Autumn fruit crumble

Seasonal autumn fruits for a crumble
One of my first ever recipes on this blog was for a rhubarb crumble, spiced with star anise and vanilla and served with homemade custard. While rhubarb crumble is a celebration of spring, this recipe is the ultimate, turbo-charged celebration of autumn. I mentioned the combination in that first post about crumble: a mixture of apples, pears, plums and brambles. These fruits are the absolute joys of autumn produce and come in a wide variety throughout the season, so you can make this recipe slightly differently each time. Use blackberries instead of wild brambles (though picking wild brambles is another joy of autumn in itself), use eating apples instead of cooking apples, use whatever types of ripe plums you can find at the shops.

One ingredient I highly recommend making the effort to get hold of is a bag of damsons, which are tiny darkest-blue plums that have an incredible jammy texture when cooked. They’re also quite sour after cooking, which balances out all the sweetness in the rest of the crumble. They are difficult to find in supermarkets, but you should have better luck getting them at a greengrocer.

I wished I’d had ground almonds in the cupboard when I made the crumble topping, as I think almonds go so well with fruits like pears and plums. Add a few tablespoons to the mixture with the oats if you have some. This makes a very generous quantity of crumble topping, which freezes very well, so if you don’t end up using it all just pop the remainder in a labelled plastic bag and store in the freezer for another time.

One year ago:
Meatloaf
Stewed apples and plums
Ingredients for seasonal autumn fruit crumbe
Ingredients (makes one very large crumble to feed a crowd)
150g cold unsalted butter
250g plain flour
75g soft light brown sugar
50g oats
1.5kg autumn fruit (approximately – I used 3 cooking apples, 3 pears, 8 greengages and 3-4 handfuls each of damsons and brambles)
2 tbsp granulated sugar

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas Mark 4. Cut the butter into small cubes.
Chilled butter cut into small cubes
2. Add the butter to the plain flour and rub together with your fingers until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
Adding chilled butter to the plain flour
Rubbing the cold butter into the plain flour
3. Add the sugar and mix well.
Adding light brown sugar to the butter and flour mix
4. Add the oats, and ground almonds if using, and mix again. Set the crumble topping aside.
Adding oats to the crumble topping mix
5. Prepare the fruit by peeling, coring and chopping the apples and pears into chunks and removing the stones from the plums and halving. Arrange the fruit in a large, deep ovenproof dish.
Preparing the seasonal autumn fruit 1
6. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of sugar over the fruit.
Sprinkling sugar over the seasonal autumn fruit
7. Pile the crumble topping over the fruit, pressing down gently with the back of a spoon.
Topping the autumn fruit crumble 1
Autumn fruit crumble ready to bake
8. Bake for 30-40 minutes until the crumble is golden brown and the juice from the fruit is bubbling up to the surface.
Close up of Seasonal autumn fruit crumble
Serve with lashings of warm vanilla custard, with the curtains drawn, the heating on and surrounded by flickering candles. Comfort food done right.
Seasonal autumn fruit crumble served with vanilla custard
Seasonal autumn fruit crumble

Easy apple tarts

Quick apple tart served with vanilla ice cream
This is a great little recipe if you need a dessert in a hurry. It’s basically a cheats apple tart, and isn’t much more than an assembly job, especially if you use ready-made puff pastry. It’s a great way to use up eating apples, of which there are many different British varieties in season at the moment. Don’t use cooking apples as they will become mush during the baking, but any eating apple will do – ours actually came from an overhanging tree in the Mitchell’s back garden (with neighbour permission of course!). Lemon juice stops the apple slices from browning and the brown sugar brings the sweetness back up and adds a caramelised toffee flavour. Then it’s just into the oven for a quick bake and a little glaze of jam at the end. Done and dusted in half an hour.

A special mention has to go to Natasha and Josh for their gift to me of a beautiful jar of homemade plum jam – with plums from the garden and all. The perfect topping for these fruity little tarts.
Ingredients for quick apple tarts
Ingredients (makes 6-8 small tarts)
400g puff pastry (or follow the quantities and method here)
4-5 eating apples
Half a lemon
2 tsp soft brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp plum or apricot jam

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/Gas Mark 6. Roll your pastry out to about half a centimetre thick. Using either a pastry cutter or a small bowl and a knife, cut out rounds of pastry and lay onto a baking tray lined with baking parchment. You want the size of the pastry circles to be a little bigger than the height of the apples. Pop into the fridge while you prepare the apples.
Rolling the homemade puff pastry
Cutting rounds of puff pastry
2. Cut the apples into thin slices and toss in the brown sugar and the juice of half a lemon.
Thinly sliced apple sprinkled with lemon juice and soft brown sugar
3. Arrange the apple slices on top of the pastry circles, overlapping in the middle. Brush a little egg around the edges of the pastry and bake for 8-10 minutes until the pastry has puffed up and the apple has started to caramelise.
Arranging the apple slices on the puff pastry
Baked apple tarts before glazing
4. While the pastries bake, heat the jam gently. Use a pastry brush to dab the melted jam over the top of the baked tarts.
Homemade plum jam
Heating the plum jam for glazing the tarts
Quick apple tarts
Serve warm from the oven with vanilla ice cream, or leave to cool and have with a steaming hot mug of tea.
Quick apple tart served with vanilla ice cream

