 20 minutes or so.  It won't hurt if you leave it a bit longer. Set the oven at 180c/Gas 4.  Peel the apples, remove their cores and slice them thickly, as you would for apple pie.  Drop them in cold water to which you have added a squeeze of lemon juice to stop them discolouring. 
Melt the butter in a non-stick frying pan when it sizzles, add the apples.  You want them to colour here and there and soften somewhat, but without breaking up.  Scatter the sugar over them and continue cooking until they are very lightly caramelised. As soon as they show signs of frothing remove from the heat.
Place a baking sheet in the oven to heat up, use the juice from the apples to brush the edges of the lined pastry case.  Fill the tin with the cooked apples, then roll out the second half of the pastry and carefully lay it  on top of the fruit.  Press the pastry edges together and patch where necessary. Brush the pastry crust tenderly with milk and sprinkle with caster sugar.  Bake for 40 minutes or until pastry is golden and crumbly.  Leave to cool briefly, then sugar again before cutting.

I love the way Nige (as he's my constant kitchen companion I like to think we're on first name terms by now) advises 'tenderly' brushing the pastry crust with milk, but he's absolutely right. The warm apples make the pastry very soft so you have to go gently or you risk breaking the pastry top.

I kid you not, this is one of the most life-affirming, uplifting mouthfuls of apple you will ever taste - I urge you to give it a go. As they say on the GBBO "On your marks, get set, bake!"

1 comment:

Janie said...

Hi Jules. Thanks for this. Had been looking for the recipe after seeing your photo ?on Instagram. J x