Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

BRANDY APPLE PIE

Brandy apple pie

I’ve made a fair few apple pies in my time. They’re one of my preferred vehicles for clotted cream, especially in the colder months. Plus I’m continuing my quest to make pastry as good as my Grandma used to make, one day I’ll get there.

Brandy apple pie

Now she never put booze in her dough but following my success using gin in a tarte au citron during the summer I thought it might be worth slinging some in a pie too. Now here’s the science part. The theory is the alcohol evaporates at a lower temperature than water so subbing it in place of water should make for lighter, crisper pastry.
Don’t worry if you aren’t that keen on the idea of a boozy pie. It doesn’t taste boozy at all, and of course the actual alcohol bakes off (which is kind of the point). It really does just leave you with light crisp pastry. It’s some of my best pastry work, I’m slowly and surely getting closer to my Grandma-goal.

Brandy apple pie

There’s enough pastry here for a standard double crust pie so please don’t feel obliged to spend ages making a fancy cut-out top if that’s not your thing. I just have too much time on my hands some days!

Ingredients

Pastry
300g plain flour
175g butter
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp soft brown sugar
3-4 tbsp brandy

Filling
5-6 apples
75g soft brown sugar
1 tbsp cornflour
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 tbsp brandy
15g (ish) butter

1 beaten egg and white sugar to finish off

brandy apple pie

Cut the cold butter into small pieces and gently rub it into the flour with the tips of your fingers, until it resembles bread crumbs. Mix in the salt and sugar with a fork. Use the brandy to bring the mixture together to form a ball of dough. Add the liquid a tablespoon at a time so that you don’t end up adding too much. Flatten the ball a little and wrap it in cling film. Pop it in the fridge to chill and relax for about 30 minutes.
Pre-heat your oven to 220°c and lightly grease a 20cm pie tin.
Peel, core and slice the apples quite thinly. Whisk together the sugar, salt, cornflour and spices in a large mixing bowl and then toss the apple in this. Sprinkle over the brandy.
Take the pastry from the fridge and cut it in two, make one piece slightly larger than the other. Roll the larger piece out so that it’s a few millimeters thick and large enough to line the pie tin. Do this either on a lightly floured surface or on a piece of parchment paper. I prefer to do it this way as it makes it easier to transfer it to the tin later.
Carefully place the rolled pastry into the pie tin and gently push it into the corners. Leave a little over hang at the edge. Tip the apples into the lined tin and spread them out. Dot the surface with butter.

Brandy apple pie
Roll out the remaining dough, again to that it is a few millimeters thick and a little larger than the size of the pie. If you want to do some fancy cut outs on the top of the pie then now is the time to do it. Brush the edge of the pie with a little of the beaten egg and carefully place on the lid. Gently push it down around the edges to seal the pie. Trim and crimp the edge however you like, the easiest thing is just to press down the edges with the tines of a fork. Add any extra pastry embellishments you like (made from any leftover scraps of pastry), using the beaten egg as a glue. Brush the whole pie with beaten egg and sprinkle with a little sugar. Bake the pie for 45 minutes, until the apples are soft and the pastry is golden brown.
Leave to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving so that the juices can thicken. Serve with homemade custard, ice cream or glorious velvety Cornish clotted cream.

Brandy apple pie

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CRANBERRY & ORANGE VICTORIA SPONGE

Cranberry & orange Victoria sponge

A well made classic Victoria Sponge is a thing of beauty, although I have to confess that I do always have to have cream or buttercream in my filling (sorry Women’s Institute).
It’s all about the texture. It should be light and springy with a nice even crumb so be careful that you don’t over beat the batter. In a traditional Victoria Sponge you also rely solely on the quality of your ingredients for the flavour so I always use real butter rather than baking margarine and I always try to find fresh free-range eggs. I only ever use free-range anyway but if you can get locally reared ones then 9 times out of 10 they’ll be richer than anything you buy in the supermarkets. They’ll also give your sponge great colour.
I find that I get the best results when I let all of my ingredients get up to room temperature before I start.
American self-rising flour does seem to be a tiny bit different to U.K self-raising flour but this recipe should work fine with both.

Classic Victoria sponge

If you want to make the classic Victoria Sponge then just leave out the orange zest from the sponge, sandwich it together with good quality jam (usually strawberry or raspberry) and dust the top with a little sugar.

classic Victoria sponge

Ingredients
serves 10-12

Orange sponge
3 eggs
the weight of the eggs (inc shells) in butter, sugar and self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
2 tbsp milk
zest of 1 orange

Cranberry compote
70g ish cranberries (mine were frozen)
30g sugar
juice of 1 orange

Swiss meringue buttercream
1 egg white
50g sugar
70g butter (room temperature and cut into small pieces)
zest of 1 orange

Cranberry & orange Victoria sponge

Pre-heat your oven to 180°c and grease two sandwich tins. Place a disc of baking parchment in the base of each.
Weigh your eggs, in their shells so that you know how much flour, butter and sugar you’ll need.
Sift together the baking powder and flour a couple of times and set it aside. This will get plenty of air into it.
Using a hand or stand mixer beat together the butter and sugar until it is pale, thick and fluffy, this should take a minute or two.
Lightly beat each egg and mix them, one at a time, into the butter and sugar. Follow each addition with a spoonful of the flour and beat it well. Once you have added all of the eggs briefly beat in the orange zest. Sift the remaining flour into the batter in two batches and carefully fold it in.

Cranberry & orange Victoria sponge
Finally stir in the milk to loosen the mixture to a nice soft dropping consistency. Divide the cake batter evenly between the two prepared tins (I actually weigh mine) and level off the tops. Bake them in the centre of the oven for 25 minutes. Don’t be tempted to open the oven door during this time as you might cause them to sink in the middle. Once the time is up open the oven door and test that the sponges are cooked with a skewer. Give them another minute or two if it doesn’t come out clean. They should feel light and springy once they are cooked.
Put the cooked sponges on a wire rack and let them cool in the tins for five minutes then turn them out on the rack and carefully remove the greaseproof paper. Let them become completely cool before you fill them.

Cranberry & orange Victoria sponge
Make the compote by combining the sugar, cranberries and the juice of the orange in a small saucepan. Pop this over a moderate heat and let it gently bubble away for a few minutes. Mash the berries a bit to release their juice, but be careful as they tend to pop and you don’t want them to splatter you with hot juice. Once the juice is thick and syrupy you can leave the compote to cool and become a bit jammy.
Swiss Meringue buttercream is next on your to-do list. Put the egg white and sugar in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Gently whisk it to keep it moving whilst it heats, it needs to be quite warm and the sugar needs to have dissolved into the egg white. Just rub a little between your fingers to check the temperature and that it isn’t grainy. Remove the pan from the heat and then whisk the egg white until it is stiff (like meringue) and cool. An electric mixer makes this pretty quick and easy. Once it is cool you can slowly beat in the butter, one small piece at a time. If the mixture is too warm then the butter will simply melt so make sure it’s cool before you start. You can pop it in the fridge for a few minutes if you need to. Continue to whip the buttercream until it has emulsified and become smooth and creamy and then mix through the orange zest.

Cranberry & orange Victoria sponge
Decide which of your cakes is the least pretty and place it, upside-down, on a serving plate. Spread the cold cranberry compote onto it and the follow this with the orange Swiss meringue buttercream. I prefer to pipe this but to be honest it isn’t going to make a blind bit of difference to the way it tastes!
Carefully place on the top layer of cake and then sprinkle it with a little icing sugar as a finishing touch.

Cranberry & orange Victoria sponge

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BROWN SUGAR PAVLOVA with Autumn fruits

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Our last guests of this year visited us for our first Thanksgiving. I have done a bit of research into traditional Thanksgiving dishes to give me some inspiration for what to cook on the big day. To be honest some of the dishes scared me a little bit – I’m not really convinced that mini-marshmallows should ever be part of a main course.

Pumpkin pie seems to be the traditional pudding for the day but I think a lighter after dinner treat will be more popular following a hearty roast dinner. I often feel the same way about Christmas Pudding after Christmas dinner.
I still wanted to make something appropriate to what is essentially a harvest festival though. I have many fond memories of spending early Autumn days blackberry picking with my Grandma and they lend wonderful colour to this dessert. The pears add a little bit of freshness and textural interest and also seem suitably Autumnal.

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I love the idea of using brown sugar instead of white in Pavlova. It gives it a really lovely toffee flavour and an extra chewy texture which, again gives a really nice seasonal twist to this classic summer dessert.

Ingredients
serves 8

Meringue
2 egg whites
50g castor sugar
50g soft brown sugar
1 tsp cornflour
1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar

Filling
2 pears
120g blackberries
2 tbs port
2 tbs + 1 tsp sugar
300ml water

300ml double cream (whipped)

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Pre-heat the oven to 130°c.
Using a large, spotlessly clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until they hold stiff peaks. Mix together the two types of sugar and whisk them into the egg whites in three or four batches. Keep whisking until the sugar has dissolved into the egg and it is smooth, glossy and stiff.
Pipe or spoon the meringue into a large circle on a baking sheet lined with grease-proof paper. Bake for two hours and then leave it on the tray to cool and dry completely.
Peel and core the pears and cut each into eight pieces. Dissolve 2 tablespoons of sugar in the water and simmer the pears in it for about 5 minutes until they are tender. Drain and set aside.
Cook the blackberries in the port for a few minutes then remove from the pan and mix them with the pears. Reserve the juice and add 1 teaspoon of sugar to this cooking liquor and reduce it until it is thick and syrupy.

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It’s best to wait to assemble everything until just before serving, or it can go a little soggy. Fill the meringue base with cream and pile on the fruit before drizzling on a little of the syrup. Elegant, and more importantly, yummy!

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