Postcard from Autumn

(Simple apple tart)

A postcard from Autumn in Sydney would read something a little like this : Bringing you sunshine filled days and cool, breezy evenings. Enjoy. PS: Don’t forget to make apple tart!

This month, I’ve been busy eating as many of Summer’s last yellow nectarines as possible, while in the kitchen, I’m already dreaming of apple pie and hot stews. It’s no coincidence that we’ve already had two apple-based pastries since the start of March. Nothing spells comfort to me more.

Inspired by Autumn’s note, and a wedge of flaky pastry I dug out from the freezer, a very simple apple tart was made. Not overly sweet and not too dissimilar to the French tarte fine aux pommes, it was delicious served with a little puddle of vanilla custard. There are many things you could add to this tart to make it a bit more fancy. Brush a cider glaze over the finished product, or wave a blow torch over the surface as it emerges from the oven. Heck you could even make it with a combination of apples and persimmons (another great Autumn fruit). But you could also just as easily keep it simple, because sometimes, simple is best.

Simple Apple Tart :

250g flaky pastry (a recipe is provided below, if you need one)
2 apples
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons sugar (or vanilla sugar)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Slice the cored but unpeeled apples as thinly as possible (use a mandoline if you have one). Toss in the lemon juice and set aside while you roll the pastry.

On a lightly floured counter top, roll out the pastry to 1/8-inch thick and line a 9-inch shallow pie tin, trimming off any excess pastry. (You can use the offcuts to make pie cookies!) Drain off the lemon juice and arrange the apple slices on top of the pastry in a concentric pattern, like so. Combine the sugar with the cinnamon and sprinkle on top of the apple slices. Bake in a preheated 190’C oven for 25-30 minutes. Serve with custard or ice-cream.

[NB : For the flaky pastry : In a food processor, blitz 140g plain flour with a generous pinch of salt, 1 tablespoon sugar and 120g butter, until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add 1 yolk and 1-2 tablespoons of iced water and blitz again until the dough just comes together. Wrap and chill the dough for a few hours before using.] (Simple apple tart)

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Apple Pie Cake

(Apple Pie Cake)

I woke up yesterday morning with the words apple pie cake still lingering in my head between layers of sleep and a rapidly evaporating scene involving two turnips who twalked (talked and walked). Tip : cheese before bed, is rarely a good idea. Especially cheesecake.

Since twalking turnips are too challenging to conjure up, I settled on making the apple pie cake of my dreams. Rifling through the internet over a bowl of warm oatmeal revealed that such a singular thing did indeed exist. In its many forms, it is a well known Russian dessert, a Dorie Greenspan or Martha Stewart recipe, and also something that resembles apple pie filling between layers of frosting and butter cake. For the purposes of this dessert exercise, I chose the Dorie Greenspan route.

If you find the decision between having pie or cake a particularly taxing one, this recipe cleverly has a foot in each realm. The pastry tastes just so, but with a cakey consistency. Its baked craggy bumps and folds and that gentle lifting scent of warm cinnamon brought to mind the pies I never baked cooling on window sills of houses I never lived in. Seemingly heavy stuff, but not really. Just something incredibly easy to make, enjoyable to eat and pleasing to share. Below is the recipe, a down-sized version of the original which made 18 servings and seemed like overkill even to the two pie lovers of this household.

Apple Pie-Cake :
(a down-sized version of a recipe from Baking by Dorie Greenspan)

For the dough :
110g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
pinch of salt
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 1/2 cups plain flour

For the apples :
4 large green apples
juice of 1/2 lemon
3-4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 generous teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the dough, place the butter and sugar in a mixer and beat until smooth. Add the egg, lemon juice and pinch of salt, beating to combine. Add the flour and baking powder and slowly mix until the dough comes together. Add a few more tablespoons of flour if the dough looks too wet. Wrap the dough and chill for at least 2 hours before using.

When you are ready to roll the dough, first prepare the filling. Peel, core and slice the apples roughly 1/4 inch thick. Toss with the lemon juice, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon, then set aside.

Cut the dough in half and roll the first half to fit a 8 or 9 inch pie pan. Line the pan with the dough. Pile the sliced apples on top of the dough, then roll the second half of the dough as a lid. Crimp or press the edges of the pastry together. Cut a few slits on top of the pastry and sprinkle with extra sugar and cinnamon if you wish. Bake in a preheated 180’C oven for approximately 1 hour, until the pastry is golden brown (cover loosely with foil if it appears to be browning too quickly, half way through the baking time).

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Raisin’ a toast to the weekend

(Raisin toast, stuffed with raspberry and custard)

There are few things more annoying than waking up hungry on a Saturday morning and discovering that you’ve run out of all things breakfast-worthy. When this happens, I suffer through a few handfuls of B’s cardboardy breakfast cereal while making a quick bread like this one. Occasionally the little organised person in me that’s constantly struggling to get out, manages to be a bit more prepared.

So this weekend, I made some raisin bread. It’s based on a recipe from one of my favourite books and is phenomenal eaten warm straight from the oven. If you have leftovers, the bread is also great toasted, or, taking a little inspiration from classic french toast, I also sandwiched some toasted slices with thick vanilla custard and raspberries. For once, that’s weekend breakfast AND dessert covered.

Raisin Bread :
(based on the fruit loaf recipe in Warm Bread and Honey Cake by Gaitri Pagrach-Chandra)

350g bread flour
1 sachet (7g) dried yeast
2 teaspoons raw sugar
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 egg
50g soft butter
150g whey or warm milk
120g raisins (or dried fruit of choice)

In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix the sugar, whey (or milk) and yeast. Allow to stand for 5 mins, then add yolk, butter, flour, salt and cinnamon (in that order) and mix on medium speed with the dough hook until the dough is smooth and comes away from the side of the bowl. You can also make the dough by hand if you wish.

Transfer the dough to a medium sized oiled bowl, cover and chill for 2-3 hours or overnight. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured bench, pat/press it into a rectangle, roughly 1cm thick. With the long side facing you, scatter the raisins over the surface of the dough and roll it up, brushing away any excess flour. Place the rolled up dough in a greased loaf tin or on a lined tray. Cover and allow to prove. When the dough has doubled in size, bake in a preheated 200’C oven for 30 mins or until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.

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