Monday, 26 October 2015

Pear and Apple Pie

I love pears but they can be an awkward fruit.  They start out hard as bullets, malingering in the fruit bowl for days.   Suddenly, without warning, they can
turn soft ... too soft if you don't watch them. I am afraid I took my eye off the ball, or more accurately put, the pears.  They did exactly what pears do...became slightly over ripe.  I was about to bake a pear cake when Andy said he preferred a pie.  

My response was, 'But we've just had an apple pie.'   Andy replied 'Yeah, and I really enjoyed it'.  OK, pear and apple pie it is.

I used this BASIC APPLE PIE RECIPE.  Two pears were substituted for some of the apples.  I add a teaspoon of vanilla extract to the filling mixture and reduced the cinnamon to 1/2 teaspoon.  To my surprise, IT WORKED!  

So if you find yourself with a pair of awkward pears, try this pie.  It really is rather good! 

Thursday, 22 October 2015

The Apple Pie Impulse

I didn't intend to bake an apple pie, it just sort of happened.  It was an apple pie impulse brought on by the fact that our home grown apples were beginning to look a bit 'less than perfect'. 

We've had several apple cakes and made apple jelly.  Baking a pie was just the logical thing to do, a grand finale to the home grown apple season.  

Let me get the apologies out of the way right now.  Sorry the photos are AWFUL.  It was twilight when I started baking so I'd lost the light.  Sorry the crust isn't decorated with pastry apple leaves or lattice work.  It was an impulse bake so I didn't even think about doing something fancy.  But, hey, if apple pie can't look rustic then what can?!  The truth is, I love a double crust apple pie because it has double the crust and that is my favourite part, sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar.  

The first thing to do is prepare the crust.  This recipe makes an 8 inch pie so you need enough short crust pastry to line the pie plate and top the filling.  Lots of people are put off making pastry.  If you are one of them don't deny yourself the pleasure of pie. Shop bought pastry will do just fine.  

This is the recipe I used for the Short Crust:

250 grams plain white flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
70 grams cold butter - cut into cubes
70 grams vegetable shortening  (Trex or Crisco)
Cold milk - approximately 4-6 Tablespoons 

Mix the flour and salt, add the butter and shortening.  Use your fingers or a pastry cutter to work the butter and shortening into the flour.  It should look like breadcrumbs.  Add the milk ONE Tablespoon at a time, mixing with a fork until the pastry begins to come together.   Use your hands to finish combining the pastry.  Wrap the pastry in cling film, pat it into a rough circle, and place it into the fridge to chill while you make the filling.

Apple Filling

5 cups thinly sliced apples - peeled and cored
1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar -  this depends on your apples, taste for sweetness
3 Tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
1 Tablespoon butter

Place the apple slices into a large bowl sprinkle over the flour, cinnamon, and salt.  Add about 1/3 cup sugar, stir well to coat the apple slices and taste.  Too tart?  Add more sugar, stir and taste again.  You will know when you've got it right.  

Set the oven to 400F/200C.   Butter the inside of an 8 inch pie plate. 

Take the short crust pastry out of the fridge and divide it into two equal pieces. Place one piece of the pastry between two pieces of plastic wrap. (This will keep the pastry from sticking to the rolling pin and make it easier to put into the pie plate.)  Roll the crust into a rough circle large enough to line the bottom and sides of the pie dish.  

Place the pastry into the pie dish.  Let the extra bits just hang over the edge. You will need them later. 

Pour the sliced apples into the pastry lined dish.  Break the tablespoon of butter into little pieces and place over the sliced apples.  

Repeat the pasty rolling technique with the remaining short crust.  Top the apples with the pastry 'lid'.  Using your fingers, pinch the two crusts together to seal in the apple juices.  

Brush to top crust with a little milk.  Sprinkle over a pinch of sugar.  Dust with cinnamon and place the pie on a baking sheet lined with a bit of baking paper. Make a few cuts in the top crust to let the steam out of the pie as it bakes.  

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and apple juices are bubbling out of the slits in the crust.  

To avoid a 'soggy bottom' you must allow the pie to cool before cutting into it. If you aren't bothered about the soggy bottom bit... and I AM NOT... you can enjoy a slice of warm apple pie.  Some like vanilla ice cream, clotted cream, or custard with their pie. I've even know those who like a slice of Cheddar cheese.  I prefer mine just as it is... RUSTIC!  

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

The Cotton Candy Tree

It's my favourite time of year again, Autumn.  It's the fall foliage that does it for me.  I love summer's flowers but not nearly as much as I love the flame-like leaves of fall. 

Every October I visit all the local garden centres to see what I can add to my collection of foliage plants.  