Peter Rabbit’s Party Cake

Carrot cake for afternoon teaThis recipe comes from my very lovely Auntie Rosie. My mum has had a hand-written copy tucked away in a folder for years, and it’s really the only go-to carrot cake recipe that you need. It’s very lightly spiced with cinnamon and comes out the oven dense, but deliciously moist thanks to the carrots and apples. A light, fluffy Victoria sponge can be absolute perfection, but sometimes your cravings call for a richer cake, one with the caramel flavour of brown sugar, the softness of cooked fruits and vegetables and small bursts of fudgy raisins throughout. The sourness of the icing on top helps to balance the sweet sponge. It’s a simple cream cheese affair, flavoured with lemon juice and, my own personal addition, orange zest.
Ingredients for homemade carrot cake with cream cheese frosting
Ingredients
115g butter
2 tbsp olive oil
250g carrots, peeled and grated
2 apples, peeled and grated
170g soft brown sugar
2 eggs
200g flour
7 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp salt
115g raisins
3 tbsp milk

60g icing sugar
250g cream cheese
1 tbsp lemon juice
Zest of 1 orange

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 160C fan/180C/Gas Mark 4 and grease a 20cm cake tin with a little butter.
2. Melt the butter and mix with the olive oil.
Melted butter mixed with olive oil for carrot cake
3. Mix the fats with the sugar, eggs, and grated carrots and apples.
Mixed wet ingredients
4. Sieve the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt) and fold into the wet mix.
Carrot cake with cream cheese frosting 1
Adding the dry ingredients to the wet mixture for carrot cake
Carrot cake batter after mixing wet and dry ingredients
5. Add the milk and raisins to the cake mixture and stir well.
Adding milk and raisins to the carrot cake batter
6. Spoon the cake mixture into the cake tin and bake for about an hour until a skewer comes out the middle of the cake clean.
Pouring the carrot cake batter into the cake tin
Carrot cake ready for baking
7. Turn the cake out and leave to cool while you make the icing.
Baked carrot cake
Cooled carrot cake ready for icing
8. To make the icing simply beat together the icing sugar, cream cheese, lemon juice and orange zest. Keep in the fridge until you are ready to ice the cake.
Mixing the cream cheese icing
9. Once the sponge is completely cool, spoon the cream cheese frosting onto the cake and spread evenly. Leave like this, or decorate in whatever way takes your fancy: I dotted some orange food colouring gel around the top of the cake and then used a skewer to swirl it through the icing.
Carrot cake with cream cheese frosting
Carrot cake with cream cheese frosting
This carrot cake doesn’t need any extras, like cream, on the side whether it’s served up mid-afternoon or for pudding. All you need is a generous wedge of cake, and perhaps a cup of tea.
Homemade carrot cake
Thanks for the fabulous recipe Auntie Rosie! x

Mini puff pastry apple pies

Mini puff pastry apple pies with homemade pastry
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 for mini puff pastry apple pies
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.
Chilled and cubed butter and flour
3. Add 10 tbsp of the iced water, stirring with a knife to roughly combine. Add a little extra water if the mixture seems much too dry, but don’t worry that the mixture doesn’t come together completely – you need to be able to gather the mixture together with your hands, but you don’t want it to be wet.
Adding iced water to the puff pastry mix
4. Flour a surface and tip the pastry out, forming into a rough rectangle with your hands.
Making puff pastry - gathering the ingredients together
5. Gently roll the rectangle longer. Again, don’t be scared if the mixture cracks a little at this point, it will become smooth soon.
Making puff pastry - the first roll
6. Fold the top third down on itself, and the bottom third up over this.
Making puff pastry - folding down the top third
Making puff pastry - folding up the bottom third
7. Turn the pastry 90 degrees and repeat this process of rolling and folding. Repeat a total of 4 or 5 times, until you have a lovely smooth block of pastry. Wrap in cling film and put in the freezer for 15 minutes while you make the filling. (If chilling for longer, leave it in the fridge and take out 10 minutes before you need to roll, so that it’s not too hard. This pastry can be frozen if you want to store for another day.)
Making puff pastry - the pastry after 4 or 5 roll-and-fold processes
8. Peel, core and chop the apples into very chunks. Mix together with the sugar, cinnamon and vanilla extract.
Apple pie filling flavoured with cinnamon and vanilla
9. Remove the pastry from the freezer and roll out to a half centimetre thickness on a well-floured surface. Move quickly at this point, since the high butter content of the pastry will make it sticky and hard to work with if it gets too warm. Use a pastry cutter to cut 12 circles of pastry and gently press them into the buttered tin. Fill with a large spoon of the apples.
Filling the mini apple pies with the cinnamon and vanilla apple mixture
10. Dab a little egg around the edges of the pastry using a pastry brush to help stick the pie tops and bottoms together. Cut another 12 circles of pastry, lay them over the filling and gently press round the edges with a fork. Brush egg over the tops of the pies and make two small cuts on the top of each pie with a sharp knife to allow any steam to be released from the pies during cooking.
Mini puff pastry apple pies ready to be baked
11. Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until golden brown. Allow to cool on a wire rack.
Cooling the mini puff pastry apple pies
Cooling the mini puff pastry apple pies on a wire rack
These can be eaten warm from the oven, or you can let them cool completely and then reheat them at 180C for about 5 minutes. They will keep in an air-tight container for a couple of days.
Mini puff pastry apple pies with homemade pastry
Mini puff pastry apple pie
Serve these with cream or ice-cream for dessert, or with a cup of tea in the afternoon. This is also how I usually make mince pies at Christmas time, replacing the apples with mincemeat, but for now miniature apple pies seem like the best way to celebrate the fact that Autumn has really arrived.