Apple Streusel Pie

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At a shoot lunch towards the end of the season, my husband was served what he termed “the best pudding I’ve ever eaten”.  He loved it so much he asked his hostess, Clare Pelly, for the recipe so that he could make it at home.  Only joking; I mean so that I could make it for us all.  I don’t mind at all: I’m happy to be the cook in our relationship because I enjoy it and because I’m better at it than he is, just as there are many things I don’t like doing which he is happy to do and is better at than me.  I imagine this is how most successful partnerships work.

As it turns out, I’m very grateful to him for getting me the recipe for this “best ever” pudding because it’s absolutely delicious.  Clare is also an Aga cook and the pie is particularly suited to Aga cooking because it can be baked on the floor of the roasting oven, which gives wonderful, crisp pastry.

Ingredients

For 1 x 10″/26cm or 2 x 7″/18cm flan tins

Pastry:

  • 8oz/200g plain flour
  • 4oz/100g butter
  • 1 tbsp icing sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tbsp cold water

Filling:

  • 2lbs/900g cooking apples
  • 2oz/50g raisins
  • 4oz/100g plain flour
  • 4oz/100g caster sugar
  • 2oz/50g butter
  • 10floz/285ml double cream

Topping:

  • 2oz/50g caster sugar
  • 2tsp cinnamon

Method:

  • Pre-heat conventional oven to gas mark 6/200ºC
  • To make the pastry, sift flour, rub in butter, stir in icing sugar and bind together with yolk and water.  Wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge for about 30 minutes
  • Roll out thinly and line your prepared tin(s) with it.  No need to bake it blind
  • Peel, core and slice  your apples and mix with the raisins
  • Make a crumble by sifting the flour, stirring in the sugar and rubbing in the butter
  • Spoon half of this into the tin
  • Cover with the apple/raisin mixture and pour over the cream
  • Spoon over the remaining crumble mixture and sprinkle on the topping
  • Bake on the floor of the roasting oven for about 30 minutes until it’s bubbling and caramelised or brûléed on top.  Your pastry should be lovely and crisp, although you won’t know this until you’ve cut into it
  • Conventional oven: after 25 minutes turn it down to gas mark 5/190ºC for 10 minutes
  • Can be served hot, warm or cold

Aga note:

I always worry about the Aga cooling down if you give it too much to do at once but yesterday I cooked a pheasant, some roast potatoes and this pie in the roasting oven in the space of one and a half hours and everything was perfectly cooked.

Cinnamon:

The first time I made this pie we were a little disappointed that the cinnamon flavour wasn’t very strong.  Cinnamon is one of my husband’s favourite things so he did a bit of research.  First of all he saw that the cinnamon I’d used (by Bart’s) was a blend “sourced from several Fairtrade producers” and that the cinnamon considered to be the best is from Ceylon.  So from the website cinnamonhill.com I bought some Ceylon cinnamon sticks and the next time I made the pie, we used the fine Microplane grater to grate some for the topping and reader, I can confirm it tasted noticeably better.

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Mince Pies

This post is not about telling you how to make mince pies.  To be perfectly honest, as I may have mentioned before, I don’t rate my pastry-making skills and would not presume to pass on any tips, because you are probably all much better at it than me.

That is not to say that I don’t enjoy having a go.  What is more, there’s nothing like making mince pies for getting into the festive spirit and family and friends do appreciate homemade ones.  One of the reasons I’ve made a few in the last week is that I found a big jar of Waitrose mincemeat in my cupboard with a “best before” date of December 2016.  You see?  I don’t even make my own mincemeat!

For the pastry I use this excellent Xanthe Clay recipe.  Sometimes I make “closed” pies (see above) and sometimes I cut out pastry stars to place on top (see below).  I always brush with egg and sprinkle with caster sugar.  I fancy making some with an almond crumble topping one day.  I bought some like that at Bristol’s wonderful Hart’s Bakery yesterday and would love to try to emulate them.  But that’s for another day.

In the Aga

Mince pies bake very quickly in the Aga roasting oven.  Place your tray of pies on the grid shelf on the fourth rung of the oven.  They will be done in 15 minutes at the most.  The oven is hotter at the back and on the side nearest the centre, so I turn the tray round halfway through the cooking time.

