Sunday, 25 November 2012

Bramley apple tart

Bramley apples are truly beautiful.  When I picture an orchard, I picture Bramley apples with their dark green skins and red blush, their knobbly shapes and impressive size.  They are the kings of apples!

Usually, a recipe featuring Bramleys will only use them in puree form.  What attracted me to this recipe was the sliced Bramley on top – it gives the best of both worlds.  I was also impressed by the tip of beating an egg into the apple puree; it meant the tart sliced easily and didn’t collapse in the way that many apple pies do.

There are a few stages to this tart but it is worth it as the result looks very impressive...and more importantly, tastes divine.  The cinnamon pastry worked particularly well; you can’t go wrong pairing apple with cinnamon!

I think we all do things and then suddenly realise that we wouldn’t have done them in our youth.  Freezing the four leftover slices of tart, I suddenly felt very grown up!  Younger-me would’ve just eaten them regardless of whether I even wanted them – but mature-me, will appreciate having dessert on standby in the freezer!

Four of these, waiting for me in the freezer...whenever I want them.  Oh the joy!

Finally, thank you to everyone who has sponsored Mr CC’s ‘tache growing for Movember – we are touched and heartened by the response.  There is still time to make a donation and be entered into the prize draw (details can be found here).  You can still sponsor Mr CC by visiting his Mo page.


For the apple puree:
4 medium Bramley apples, peeled and cored
150g Demerara sugar
2 lemons – juice only
1 egg

For the pastry:
200g plain flour
80g unsalted butter, cold
40g caster sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 egg yolk
1-2 tablespoons cold water – I needed 2

For the apple topping:
2 medium Bramley apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
25g unsalted butter – melted

For the glaze:
8 tablespoons apricot jam
4 tablespoons water

To serve: thick cream


Start by making the apple puree as it needs time to cool.  Chop the apples into small chunks and place in a pan along with the sugar and lemon juice.  It looks a lot of sugar which is why the lemon is there to balance it out.

Bring to the boil and then lower the heat.  Putting a lid on the pan will make the apple break down quicker.

Stir occasionally until you have a chunky puree.  Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

When cool, stir in the beaten egg – this helps the puree thicken in the oven and ensures nice clean slices when you serve it.

Now make the pastry: Place the flour, butter, sugar and cinnamon into the food processor and blitz until you have fine crumbs.  Alternatively, use the rubbing in method i.e.  rubbing the butter and flour through your fingertips until the ingredients incorporate into crumbs.

Add the egg yolk and blitz again.

Add the water, a tablespoon at a time, and pulse the processor until the mixture forms wet clumps.

Tip out onto a sheet of clingfilm and – handling as little as possible – form into a ball.

Flatten into a disc, wrap in the clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.  (I made it the night before and left it in the fridge – it’s fine!)

Roll out the pastry between two sheets of clingfilm.  At first it will seem too crumbly but persevere and, as the pastry warms, it will behave.  You will need to roll it thin to line the tin.

Take a 23cm loose bottomed flan tin and line it with the pastry.  Patch as needed.

Prick the bottom several times with a fork and return to the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan oven 180°C/390°F/gas mark 6.

Line the pastry with baking paper or non stick foil, and weigh down with baking beans.

Place on a baking sheet and bake for 12 minutes.

Remove the beans and foil and return the exposed pastry case to the oven for a further 5 minutes, or until it is a light golden brown.

Leave to cool.

Spoon the puree into the pastry case and level the surface.

Arrange the sliced apples on top and then brush with the melted butter.

Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the sliced apples have an appealing caramelised brown glow to them.

As soon as you remove the tart from the oven, make the glaze: boil the jam with the water.

Brush over the baked tart and leave to cool completely.

Serve in thick slices with lashings of cream.  It would also be nice served warm with vanilla ice cream.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.


Sunday, 18 November 2012

Movember moustache shortbread and prize giveaway

The biscuits are cute, but this is a slightly more serious post than usual.  If you normally skim read (aw c’mon, there’s no shame admitting it....we all do it...don’t we???) please could you slow down at the bit headed up “charity prize draw”?  Thanks awfully!

