Saturday 11 October 2014

Catching up with Apples, Plums...& Ernest!

 Such a busy few weeks, so apologies for the lack of posts...but it's lovely to have so much to do! October now, and Autumn is really here. This afternoon, I baked this Apple Cinnamon Shortcake. It's perfect for now. Warm from the looks deceptively plain....
 ...but when you cut into it, a cinnamon-y apple compote is revealed! Because it's fully enclosed by the shortcake, it doesn't ooze out...and the shortbread is light with a slight crunch on the top and sides.
 It's based on a recipe from one of my very favourite bakers, Dorie Greenspan , whose new book 'Baking Chez Moi' is out very soon and already on pre-order! Her huge and beautiful tome 'Baking, From my Home to Yours' is a constant source of inspiration and comfort...she thinks like me (and we have the same haircut, which is entirely coincidental but somewhat reinforces my secret belief that we are kindred spirits!)
 I used my all-time favourite apple, the Egremont Russet for the recipe...because it's so British and so in season right now! Make the compote by coring and thinly slicing around 3 medium need to peel (yay!) and simmering gently with a tbsp or two of water, 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon and a tbsp of brown sugar until they are a thick puree, although with a few lumps of apple still visible..not too smooth!

Set aside to cool a little. Then...get baking!

Cinnamon Apple Shortcake - with love to Dorie Greenspan !

200g/ 13 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
150g + 2tsp / 1 cup + 2 tsp light soft brown sugar
1 large egg + 1 extra egg yolk
100g/ 1/2 cup polenta/cornmeal
300g/ 2 cups plain/all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 180c/350f
Grease & line a 23cm/10" round loose-bottomed or spring form tin with baking parchment

In a stand mixer, using the beater attachment, cream the butter and larger amount of sugar until pale. Add the whole egg and yolk & beat well. Scrape down the bowl, then add in all the remaining dry ingredients (still reserving the 2 extra tsp sugar, though!) Mix until just combined. The dough will be very soft. Roughly divide into two halves and press the first half lightly into the base of the prepared tin - it's easiest with clean fingers. Try and get it as even as you can, and push the dough a little way up the sides of the tin too, if you can (this just helps to really enclose the apple filling.)
Now spread the compote over the base - I used the back of a spoon for this - trying to leave about 2cm/ 1/2" space all around the edge. On a lightly floured board, use your fingers again to start pushing the remaining dough into a rough circle. Try and get it so that it looks about right for the tin size (it will be easy to adjust later) and then carefully lift it and place over the layer of compote. Pat into shape, making sure that the apple is completely can even 'tuck it in' a little if you have room! Brush the top with a little water and scatter over the saved 2 tsp brown sugar. Bake for a total of around 40 minutes - I rotate the pan halfway through to ensure even browning. It will be golden brown and firm on top when cooked through. Cool slightly on a wire rack in the tin, before releasing the sides. Lovely cold, of course...but really delightful still slightly warm. Perhaps with a big spoonful of creme fraiche or clotted cream on the side?! Why not...

Another thing I am in love with is this handmade jug-bowl. It came from a wonderful website created by a fabulous woman...Silvana de Soissons. The Foodie Bugle Shop is full of beautiful, practical food-related also has a brilliant vintage section, perfect for one-of-a-kind presents. Every parcel comes wrapped beautifully and tied with real, old-fashioned string...the way all good parcels should be but never are!
 This gorgeous thing was made by Paul Jessop of Barrington Pottery in Somerset.
 I just love looking at it and holding's very heavy & tactile. But I know that it will get a lot of use (eventually) too!

September's Farmer's Market was warm and sunny....which was brilliant after the rain & chill of August! People flocked to the stalls and I wasn't the only one to sell out. My good friend Charlie, one half of The Grumpy Bakers sold 79 loaves by 1pm....a brilliant day! Among my bestsellers were these...
 ...Fresh Plum & Almond Tarts....
 ...delicious! We will have more of these for sale in October.

And finally....I made a vat of Salted Caramel Sauce at the beginning of the week. The Sugar Moon kitchen gets through a lot of this. Litres, in fact!
 It's the main ingredient in our famous Salted Caramel Brownie, of course, which is rapidly becoming the bestselling flavour on the website ...threatening to overtake Double Chocolate any day now! Among their many fans are these two...
Christine Kavanagh and Nigel Havers who are currently starring - with a fab ensemble cast including Sian Philips, Cherie Lunghi & Martin Jarvis - in The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde's legendary play. This new production cleverly incorporates an extra 'play within a play'...adding even more interest and much laughter! We enjoyed a great night's entertainment earlier this week, as the company are currently touring. And, I'm thrilled to say that the company greatly enjoyed their Sugar Moon Brownies too! This photo, tweeted from the dressing room, will keep me smiling for many days to come....Encore!

Have a wonderful weekend!

NB: After 'sleeping on' the recipe overnight, I woke up thinking that using ground hazelnuts would be even more delicious! I think they could successfully substitute the polenta/cornmeal and would add a new depth to the cake. So I will be trying that next time! I have just eaten a slice, the 'day after'...and if anything it's even nicer than yesterday! The compote would work with many fruits...raspberries, plums, blueberries, persimmons....pears would be good, too! Experiment and let me know if you do!