Today I purchased this beautiful, glow-in-the-dark smoke bush called 'Cotton Candy'.

She is only little but BOY does she brighten up the garden.  I understand the name Cotton Candy comes from the frothy pink flowers that look a bit like smoke. 

I'll let you know next summer about the pink smoke.  Right now I am just enjoying the incredible luminosity of these autumn leaves. 

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Cinnamon Apple Crumble

'Tis the season to crumble.  All the hedgerow fruits are ripe and apples are tumbling out of the trees.  You can mix and match the fruit you like in a crumble but my favourite combination is simply Cinnamon and Apple.  

Ordinarily, I would show you a serving of crumble but this one is going to my Mum-in-Law's house for afternoon tea so I don't dare cut into it.  You are just going to have to trust me this time.  This is the perfect autumnal treat.  Here's how to make it:

Turn on the oven to 350F/170F.  Butter a square baking tin and set it to one side while you make the crumble components. 

Crumble Components:

4 cups of apples - peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
1 lemon - squeeze the juice over the sliced apples, stir to coat all the apple slices

Cinnamon Syrup
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Place the sugar, water, and cinnamon into a small sauce pan.  Slowly bring the syrup up to a boil and let it cook for about 2 minutes. 

When the cinnamon syrup has thickened slightly, pour it over the apple slices and mix well.  Pour the syrup covered apples into the buttered baking tin and spread them into an even layer.

Now it's time for the BEST bit...the crumble topping!

Crumble Topping
100 grams oats
100 grams plain flour
100 grams sugar
100 grams butter or margarine - cold and cut into small cubes
1 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Place the oats, flour, sugar, butter, and cinnamon into a large mixing bowl. Stir them together combine.

Add the butter to the bowl, using your fingertips, rub the butter into the mixture until it looks like breadcrumbs.  Sprinkle the crumble topping over the apple slices. 

Bake for 40 - 50 minutes, until the topping is golden brown and apple juices are bubbling around the edge of the tin.  

I like it slightly warm.  Andy likes it with clotted cream.   Maggie, my mum-n-law, likes it with clotted cream and custard.  Vanilla ice cream would be good, too!  

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Raspberry Poke Cake

A couple of days ago our allotment friend, Arthur, gave me a bowl full of beautiful raspberries.  They were picture perfect and smelled delicious.  

Now I have a little confession to make.  I have a 'thing' about berries.  I love the way they taste.... I LOATHE the seeds.  I sat down to have a think.  What could I do about those seeds? 

Then I remembered an old fashioned recipe my Mom used to make.  It was called a Poke Cake.  The idea is you bake a simple cake, poke holes in it with a skewer and pour liquid Jello over the cake to make it extra moist and flavourful. Now, if there is anything I like less than seeds it's Jello, but the idea is a good one and the inspiration for my version of Raspberry Poke Cake.  

Begin by making a simple raspberry sauce:

Fresh or frozen raspberries
Sugar to taste

Place a cup or two of raspberries into a small sauce pan. Add a few tablespoons of water and cook over a low heat until the berries soften and begin to break down. 

Using a fine strainer, drain the juice into a bowl.  Stir gently to extract every last drop.  Add sugar a tablespoon at a time until the sauce is as sweet or sharp as you like.  I used about 3 tablespoons of caster sugar, icing sugar will work, too.  Set this aside while you make the cake. 

To make the cake you will need the following :

2/3 cups caster sugar
1/2 cup room temperature butter or baking margarine
2 eggs - room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups plain flour*
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup milk

*To make the cake extra tender, replace 2 tablespoons of the flour with 2 tablespoons of corn flour ( corn starch).

Heat the oven to 350F/170C.  Butter a 9x5 inch loaf tin and line it with baking paper. 

Pour the milk, yogurt, and vanilla into a jug and stir well to combine.

Place the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, corn flour) into a bowl and stir to combine.

Put the butter and sugar into a large mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer set on a medium to high speed, cream together the butter and sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time.  Turn the mixer down to low speed and add the dry ingredients.  Gradually pour in the milk/yogurt and continue to mix JUST until the batter is well combined and smooth. 

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf tin.  Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until a tester inserted into the centre of the cake comes out without any wet batter. 

While the cake is still warm and in the baking tin, poke holes all over the top of the cake with a skewer.  Slowly spoon the raspberry sauce over the cake making sure the sauce oozes into the holes.  Allow the cake to sit in the loaf tin until it is completely cool and all the raspberry sauce has been absorbed into the cake.  

There you have it...Raspberry Poke Cake, sweet, saucy, and not a seed in sight!  Thanks, Arthur!