Caramelized Apple Dessert

Sunday dinner is done and thoughts are turning to dessert. The weather is still cold outside and the snow is losing its charm now, becoming slush on the roads that will no doubt turn Monday’s dreary January commute into something a little more treacherous. So with our stomachs conjugating over the roast we’ve just had, I wanted something for dessert that would bridge that melancholy gap between the weekend and the week days that follow. Something to put a smile on peoples’ faces like a pudding that’s warm and friendly. A apple tart should do the trick. A little sweet. A little sharp. Served with hot custard and or cold cream accompaniments for those that  want to really and truly punch through their weekend calorie limits.

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Ingredients:

For the pastry:
Butter 50g (cubed)
Flour 125g
2 tbsp milk
2 eggs

For the filling:
3 sweet apples
Lime juice (2-3 tbsp)
2 cups ice cold water
2-2 tbsp Muscavado sugar

Custard or heavy cream for serving.

Method:
Rub the butter,  flour and sugar together then when the mixture resembles crumbs, add the eggs and milk slowly to combine the pastry together, working it into a dough. Knead until the dough is smooth, wrap and then chill for half an hour. Roll out to a thickness of half a centimetre (between two sheets of baking parchment if it helps). Lay the pastry across a fluted flan tin, pressing it into the corners gently and cutting off any excess. Chill for another half an hour or until you are ready to bake. In the mean time, peel, core and slice very thinly the apples before soaking them in the lime juice and water. This keeps them fresh, adds a little sharpness, and slows the browning process down.

When you are ready to bake, line the pastry with concentric circles of apple slices tightly. Dust the top with the Muscovado sugar and bake on 180º for 30 minutes.

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Roman Gnocchi

I found a letter written to Elise stuck in the back of Elizabeth David’s Italian Food and it read thus:

‘Churchgates                                          

                             Dear Elise,

What an enchanting box of apples –
Thank ‘ee so much.
On the back is the Gnocchi recipe. Hope you can read my writing!

– Eva Jenna’

Those were the days, when finding new recipes was only as fast as word of mouth could travel – a time before the Internet. I imagine, she swapped the apples one day at a dinner at Eva’s house, which consisted of the gnocchi served as per the recipe she sent back in her thank you note.

Now this summer of our own I decided to recreate the gnocchi. It is in fact, Roman Gnocchi – the difference being that it is made from semolina rather than potato or wheat flour.

Ingredients:
1 pt. milk
4 oz. 0.25mm semolina
1 cup stock (chicken cube will do)
1 cup of Parmesan cheese, grated
1 beaten egg
40g butter
Salt and pepper to season


Method:

Start by sieving the semolina to prevent lumps in the gnocchi later. Bring a pan of milk to a gentle simmering and slowly add the semolina – stirring all the while. Turn the heat down to very low and add the stock. Continue to stir as the consistency thickens. Stir in a 3/4 of the Parmesan and the diced butter.

Allow the semolina to cool a little before stirring in the beaten egg – you don’t want the egg to curdle in a mixture that is too hot.

Then turn the thick mix out onto a flat dish and allow it to set over night in the fridge.

When you’re ready to cook it, cut the gnocchi into lengths or squares and place in on a buttered baking tray. Coat your knife blade in a bit of flour first to prevent any sticking. If you like, you can add a little more Parmesan for an extra crispy topping.

Try these in place of your average potato wedges, or serve them with a ragù or stew.

Apple Loaf Cake

Like apples? Don’t like apples? Either way I suggest you try out this treat for elevenses one week: a sweet snack with a quick cup of tea. It’s wonderfully moorish!

Ingredients:
2 eating apples
A tablespoon of lemon juice
A tablespoon of demerara sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon
110g flour
110g caster sugar
100g unsalted soft butter
2 large eggs (beaten)

Method:
Preheat the oven to 180º (gas mark 4).

Cream the butter and sugar together, until white and smooth. The softer the butter, the easier this is to do. Add a little of the beaten egg and stir in, alternating with the flour until all the flour and egg are mixed into a smooth batter. Swirl in the table spoon of cinnamon to create a rough marble effect in the batter. If you don’t like cinnamon, just leave it out. Then pour the batter into a loaf tin lined with greaseproof paper.

A good tip, when it comes to lining any square cake tin is to leave extended bits of paper sticking over the edge of the tin. You can use these to lift the cake out after cooking.

