The days are getting a little shorter, the temperature has dropped a noticeable few degrees and a few tell-tale leaves are already turning brown. It’s all pointing to the inevitable fact that Autumn is creeping up on us. Perhaps we still have a few more warm September days to come, but if not we have lots to look forward to: cold mornings with hot porridge, crisp afternoons with a bowl of soup or a steaming mug of hot chocolate and evenings wrapped in a blanket while tucking in to a hearty stew or a slice of pumpkin pie. Although eating apples aren’t quite ripe yet, the cooking apple tree at my grandparents’ house was laden with a huge crop of fruit. At the weekend we helped strip the tree bare, ending up with buckets and boxes and bags of cooking apples. A traditional apple pie made with short crust pastry is a beautiful thing, but here is something just a little bit different – miniature individual apples pies made with puff pastry.
I’ve been planning to share a recipe for puff pastry with you for a while now, and pastry week on Great British Bake Off seemed like the perfect timing. Puff pastry is a scary beast for most people, and we always hear chefs telling us not to bother making it from scratch, but to buy the ready-made pastry available in the shops. Now there’s nothing wrong with using shop-bought puff pastry – it’s relatively cheap, easy to store and use and cuts down cooking by a reasonable amount of time – and I often do so. However, “rough puff pastry” is actually very, even surprisingly, straightforward to make. Granted, “proper puff pastry” is a little more complicated, but this quicker version below produces beautifully light, flaky, buttery pastry.
Ingredients (makes 12 individual pies) 190g flour Pinch of salt 125g chilled butter, cut into cubes 100ml iced water 400g cooking apples (about 4 small apples) 2 tbsp sugar 1 tsp ground cinnamon 1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg, beaten
Method 1. Preheat the oven to 180C fan/200C/Gas Mark 6 and lightly butter a 12-hole muffin tin. 2. Add the butter to the flour and salt and mix to coat.
There have been a lot of savoury recipes on the blog recently: pizza, lamb shanks, spring vegetables and fresh pesto. I make no apologies for this – this blog was never intended to be sweet-only; all food was created equal – but with “pudding” in the title it seems only fair to throw in a dessert after so many main meals. And what better to satisfy a sugary craving than a generous slice of pie. You might remember (if you have been reading the text in my posts and not just skipping through to the pictures…I know, I do it too) that a few weeks ago I was contemplating what to do with the next crop of rhubarb from my dad’s allotment. On Saturday he dashed round in his gardening gear, threw some stalks of rhubarb at me without even crossing the doorstep, muttered something about “we’re leaving for Oxford in 30 minutes and I still need to have a shower” and then ran back to the car. Needless to say, I was very grateful for the delivery and knew I had to do the fresh, ruby-red stalks justice. Rhubarb and strawberry is a classic combination, and paired with sweet and crumbly short crust pastry it couldn’t really go wrong.
Making your own short crust pastry from scratch can be a stressful experience. The “short” in the name refers to the shortening, or fat, that is added to the pastry and gives it a light, flaky texture. This means that the pastry can be hard to work with and often breaks when it is rolled out. However, that said, the blessing of short crust pastry is that it can easily be patched up no matter how delicate it is. Any holes can be covered up with another small piece of pastry and after cooking no one will notice. So if you’re being bold and making your own, don’t worry about the flimsiness of the dough – keep calm, carry on and it will turn out perfect in the end. If you’re short on time or just not in the mood for a battle with flour and butter, then the ready-made pastry that you can buy from the shops is a great substitute.
Ingredients (serves 8-12 using a large pie dish approx. 28cm across the top) About 10 stalks of rhubarb 1 tbsp sugar 2 tsp vanilla extract 450g plain flour Pinch of salt 200g chilled butter, cut into small cubes 30g chilled white cooking fat, cut into small pieces 50g of caster sugar mixed with 10 tbsp cold milk and chilled 750g fresh strawberries, husks removed and halved if large 1 egg, beaten
White or Demerara sugar for sprinkling
Method 1. Preheat the oven to 180C fan/200C/Gas Mark 6. Chop the rhubarb into chunks and lay out in a roasting tray, sprinkled with the sugar and vanilla extract.
2. Roast the rhubarb for 5-10 minutes until just tender.
3. Make the pastry following my previous recipe. The only difference here is that we have double quantities but the steps are exactly the same: rub the butter and fat into the flour and salt, add the sugar and milk to combine and knead the minimum amount of times needed to bring the dough together. Wrap the pastry in cling film and put in the fridge to rest for 30 minutes. If you leave the pastry to chill for longer (there is no problem making it a day ahead) then give it 30-60 minutes out of the fridge otherwise it will be too hard to roll. 4. Preheat the oven to 180C fan/200C/Gas Mark 6 again. Cut the pastry in half and pop one piece back in the fridge while you roll out the base of the pie with a rolling pin (wine bottle). Use plenty of flour on the surface as you roll since the high butter content can make the pastry sticky. Roll into a rough circle 1cm thick and lift into your pie dish. Press into the edges, leaving the excess pastry to hand over the sides.
5. Fill the pie with the roasted rhubarb and fresh strawberries. If you have a sweet tooth then you can sprinkle with some extra sugar.
6. Roll the second half of the pastry out to top the pie. Press the crust down firmly to seal the pie and crimp the edges either with your fingers as shown below or with a fork. Brush the pie with egg and sprinkle with a little sugar. Cut two slits in the top to let the steam escape while the pie cooks.
7. Bake the pie for 40 minutes until golden brown. If the edges begin to brown too quickly then you can cover them with some tin foil, though I found this tricky because by then the pie was very hot!
Pie-fect (sorrynotsorry) served with lashings of cream or a large scoop of vanilla ice cream.
As you can see, this pie produces a lot of juice from the strawberries – don’t let this delicious syrup go to waste and drizzle it over your slice of pie or spoon of ice cream.