November is the month you are most likely to see dapper gentlemen sporting beautifully groomed moustaches.  Why?  Movember, of course!  If you haven’t heard of Movember here is the explanation taken directly from the official site:

During November each year, Movember is responsible for the sprouting of moustaches on thousands of men’s faces in the UK and around the world. The aim of which is to raise vital funds and awareness for men’s health, specifically prostate cancer and testicular cancer.

Once registered at each Mo Bro must begin the 1st of Movember with a clean shaven face. For the entire month each Mo Bro must grow and groom a moustache. There is to be no joining of the mo to the sideburns (that’s considered a beard), there’s to be no joining of the handlebars to the chin (that’s considered a goatee) and each Mo Bro must conduct himself like a true gentleman.

A Mo Sista is essentially a woman who loves a Mo. An individual that is dedicated to supporting the Mo Bros in her life through their moustache growing journey; whether it be a friend, colleague, family member or partner. These inspirational women are committed to raising awareness of men's health issues and much needed funds for men's health along the way.

Mo Bros effectively become walking, talking billboards for the 30 days of November and through their actions and words raise awareness by prompting private and public conversation around the often ignored issue of men’s health.

Mr CC is currently sporting a fine Mexican-style moustache.  We monitor its progress with wonder each day as he has never sported facial hair beyond the few days ‘can’t be bothered to shave’ stubble.  I’m viewing it as an experience similar to an advent calendar, but with less chocolate.  We are both impressed by its luxuriant fullness and that it is (mostly) uniform in colour.  Such a ‘tache deserves sponsorship!

Now, as a Mo Sista married to a Mo Bro (Mr CC!) I must do my bit to raise awareness and – perhaps more importantly – funds.  This is where I throw myself at your mercy...and hopefully your charity.  This is a brilliant cause and every pound raised helps the fight against cancer.

Charity prize draw

Please, please, please, might you consider sponsoring Mr CC’s ‘tache growing exploits?  His Mo page can be found here and you can donate by clicking the ‘donate to me’ box displayed under his profile picture.  You can donate using credit cards or paypal and - I think - you can donate from anywhere in the world.  The money goes directly to the charity and – if you are in the UK and a taxpayer – you can also click the gift aid box thus increasing your donation at no extra cost to you!

To further sweeten the pill, I have put together a little prize bundle worth over £40.  The prize includes moustache themed goodies of biscuit cutters and stamps, sandwich cutters (can also be used for pastry or biscuits), picks for canapĂ©s or cupcake decorations, candies and – because the other big C-word is approaching (that’s Christmas) - a Christmas themed cupcake case set and book!

On 1st December I shall enter the names of all donors into the prize draw and pick one at random.  That person will win the prize bundle of goodies.  Please leave your name in the donation details (blog name is fine if you don’t wish to leave your real name – just split it into a first and surname) and also, in the message box, state that you have come to the Mo page via The Caked Crusader.  This is so I know to include you in the draw.  Also, I know many blog competitions/draws often limit entries to a particular country but I’m not doing that here – the cause is too important to fret about postage costs.  If you donate and win I will post the prize bundle to you WHEREVER you are in the world...if your country has a postal system, I’ll get it to you!

The shortbread men are made from my quick and easy shortbread recipe. In honour of Mr CC’s fine ‘tache growing exploits, each little man was given a chocolate moustache (ebay is brilliant for finding quirky and cheap chocolate moulds).

The chocolate shortbread ‘taches were made from an adapted version of the recipe I used for the men, and that adapted version is set out below.  The moustache biscuits give an idea of what you can win by donating as they were made using the moustache cutter and stamp set included in the prize bundle – obviously, not the set I’m giving away...I bought my own set!

Thank you for whatever donation you can make – it’s such a good cause.  Hope you’re lucky in the prize draw!

Ingredients for chocolate shortbread
125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
55g caster sugar, plus extra for sprinking
150g plain flour
30g cocoa powder
Optional: 100g chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 190°C/fan oven 170°C/375°F/gas mark5
Line two baking sheets with greaseproof paper.
Beat together the butter and sugar until you have a smooth paste.
Stir in the flour, cocoa and chocolate chips (if using), and bring together to a dough.
Roll out the dough between two sheets of clingfilm. You’re aiming for a thickness of approximately 1cm.
Cut into shapes using the cutter of your choice and place on the baking tray; allow a little room for expansion but no need to leave more than about 1cm. NB. The dough re-rolls easily so don’t waste any of it!
Sprinkle with additional caster sugar.
Bake for approximately 15 minutes or until the biscuits are firm-ish to the touch. Mine took nearer 18 minutes.
Leave to cool on a wire rack.
Store in an airtight container – they will keep for days and days!
Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Chocolate marshmallow teacakes


This is my attempt at the Great British Bake Off technical challenge of chocolate marshmallow teacakes.  For non-UK readers, The Great British Bake Off is a phenomenally popular television programme where each week competitors bake around a theme; week by week the weakest is eliminated until a winner is found.  The round that is likely to elicit the most drama (and sympathy from viewers!) is the technical challenge where the bakers are given a recipe (with no warning as to what it will be) and have to create the bake with minimal instructions.  Of the recent series’ technical challenges, I think this one created the most drama and interest.

Now I buy a lot of cake tins.  I admit this.  When they arrive, I show Mr CC who – if I’m lucky – will actually look at the tin before asking me, with a mild tinge of sarcasm, where I plan on storing it (my cupboards are full of cake tins.  Very full.  Luckily I played a lot of Tetris in my youth).  This is the standard way new cake tins are greeted.  A couple of weeks before this technical challenge appeared, I had actually purchased the silicone half sphere moulds required.  Mr CC got quite into the recent series and his eyes became saucer-like as he watched the giant teacakes take shape.  I was watching thinking, ‘thank god I’m not on the show and won’t ever have to faff around making them’.  At which point Mr CC announced, ‘you HAVE to make those!’  In a split second, I opted for deceit. ‘But I’d have to buy the moulds – where would I store them?’  And guess what?  For the first time in history, Mr CC decided to remember one of my purchases and caught me out.  He remembered that I had the half sphere moulds.  Typical!

I was surprised to get a shiny chocolate finish because my flat – even without the heating on – is like a furnace.  If I hadn’t put the moulds in the fridge they would never have set.  I was all prepared for matt finish chocolate, but knowing my only critic was Mr CC who would struggle to get past the wonder of the biggest chocolate teacake he had ever seen, I knew I’d be ok – but I needn’t have worried anyway!

For the uninitiated, a teacake is a crisp biscuit base topped with sticky mallow and enclosed in a dome of chocolate.  When I tasted the biscuits on their own, I found them a little flavourless, but when tasted in the finished teacake they are perfect.

I played around with the order of making things – I didn’t fancy the pressure of making the biscuits while the melted chocolate cooled.  I have also used my tried and trusted methods rather than those given in the original recipe such as rolling out between two sheets of clingfilm rather than a floured board.  The mallow filling was divine – I love this photo of it looking all glossy and inviting:

My chocolate shell was too thick (I panicked and did two coats of chocolate), meaning they needed a period of acclimatising to room temperature before you could bite into them, but seriously – when can thick chocolate ever be considered a serious problem?  Next time I would stick to one coat, and use milk rather than dark chocolate.  The biscuit base was good but mine came out a little thick – so I’ll roll them thinner next time.

Am I glad I made them?  Yes.  Are they deliciously sticky and messy to eat?  Yes.  Do I still love teacakes?  Yes.  Have Tunnocks lost out on my business?  Er, no....these are by no means a quick bake!


For the biscuits:
50g wholemeal flour
50g plain flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
25g caster sugar
25g unsalted butter
1 tablespoon milk – you might need more, I used 2 ½ tablespoons

For the chocolate:
400g dark chocolate – I used 300g dark, 100g milk

For the filling:
3 egg whites
150g caster sugar
30g golden caster sugar
½ vanilla pod – seeds only


Start by making the biscuits: place the flours, baking powder, sugar and butter into the mixer and mix until you have fine breadcrumbs.  You could also do this in the processor, or by hand with the rubbing in method.

Stir in the milk and bring together to make a ball.

Roll out between two sheets of clingfilm until it is about 0.5cm thick.

Cut out biscuits using a 6-7cm round cutter.  I got more than the six biscuits required and kept them for spares....i.e. I ate them.

Place on a baking sheet and refrigerate for 10 minute.  This will limit them spreading as they bake.

Preheat the oven to 170°C/fan oven 150°/325°F/Gas mark 3.

Bake for approximately 12 minutes or until the biscuits are hard.  Mine took much longer – nearer to 20 minutes.

Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Now melt the chocolate: melt 300g of the chocolate (you’ll use the rest later).  Melt in a bowl over a pan of simmering water – the bottom of the bowl must not touch the water.

When melted, take off the heat and leave to cool and firm a little.  If you try to line the mould with runny chocolate it will all pool in the bottom of the mould.

Spoon a tablespoon of melted chocolate into each half sphere silicone mould.  Use the curved back of the spoon to direct the chocolate so that you have a thin, even covering.  Use more chocolate if needed.

Set aside to set.  If you live in a cool house and can let them set in the air, you will retain the shine of the chocolate.  My flat is so hot that it would never set so I had to put them in the fridge.  You lose the shine but needs must.

Dip the cooled biscuits in the remaining melted chocolate.  They need to be completely covered.

Put to one side to set (or the fridge).

Now make the filling: place all the ingredients in a bowl and place over a pan of simmering water – the bottom of the bowl must not touch the water.

Whisk – with an electric hand whisk (unless you are a masochist!) – for about 8 minutes until it is silky smooth and doubled in volume.  Think whipped cream – that’s what you’re aiming for.

Spoon into a piping bag – no need for a nozzle; you pipe the filling to ensure there are no gaps.

Melt the remaining 100g of chocolate and spoon into another piping bag then seal the end. 

Leave to cool and firm up a bit.

Pipe the mallow into the chocolate moulds about 2/3 to ¾ full. (NB. I barely used half the mallow – don’t know why the recipe says to make so much.  Other bloggers have made the same comment so I don’t think it’s just me)

Snip the end off the chocolate piping bag and pipe some chocolate onto the mallow and the rim of the mould.

Place a biscuit on top and smooth the chocolate with a knife so it’s all sealed.

Repeat with the other moulds.

Leave to set (ideally not in the fridge but it’s not a disaster if you must).

Carefully, turn the teacakes out of the moulds.  Try not to touch the chocolate dome as you’ll leave fingerprints!

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.


Sunday, 4 November 2012

Russian Shortcake

After making many sponge cakes – both big and small - with rich buttercreams and frostings, I had a hankering for something simpler and more biscuity this week.  I must confess from the off that I don’t know whether this is a Russian recipe or whether it’s acquired that name somewhere along the line.  I can’t see anything about the recipe that screams “Russian” at me but it’s as good a name as any and makes it sound more exotic than sultana spice slice!

I was disappointed with my topping when I made it – it looked ugly and I scrapped the first batch (my fault for not sifting the icing sugar).  I was ready to advise you to make a simple glace icing instead...but then I tasted it.  Yum.  It doesn’t look particularly elegant but boy does it pack flavour and it also has a gentle sugary crunch to it which is surprising given its butteriness.

The biscuit part isn’t crisp – I was expecting shortbread (foolish, given that it’s called shortcake!) – it’s a halfway house between biscuit and cake.  This is the sort of bake that you sit down with a cup of tea and think, ‘I’ll just have one or two’, and then realise you’ve eaten half the batch!


For the base:
145g unsalted butter
145g light brown sugar
1 tablespoon golden syrup
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
260g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
150g sultanas

For the topping:
30g unsalted butter
60g icing sugar – sifted (NB.  I never sift anything but you must here, otherwise your topping will look lumpy and gross)
10g caster sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon – you can also use ginger, if you prefer


Preheat the oven to 190°C/fan oven 170°C/375°F/gas mark 5.

Grease a 30cm x 20cm tin – I used a disposable foil one.

Start by making the base: melt the butter, sugar and golden syrup together until the butter is just melted.

Leave to cool.

Beat the egg and vanilla together.

Add the melted butter mix, flour, baking powder and sultanas and mix well.  Don’t expect a biscuit dough texture – it’s more like the shiny gloopiness of gingerbread.

Spread into the prepared tin and level the surface.

Bake for 20 minutes or until the base feels firm.  Mine took exactly 20 minutes.

About halfway through the cooking time, start making the topping: melt the butter and then stir in the remaining ingredients.

Stir well and spread over the hot base as soon as it comes out of the oven.

Leave to cool before cutting into fingers.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.