Finely slice the apples into very thin segments and arrange over the top of the cake batter. I stood mine up in the mix in two long rows, but not digging them in too much – as they will sink into the cake as it rises during the baking process.

Sprinkle with a little lemon juice and demerara sugar. Bake for 55 minutes on 180° in the middle shelf on an oven.

Remove and allow to cool on a wire rack before cutting. To make sure it is cooked all the way through, test the cake by running a metal skewer through the centre. Although this is naturally quite a wet cake, it should still come come out fairly clean, without batter. If not, put it back in the oven for another ten minutes.

Coconut Macaroons

I first tasted coconut macaroons in the Christmas Markets in Manchester a few years ago. Although originally macaroons are made with crushed almonds, these coconut versions are actually quite easy to make and are pretty snacks to decorate the table for any sort of party. Or just a comforting sweet bite to bake all for yourself…

Ingredients:
200g shredded coconut
150g caster sugar
2 larges egg whites
8 squares of dark chocolate (or milk if you prefer)

Method:
Simply mix all three ingredients well in a bowl and chill for fifteen minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180°. Using an ice-cream scoop, make moulds of coconut half-spheres and space them out on a baking tray lined with grease-proof paper.

Bake for fifteen minutes, until the coconut catches a golden colour. Remove from the oven and whilst cooling, melt a small amount of dark chocolate in a ban-marie. Drizzle the melted chocolate over the cooled macaroons – or alternatively, dip half of each macaroon in the chocolate and allow the chocolate to set on the baking paper before eating. ~

Pineapple Custard Tart

Ingredients  Pineapple chunks 1 cup double cream 2 large egg yolks Vanilla essence Butter 50g (cubed) Flour 125g 1 tsp caster sugar 2 tbsp milk 2 eggs Make up the sweet short crust pastry by rubbing the butter and flour and sugar together between your fingers. When the mixture is crumbly add the eggs and […]

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Soufflé

There is a family story that tells of my Grandfather, Jim, dining at the Savoy in London and one evening ordering the soufflé for his desert. So unhappy was he, with what was served, that he wrote to the kitchen explain his disappointment. Unlike today’s apologetic vouchers or consolatory free meal, this was the 1940s […]

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Black Pudding Bread

There is nothing like a spot of toast with a cup of tea, if you’re a bit peckish one afternoon. And there’s also nothing like a round of peppery black pudding. I could eat it every day, on its own, with breakfast, lunch or supper. I get the impression it is a little underrated as a food, let alone a snack.

So if you’re into making bread, I hope you have a go at trying this out. It’s so simple. The different textures of the hot and soft freshly toasted bread and crispy pieces of peppery black pudding, lathered in some lightly-salted butter is a five minute slice of heaven on a plate. Especially with a cup of strong tea. Darjeeling I suggest.

Ingredients:
500g Strong white flour
7g fast action dried yeast
1/2 tsp salt
20g sugar
300ml luke warm water
Chopped pieces of cooked black budding (quarter crescents of sausage slices will do).

Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl and make a small well in the centre. Then bit by bit, add the water and start to mix it together, bringing flour in from the sides of the well to form a soft dough. Add a little more water if the mix is to dry to come together. Likewise, add a little more flour if the dough is too sticky.  When the dough has made one piece, tip it out onto a floured surface and knead it for ten minutes or so.

Oil a bowl large enough to contain the dough with some room to spare and into this place the dough and cover with a damp cloth. Leave the bowl in a warm place to let the dough rise.  When it has doubled in size, tip it back on to the floured surface and ‘knock back’ the dough to take some of the air out.

At this point add the black pudding. Now – if you prefer a more consistent mixture of black pudding through the bread and not chunky spots, then by all means go ahead and crumble the black pudding pieces beforehand. Re-form the dough into a shape you are happy with making sure that all the black pudding is well distributed through the bread. Place it on a greased baking tray for another 30 minutes, covered with a tea towel to let the dough prove.

Bake in a pre-heated oven on 200° and bake for 20 mins before lowering the heat to 180° for another half an hour. Tapping the base of the loaf will tell if it is cooked; it should sound hollow.

Leave on a wire rack to cool.

When ready, cut, toast and serve with salted butter. An amazingly comforting snack. ~