 

Tarts and Scones

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Making tarts or quiches in an Aga could not be easier because you do not have to bake the pastry blind.  Take the tart above, which I made on Friday.  I used this recipe by Diana Henry but was able to omit several stages and go straight from chilling the lined tart tin to adding the filling and baking it.

On this occasion I didn’t even make the pastry myself.  I bought some good quality all butter shortcrust in sheets, which meant minimal rolling out was required.  Once I’d lined my tin with it, I put it in the freezer to firm up, as Diana advises, but I did not prick the pastry with a fork; this is not necessary if you are not baking it blind.

I’m not sure how long mine was in the freezer for, but probably no longer than half an hour.  I did a bit of washing up (I’m one of those cooks who clears up as she goes along) and prepared the filling while this was happening.  So then all I had to do was put the crab/salmon/Thai ingredients in the pastry case and pour over the cream/egg mixture and cook my tart.  This I did by placing it straight onto the floor of the Aga roasting oven and leaving it there for about thirty-five minutes.  I checked on it after twenty though.  It was done when the filling was golden and no longer wobbly.  I removed it and let it rest while I roasted some new season English asparagus to go with it.  A nice green salad would have been a good accompaniment too.  We thought this tart was delicious.  I have resolved to make more such things during the summer.  A tart makes excellent picnic food and if you have any left over, it keeps well in the fridge and is available for any peckish moments.  I’ve just remembered a rather delicious smoked salmon one I used to make.  Must dig out the recipe.

On Saturday I did absolutely no cooking, which was a treat.  We were in London for the day and went out for a lovely family lunch at our favourite Italian restaurant, fittingly called La Famiglia.  The reason for the gathering was that one of my cousins had come over from Norway to visit his aunt, my mother.  All my boys were able to join us and together with one girlfriend and one fiancée there were ten of us round the table.  My husband, youngest son and I didn’t get back to Bristol until about 8.30 in the evening (in time to catch most of Eurovision).  We weren’t really hungry but managed to squeeze in a little slice of the tart all the same.

On Sunday afternoon I made scones for afternoon tea.  I cannot think of anything quicker to bake than scones and I just love them.  The recipe I chose was this one by Thane Prince which uses buttermilk.  The scones are light and not at all rich.  If you want a richer scone, there are plenty of recipes which use eggs, like this Mary Berry one.

Update: BBC Food Website

Following the devastating news today that the BBC is to remove all 11,000 recipes from its food website, I need to update this post.  The Mary Berry scone recipe link above will soon no longer function.  It was probably a bit lazy of me merely to give you a link anyway, so I’m giving you below one of her scone recipes in full.  It’s one I’ve used many times.  And don’t worry, I have no plans to remove any recipes from my blog so it will be here for you to use forever!

Mary Berry’s Very Best Scones

  • Makes about 20
  • Pre-heat conventional oven to 220ºC
  • You will need two large baking trays, lightly greased or lined with bake-o-glide

Ingredients

  • 450g SR flour
  • 2 rounded teaspoons baking powder
  • 75g butter, at room temperature
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • about 225 ml milk

Method

  • Sieve the flour and baking powder into a large bowl and rub the butter into it with your fingertips, until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.  You can pulse this in a food processor if you prefer
  • Stir in the sugar (and pulse again if using food processor)
  • Beat the eggs together and make up to a generous 300ml with the milk, then reserve 2 tablespoons of this for glazing the scones later
  • Gradually add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients, stirring it in until you have a soft dough.  Again, this can be done in a processor
  • The mixture should be on the wet side, sticking to your fingers, as the scones will rise better
  • Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and flatten it out with your hand to a thickness of 1-2 cms.  Use a 5cm fluted cutter to stamp out the scones by pushing the cutter straight down into the dough (as opposed to twisting it), then lifting it straight out
  • Gently push the remaining dough together, knead very lightly, then re-flatten (you could use a rolling pin) and cut out more scones
  • Arrange the scones on the baking trays and brush the tops with the reserved beaten egg mixture to glaze
  • Bake, one tray at a time, with the tray on the third rung in the Aga roasting oven, or in the pre-heated conventional oven, for 10-15 minutes, until well risen and golden
  • Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool