Autumn is a delicious time of year. As well as the ripest fruit leftover from summer (like tomatoes and aubergines), we are entering a new cropping season for winter squash and fennel, not to mention chestnuts, hazelnuts and blackberries in the wild. For a baker, the opportunity to try out a new recipe for apple cake, or an old favourite for apple crumble, is too great to resist. Combine apples with hazelnuts or blackberries to create something excitingly local, fresh and seasonal.
Apples are wonderful in warm puddings, from Apple Charlotte, to crumble and old-fashioned apple pie. But in a cake, they will add moisture and fruitiness, enhancing the keeping appeal – perfect for afternoon tea on a windy day.
Glut or Windfall?
If you live in a rural area, the chances are that you will know someone with a glut of apples – or somewhere that you can collect windfalls! Jump at the chance to take a bagful home.
Apples store well in the freezer (peel, slice and douse with lemon juice before packing into plastic bags). They can also be pressed through a juicer to get fresh juice that will taste delicious (if it browns a little, don’t worry).
Ideas for Apples
If you really do have a glut, try some of these bright ideas.
1. Apple Muffins
Substitute apple chunks for any fruit and see what sort of muffins you can make. Great with bright purple blackberries, hazelnuts, or raspberries.
2. Apple Purée
A wonderful purée for young babies (6m+) and children. Just stew peeled, chopped apples in a saucepan with very little water. Pears make a great addition. When thoroughly soft, taste for sweetness – adding a pinch of brown sugar if needed – and purée well. Serve warm or cold.
3. Apple Pancakes
Try grating apple into an American pancake batter.
- Whisk two eggs with 300ml of milk
- Then sift in 250g (9oz) plain flour, a pinch of salt, a pinch of cinnamon, and 1tsp baking powder
- Stir in 50g (2oz) caster sugar and 3 medium apples, grated
- Dollop in spoonfuls onto a preheated frying or smooth griddle pan, and cook until golden on both sides.
4. Apple Tarte tatin
A French classic, and so easy to make. Toss 3 sliced apples with the juice of half a lemon and 2tbsp caster sugar.
Melt 75g (3oz) butter in a heavy frying pan and then tip in 8oz caster sugar; cook gently until it caramelises. Preheat the oven to 200ºC.
Now add the apples to the pan – arranging in circles, if you like – and cook gently for another 30 minutes, basting the apples occasionally.
Arrange chilled puff pastry over the apples, tucking neatly (and carefully) around the edges, and transfer the pan to the oven for 20 minutes.
Flip the tarte swiftly onto a dinner plate and transfer any rogue apple slices. Serve with lots of ice-cream.
5. Apple Streusel Cake
A great way to use up apples – especially tart types.
- 2 large apples, diced
- Zest and juice of ½ lemon
- 75g butter
- 125g caster sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 100ml whole milk
- 250g plain flour
- 2tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1tsp vanilla extract
- A pinch of salt
- FOR THE TOPPING: 2oz butter
- 50g soft brown sugar
- 50g caster sugar
- 25g plain flour
- 2 tbsp skinned, chopped hazelnuts
- Good pinch of salt
Dice the apple, then toss it with the lemon juice and next with 2tsp of plain flour; set aside for the moment.
Make the topping by rubbing together the butter, sugars, and flour, then mixing in the hazelnuts. Put into the fridge while you make the apple cake.
Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Cream together the butter, sugar, and lemon zest. When the mixture is light and fluffy, beat in the eggs, one at a time, followed by the milk and vanilla extract. Sift in the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Fold together gently, adding the apples and stirring until combined. Tip into a greased, lined square (20cm) tin.
Sprinkle the topping over the cake batter, then bake for 50 minutes – 1 hour, or until a skewer comes out of the cake cleanly. Cool before serving, cut into squares. This cake keeps well in an airtight tin.