Apple pie

Well, Autumn seems to have crept up on us recently. The trees are changing colours, there are leaves to crunch through and conkers to hunt for. Here’s a recipe for apple pie which is perfect for this time of the year. It is a double-crust pie so there is pastry on the base and on top of the fruit.

For the pastry:

  • 12oz plain flour
  • 6oz cold butter (or 3oz butter and 3oz white fat, which will give a lovely ‘short’ pastry)
  • A few tablespoons of cold water

For the pie:

  • 3lb Bramleys, or other cooking apples
  • 3oz granulated sugar + another tablespoon to sprinkle on top of the pie
  • 3oz soft brown sugar
  • 1.5 tablespoons of plain flour
  • 1.5oz butter
  • 1 beaten egg
  • Juice of half a lemon

Equipment:

  • 10 inch / 24 cm deep sided pie dish
  • Rolling pin
  • Table knife
  • A fork
  • Pastry brush
  • Small cutters
  • Chopping board
  • Small sharp knife
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Small mixing bowl
  • Colander

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To make the pastry:

You don’t have to make your own pastry if you don’t want to. It is readily available in the refrigerated section of the supermarket, usually somewhere near the butter. You need to look for shortcrust pastry.

Making your own pastry really is very easy though so why not give it a go? I find that children love to make pastry as they really enjoy getting their hands into the mixture. Pastry also freezes really well so you can make a large batch then pop some in the freezer ready for another day. Just defrost it for a few hours at room temperature.

1) Sieve the plain flour into a large bowl. Add in the butter (or butter and white fat), then use the table knife to cut the butter into small cubes in the flour.

2) Using your finger tips, gently rub the butter into the flour. To do this, get some of the mixture in your finger tips, lift your hands above the bowl and let the mix fall through your fingers whilst gently rubbing them together. Continue rubbing in the butter until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs.

3) Make a well in the centre of your mixture. Then pour in a little of the water, just a couple of tablespoons to start with.

Starting to make the pastry

Starting to make the pastry

4) Using your table knife, start stirring in the centre of the bowl. Gradually bring more of the butter and flour mixture into the water. When the mixture begins to look dry, sprinkle in a little more water. Continue to mix. Towards the end, you will need to use your hands to bring the mixture together into a ball of dough. Do not add to much water!

Mixing the pastry into a ball

Mixing the pastry into a ball

5) On a work surface dusted with flour, gently knead the dough for a minute until it looks smooth. Don’t overwork it or you will have tough pastry.

6) Cut off a third of the pastry. Wrap this in clingfilm and place in the fridge.

Knead the dough gently until smooth then cut off a third of the pastry

Knead the dough gently until smooth then cut off a third of the pastry

Making the pie:

1) Take the large portion of dough and roll it out on a work surface which has been dusted with plenty of flour. Sprinkle a little flour on top of the dough to stop your rolling pin from sticking to it. Move the pastry regularly so it does not get stuck to your work top.

2) Continue to roll out the dough until it is big enough to fit in your pie dish.

Roll out the dough

Roll out the dough

3) Put your rolling pin in the middle of the pastry. Flip one side of the pastry over the rolling pin. This will make it easier for you to lift the pastry into the pie dish.

4) Carefully lift the pastry over the dish and let it drape into the container. Gently ease the pastry into the base and sides of the dish. Ensure that it also fits over the lip of the dish. Trim away any excess pastry with a sharp knife. Place the pie into the fridge to chill.

Making the pie base

Making the pie base

5) While the pastry is chilling, you can prepare the filling. Half fill a mixing bowl with cold water and add the juice of half a lemon – this will prevent the apple from going brown. Peel, quarter, core and finely slice the apples then place them into the water and lemon juice straight away.

Prepare the apples

Prepare the apples

6) In the small mixing bowl, place the granulated sugar, soft brown sugar and flour then stir together.

Sugar and flour mixture

Sugar and flour mixture

7) Remove the pie dish from the fridge. Tip the apples into the colander to drain off all the water.

8) Scatter some of the sugar and flour mixture over the base of the pastry. Arrange half of the apples on top of this. Then sprinkle half of the remaining sugar and flour mixture over the apples. Add the rest of the apples and top with the rest of the sugar and flour. Dot the top with the butter.

Fill the pie base

Fill the pie base

9) Brush some of the beaten egg around the lip of pastry. This will act as the ‘glue’ to stick the top of the pie on.

10) Dust your work surface with flour and remove the remaining third of the pastry from the fridge. Roll out this pastry until it is large enough to cover the top of your pie. Using your rolling pin to help you, lift the pastry and drape it over the apple filling.

11) Use the fork to press and crimp the edges of the pastry together.

12) Cut three slits in the top of the pie and trim the edges of the pastry to neaten up the pie. Brush some beaten egg all over the top of the pie.

Top the pie with the remaining pastry

Top the pie with the remaining pastry

13) Now you can add some decoration to your pie! Squash any pastry trimmings together into a ball then roll out on a flour-dusted work top. Cut out any shapes you like – a bit of child labour is useful here!

Adding decoration to the pie

Adding decoration to the pie

14) Place the decorations on top of the pie crust and brush over them with a little more beaten egg. Finally, sprinkle with a tablespoon of granulated sugar. Your pie is now ready for the oven.

15) Cook in an oven which has been pre-heated to 200 degrees centigrade for approximately 45 minutes, or until the pastry is lovely and golden.

16) Allow the pie to cool a bit before serving.

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You can serve the pie hot with custard, vanilla ice cream, pouring cream or just by itself but it is just as nice at room temperature. This pie will serve 8-10 people. Any leftovers can be covered with clingfilm and kept in the fridge for several days.

If you like, you can also add other fruits, such as blackberries or raspberries.

Happy baking!

 

Taste The Rainbow surprise cake

I’ve recently joined a local cake club and decided to go along my first meeting. Each time the club meets, there is a theme and you bring along a cake to match with that. This time, the theme was ‘Surprise Surprise’. After spending some time thinking about what to make, I decided to go with a double surprise and came up with this Taste The Rainbow cake. Inside the actual sponge is dyed in bright colours and the centre of the cake is hollowed out then filled with rainbow hued sweeties!

Taste The Rainbow cake.

Taste The Rainbow cake.

This cake is actually a lot easier to make than you might think and would make a perfect centre piece for a child’s birthday party.

I made a very large cake to ensure everyone at the event could have a slice and this is what you will see in the photographs. However, the quantities I’ve given below will make a cake half the size of mine. You can easily double up the amounts if you are also feeding a lot of people or having a large party.

For the cake you will need:

  • 8oz soft margarine
  • 8oz sugar (caster or granulated)
  • 8oz self raising flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 4 eggs
  • Gel food colouring (if you want coloured cakes)
  • 2 round 8inch cake tins
  • Greaseproof paper
  • Electric hand mixer or stand mixer

For the buttercream you will need:

  • 6oz soft margarine
  • 12oz sifted icing sugar
  • Electric hand mixer or stand mixer
  • A disposable piping bag and large plain nozzle (these are not essential as you can use a knife to spread the buttercream)

For decoration you will need:

  • 2 large bags of skittles sweeties. You could also use smarties or any other sweets you like.
  • 1kg pale blue fondant/sugarpaste. Alternatively, you can use white fondant and add some blue food colouring gel.
  • A small amount of fondant/sugarpaste in each colour of the rainbow (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet). Again, you can use white fondant and add colouring gel. Or use some of the pre-coloured fondant to make other colours. For example, I mixed some red and yellow fondant together to make orange.
  • A small pack of white fondant/sugarpaste.
  • Some icing sugar for dusting your work surface.
  • A rolling pin.
  • A sharp knife.
  • A fondant smoother if you have one. If not, your hands will do the same job!
  • A cake board, stand or plate big enough for the finished cake.
  • Some greaseproof paper
  • A little bit of edible glue or water.
  • A small paintbrush (make sure it’s clean!).
  • Cloud shaped cutters. If you don’t have these, you can cut them out free-hand or make a template.
  • A sun shaped cutter. Again, you can cut this out with a sharp knife if you don’t have a cutter.
  • A palette knife.

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How to make the cakes:

1) Pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees centigrade. Grease the two cake tins and line the bases with greaseproof paper.

2) Put the margarine, sugar, flour, baking powder and eggs into the bowl of your mixer.  Starting on low speed, mix all the ingredients together. Increase the speed to medium for a couple of minutes until the mixture is smooth. Do not over-mix though or you won’t have a light, fluffy sponge.

3) If you want to colour your sponge cakes, now is the time to do it. To get two different colours, separate the mixture into two bowls. Add a little gel food colouring to each bowl and gently, but thoroughly, fold into the batter with a spoon. Make sure there are no streaks of colour.

4) Put the mixture into the prepared tins. Smooth out with the back of a spoon so the mixture is level.

5) Bake for approximately 25 minutes or until the cake springs back when pressed lightly with your finger. If you are unsure whether the cake is cooked, insert a cocktail stick into the sponge – if it comes out clean, the cake is ready. If there is any batter on the cocktail stick, place the cake back into the oven for 5 more minutes, then check again.

6) Leave the cakes in the tin for 10 minutes or so. Then turn them out onto a wire rack, peel off the greaseproof paper and leave to cool completely.

To make the buttercream:

1) Place the soft margarine in the bowl of your mixer. Beat until very soft.

2) Add in half of the sifted icing sugar. Starting on a very low speed (to avoid an icing sugar cloud covering your kitchen!), mix the icing sugar into the softened margarine. Increase the speed and mix a little.

3) Add the rest of the icing sugar. Again, starting on a very low speed, begin to blend the sugar into the margarine. Increase the speed gradually until it is on high. Continue to blend on high speed for several minutes until the buttercream is very light and fluffy. You can add in some food colouring at this stage if you would like to make different coloured icing.

4) Snip the end off the disposable piping bag and insert the plain nozzle. Spoon the buttercream into the piping bag and twist the top.

Assembling the cake:

1) Using one of your cake tins, draw round this onto some greaseproof paper. Cut out the circle then fold in half and cut along the fold.

2) Take each of your cakes in turn. Place the semi-circle of greaseproof paper over one half of your cake. This will give you a guide to cut the cake into two equal halves. You will now have 4 semi-circular cakes. Put these to one side.

Cut each cake in half.

Cut each cake in half.

3) Get your semi-circle of greaseproof paper and draw a smaller semi-circle within it, about 1 to 1.5 inches in from the edge. Cut this shape out.

Cut out a smaller semi-circle.

Cut out a smaller semi-circle.

4) Take one of your sponge cake halves. Place the smaller semi-circle of paper in the centre of your cake. Using a sharp knife, carefully cut round the template and remove this piece of cake. You won’t need this part of the cake so why not crumble it up and use it to make some cake pops.

Remove the centre of two cake pieces.

Remove the centre of two cake pieces.

5) Repeat with one of the other cake halves. If you have made two coloured sponges, ensure you cut pieces out of two different coloured cakes to give a stripy, rainbow effect.

6) You should now have two complete semi-circles of cake and two pieces of cake with the centres removed.

7) Take one of the whole semi-circles and pipe (or spread) some of the buttercream along the edges.

8) Place one of the cakes with the centre removed on top and gently press down to stick them together. Pipe some more buttercream along the edge then add the other cake with the centre removed on top. Again, pipe more buttercream onto the edges.

9) Pour in the skittles (or other sweets) until they fill the cavity of the cake. You may need to support the cake with your hand.

10) Finally, place the second full semi-circle cake on the top.

11) Carefully flip the cake onto it’s flat edge and place on the cake board or serving plate.

Assembling the cake.

Assembling the cake.

12) Pipe buttercream over the whole surface of the cake. Spread out with the palette knife so the cake is completely covered. Smooth over this with the knife, removing any excess icing, until there is a thin, even layer of buttercream.

Cover the cake with buttercream.

Cover the cake with buttercream.

13) Put the cake in a cool place (not the fridge) for a few hours until the buttercream hasset and formed a bit of a crust. Your cake is now ready for decorating.

Covering the cake:

1) Take the pale blue fondant and knead this a little until it is soft and pliable. Dust the work surface with some icing sugar. Also, sprinkle a little on top of the fondant.

2) Roll out the fondant, moving it often to avoid sticking, until it is about 3-5mm thick. Check that your rolled out fondant is large enough cover the cake.

3) Have the cake, a sharp knife and the icing smoother (if you have one) to hand. Using the rolling pin to help you, lift the fondant over the top of the cake and carefully let it drape down the sides.

4) Working quickly but carefully, use your hands to smooth the fondant over the cake, easing out any folds. Trim away the excess fondant but don’t go too close to the edge of the cake yet.

5) If you have an icing smoother, rub this firmly over the fondant across the top and sides of the cake. Alternatively, use your hands to do this.

6) Carefully trim the icing very close to the bottom edges of the cake then smooth around this area.

Covering the cake in fondant.

Covering the cake in fondant.

Decorating the cake:

1) To make the rainbow, firstly turn one of the cake tins you used upside down and cover with some greaseproof paper. Roll out a long thin sausage of red fondant icing. Place this on the up-turned cake tin, slight in from the edge, and bend it to follow the curve of the tin. Using the brush, paint a little bit of edible glue (or water) on the bottom edge of the red icing strip. Now roll out a long thin sausage of orange icing and attach this to the bottom of the red icing with a little glue as before. Repeat this for all the colours until you have a complete rainbow. Set to one side and allow to dry, preferably overnight.

Create the rainbow.

Create the rainbow.

2) For the clouds, roll out some white fondant on a work surface dusted with icing sugar. Use the cutters to stamp out different sized clouds. You can cut these out free-hand or cut round a template.

3) Roll out some yellow or orange fondant and cut out a sun.

4) On the back of the rainbow you prepared earlier, paint a thin layer of edible glue or water. Stick the rainbow to one end of the covered cake. You may need to support this with your hand for a little bit until the glue starts to set.

5) Decide where you would like to place the sun. Paint a little edible glue on the back of the sun then stick it to your cake.

6) Put some glue on the back of each cloud and then attach these to the cake. You could also add a few to the cake board/plate.

7) If you like, you can add a little bit of edible shimmer or lustre dust to the sun and clouds. This will give them a bit of added texture.

Taste The Rainbow cake.

Taste The Rainbow cake.

Your cake is now complete!! I really hope you enjoyed making this and have fun seeing people’s reaction when you cut into the cake!

Surprise!

Surprise!

Happy baking!

Blackberry cupcakes

As Autumn seems to be rapidly approaching, I thought I’d make some seasonal blackberry cupcakes today. I followed my recipe for Summer Strawberry Cupcakes, just substituting strawberry flavour with blackberry extract in the buttercream and I used blackberry jam inside the cakes.

To get the two-tone buttercream effect, make up a batch of buttercream using 8oz butter and 1lb of sifted icing sugar along with a few drops of the blackberry extract, but don’t add any colouring yet. Once the buttercream is light and fluffy, remove half of it to another bowl and set to one side. To the remaining buttercream, add some purple food colouring gel and beat this in until it is evenly distributed. Put a star nozzle into a piping bag. Add the plain buttercream down one side of the bag and the purple tinted buttercream down the other. Then just pipe swirls on top of your cupcakes in the usual way (you can find tips on how to do this in my Summer Strawberry Cupcakes recipe).

Decorate the cupcakes however you wish – maybe a scattering of sprinkles or some juicy fresh blackberries. Enjoy!

Blackberry cupcakes.

Hot chocolate straws and spoons

My daughter and I found a recipe in one of her cookery books which inspired us to create these hot chocolate straws and spoons. She loves hot chocolate and these are really easy things for kids to make. They’d be great for children to give to their friends as little treats.

Ingredients and equipment:

  • 100g dark chocolate
  • Sprinkles of your choice
  • 4-6 drinking straws
  • 6 or so plastic spoons
  • A few glasses (or plastic beakers) and plates
  • A heatproof bowl
  • A saucepan

How to make the hot chocolate straws:

1) Break the chocolate into pieces and place into the heatproof bowl.

Break the chocolate into pieces.

Break the chocolate into pieces.

2) Put a little bit of water into the bottom of the saucepan and place the bowl into the pan. Make sure that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Place the saucepan onto a low heat and allow the chocolate to melt slowly. The water should be barely simmering. Stir the chocolate from time to time.

3) In the meantime, place each drinking straw into a glass or plastic beaker and put these into the fridge.

Put each straw into a beaker.

Put each straw into a beaker.

Place the beakers into the fridge.

Place the beakers into the fridge.

4) Once the chocolate has melted completely, pour it into a tall glass or jug.

5) Take each beaker and straw out of the fridge. Dip one end of the straw into the melted chocolate, swirling it around and tipping the glass to coat further up the straw.

Dip the straw into the melted chocolate.

Dip the straw into the melted chocolate.

6) Carefully place the straw back into it’s beaker, with the chocolate end pointing down. Then return the beaker and straw to the fridge.

Put the chocolate coated straw back into the beaker.

Put the chocolate coated straw back into the beaker.

7) Repeat this until you have coated all the straws.

8) Leave the straws in the fridge for 5 minutes. Then repeat the whole process twice more for each straw, so they have 3 layers of chocolate.

9) Whilst the third layer of chocolate is setting, put the sprinkles you have chosen onto a plate.

10) Take a straw out of the fridge and dip it into the melted chocolate again. Then hold it over the plate and use your fingers to drop some sprinkles onto the chocolate. Put the straw in the beaker and place back into the fridge for 15 minutes. Repeat this for all the straws.

Chocolate coated straws.

Chocolate coated straws.

How to make the hot chocolate spoons:

1) Make sure you have a couple of plates next to you to place the chocolate-dipped spoons on. You will also need a selection of sprinkles.

2) Take each spoon and dip it into the melted chocolate, making sure the back of the spoon is coated. Scoop up a bit of the chocolate with the front of the spoon but don’t fill it completely.

3) Drop some of your sprinkles into the melted chocolate on the spoon. Place the chocolated-dipped spoons onto a plate.

4) Put the plates of chocolate spoons into the fridge and allow to cool until completely set.

Hot chocolate straws and spoons.

Hot chocolate straws and spoons.

The straws and spoons will keep for a few days in the fridge. You can also package them up in cellophane bags, tied with pretty ribbon, and give them to your friends as little gifts. Remember to include some instructions on how to make up the hot chocolate (see below)!

To make up a mug of hot chocolate:

1) Place some milk into a heat-proof mug and stir in half a teaspoon of sugar (you can omit the sugar if you prefer).

2) Microwave the mug of milk for 1 – 1.5 minutes until steaming. Alternatively, you can heat the milk and sugar in a saucepan then pour into mugs.

3) Add one of the hot chocolate straws or spoons to your mug of hot milk. Stir the milk with the spoon or straw until the chocolate has melted.

Add a chocolate-coated straw or spoon to your hot milk.

Add a chocolate-coated straw or spoon to your hot milk.

4) Let the hot chocolate cool a little before drinking. If you chose a straw, you can use this to drink the hot chocolate!!

Enjoy your yummy hot chocolate!

Enjoy your yummy hot chocolate!