HAPPY NATIONAL BAKING WEEK EVERYONE!
As you may be able to tell, I’m a bit of a baking fan, so was absolutely thrilled when Topps Tiles invited me to enter their competition to celebrate National Baking Week (13th -19th October 2014) My baking brief was to create the perfect Autumn Dessert – bring it on! After much brainstorming and recipe reading I decided to bring together some of my favourite things about Autumn – the crunchy falling leaves; Harvest festival (and particularly the Cauliflowers Fluffy song!); Halloween festivities; and the excitement of bonfire night. The one consistent component of all these lovely things is apples – I love seeing the apple tree at my parents house drop all it’s leaves each Autumn; the classic chorus line “the apples are riiiipe” from Cauliflowers Fluffy; bobbing for apples on Halloween; and of course waving sparklers and toffee apples about on the 5th of November. So it was only natural I’d make apples the key ingredient in my Autumn Dessert. So here it is- my Salted Caramel Fallen Leaves Crust Pie with Bonfire Toffee Apple Grapes and firework decoration! That’s a bit of a mouthful so how about we call it Autumn Adventures Apple Pie!
I had a bit of an adventure making this pie too! I had originally planned to have a bonfire toffee silhouette tree in the middle of my pie, to show where the fallen leaves of my pie top had come from and also as a nod to the classic spooky Halloween black tree. However my toffee melted very quickly and the tree literally withered before my eyes (haha which actually did look pretty creepy as it’s branches twisted and shrunk!) It looked very cool though didn’t it last long, but my boyfriend said it was a nice show-stopping addition as it “showed the movement of the changing of the seasons” (a bit deep, I think he was clutching at straws to make me feel better!) I had planned to have my mini sparklers around the edge of my pie lit but as my toffee tree melted in room temperature alone I didn’t get a chance to make this happen! Never one to give up, I quickly removed my now-tree-stump and lit the sparklers and they still made my pie look ever so festive and Autumnal. I then had a brainwave and got my hands on some larger “cake fireworks” which I thought would look lovely lit and showering down bright sparks, representing the falling of the leaves on to my crust. I popped one in the centre of my pie where my toffee tree had once stood (RIP) and it looked really cool when lit and gave a show stopping moment Mary Berry would have been proud of! So my pie actually had 3 outfit changes and looks before we actually ate it (oohh what a diva!)
I am really pleased with how my Autumn Dessert turned out! The pie pastry was lovely and crisp yet extremely buttery and flaky and I love the effect of the fallen leaves design (I’ll definitely be doing that again!) The apple filling had a lovely Autumnal flavour with the classic blend of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, and the apples were nice and soft which worked in contrast with the crumb of the pastry. The salted caramel sauce worked really well with the apple filling, bringing sweetness and a wonderful sticky texture whilst the salt lifted the other flavours and stopped it from being too sickly (meaning you could totally have a second portion!!)
I’ve never made bonfire toffee before and was pretty pleased with this too, though completely underestimated the time it would take to set completely – it took aaaaages! I definitely recommend popping it in the fridge or even freezer to harden. I was also surprised at how quickly it melted (which you can see below). I think next time I would make it thicker so it held it’s shape better. I loved the dark shiny effect it gave my grape “toffee apples” however and thought these were a cute addition to my pie. I also crushed some left over toffee up and sprinkled it over the top of my pie and ice cream when eating it. Cos, you know, you can never have too much sugar per serving of dessert!
I was so excited to add the firework decorations to my dessert to add a bit of drama and festive spirit! I adore firework night and every year my boyfriend and I go to a display to celebrate our anniversary which is the week before. The little sparklers round the edge are really cute and I thought the large firework in the middle was a great alternative representation of the bonfire toffee tree. I also added some bronze crunch sugar pieces to the top of my pie, to bring in the classic Autumn colour and also bring another texture dimension. I also thought they looked like pretty little conkers!
So here’s how I did it (get ready, it’s quite a long one…)
** 315g plain flour
** 1 1/4 teaspoons of salt
** 90g unsalted butter, chilled
** 154g vegetable fat, chilled
** 160ml ice cold water
** 2 teaspoons fresh lemon zest (this was 2 lemons worth for me)
** 60ml fresh lemon juice (this was 2 1/2 lemons worth for me)
** 6 large apples – choose a variety to get a better depth of flavour (I used 2 Granny Smiths, 2 Jazz Apples and 2 Pink Ladys)
** 31g plain flour
** 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
** 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
** 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
** 100g granulated sugar, plus extra for sprinkling on top
** 1 egg
** 200g granulated sugar
** 90g salted butter
** 120ml double cream
** 1 teaspoon salt
** 450g unrefined demerara sugar
** 125ml water
** 75g unsalted butter
** 100ml golden syrup
** 100ml black treacle
** 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
(This makes a looooottt of toffee! You will probably only need about a quarter of this for my Autumn Adventures Apple Pie but it’s always nice to have extra to serve, and is great crumbled on top of ice cream!)
** Waitrose bronze crunch
** 6 seedless red grapes
** 6 indoor sparklers
** Large cake firework
** 6 cake pop sticks
** Wooden kebab skewer
1) Start making your pastry by mixing your salt and flour together in a large bowl and then add the cubed cold butter and vegetable fat.
2) Cut the fat into the flour and salt using two forks.
TOP TIP: I’d not used this method before but did a bit of investigating on ways to make breadcrumbs without using your fingers (I hate doing this as I always get hand cramp!) lots of methods I found involved using knives or forks to do this and I found it so much better! It also meant my butter stayed colder than it would had I used my fingers which is always good when making pastry.
3) Add the ice water bit by bit and use a wooden spoon to mix and bring the dough together.
TOP TIP: Add the water very gradually and don’t use any more than you need – as soon as the dough as come together do not add any more.
4) Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until the dough is soft and smooth. Roll it into a ball and then divide in two. Wrap each half tightly in cling film and pop in the fridge for at least an hour to chill.
5) Now it’s time to make your salted caramel sauce! Start by adding your sugar to a saucepan over a medium heat and melting it down until you have a thick brown liquid.
TOP TIP: Keep stirring your sugar continually to stop it from burning. Be patient as it will take a while to melt completely.
6) Add your butter to the pan and stir repeatedly for a couple of minutes until all the butter has melted in too.
TOP TIP: Be careful when you add the butter as the mixture will bubble up really quickly!
7) Once your butter has all melted too, grab a whisk to stir it and slowly pour in your cream.
TOP TIP: Keep being careful! My caramel mix started to spit a lot as the cream was added and it was HOT! Who knew caramel was so perilous?!
8) Let your caramel mix boil up for a minute and then remove from the heat and stir in your salt. Set it aside and leave to cool down.
TOP TIP: As your caramel cools it will start to stiffen and solidify. Just pop it back on the heat or in the microwave to melt again before you want to use it.
9) Back to your pie! While your caramel sauce and pie crust are chilling, get making the apple filling. Start by grating your lemon zest until you have 2 teaspoons full and then squeeze the lemon juice out until you have 60ml. Add these to a large bowl and mix them together. Then peel, core and finely slice your 6 apples and then add them to the bowl and toss them in the lemon juice and zest.
10) In a smaller bowl, mix together your flour, spices and sugar and then pour this over the apples, tossing it all together to make sure they get an even coating. Put this to one side as it’s time to assemble your pie hurrah!
11) First off, grease your pie case. Then take one half of your dough out of the fridge and roll it into a large circle big enough to fill your pie case. Gently lift your dough into your pie case and carefully press it into all the nooks and crannys. Then trim the edges.
TOP TIP: The dough is quite soft so do be very careful. I used a rolling pin to help me lift my dough up in one piece and then used my off-cuts to top up any places which were looking a little bit thin – no one wants a soggy bottom!
12) Spoon your apple mixture into the pie case and then drizzle on some of the salted caramel sauce.
TOP TIP: I’m a slow baker so my salted caramel had hardened by the time I was ready to use it. I just popped the pan back on the heat to melt down again and then poured on a good amount of sauce until I was satisfied that there was enough, filling in the gaps between the apples and with plenty on top too.
13) Take your second half of dough and roll it out into a wide circle. Cut out several leaf shapes and layer them on top of your pie filling, keeping some gaps for the steam to escape through when cooking.
14) Beat an egg and brush a little over each of the pastry leaves and sprinkle granulated sugar over the top. Put your pie on a baking tray and place in the oven at 200C for 20 minutes. Then turn your oven down to 190C and bake for another 40-50 minutes, until the top goes golden brown and your caramel beings to bubble up.
15) We’re not finished yet – time to make the bonfire toffee! Take a large, tall sided saucepan and place all the ingredients inside. Heat the mixture, stirring at all times until the sugar has all dissolved and then turn the heat up and bring it all to the boil.
TOP TIP: If you have a sugar thermometer boil your toffee mix to 160C. If you don’t then boil it for about 5 minutes whilst stirring constantly.
16) To make my toffee tree I laid out a large sheet of baking parchment and a kebab skewer stick on top. I then drizzled on the toffee whilst it was still warm and used a pallet knife to spread it into a tree shape.
TOP TIP: I waited aaaages for my tree to set naturally but it wasn’t having any of it, so I placed it in the freezer to harden. Be warned – lay it flat as the toffee will set around any kinks or bumps which may affect the shape of your tree.
17) Now time to make your toffee apple grapes! Skewer a seedless red grape on the end of a cake pop stick (or a toothpick would probably do just as well) and gently coat it with the toffee. Pop the cake pop sticks in a block of polystyrene and in the fridge until the toffee has set.
TOP TIP: I found the best way to do this was roll the grape in a large spoonful of toffee. I tried dunking it but the toffee was too thick and just pulled the grape off the stick. I tried pouring the toffee over the top but it was too quite messy and went EVERYWHERE!
18) Your pie should now be cooked so take it out of the oven and rest on a cooling rack. I waited a few minutes and then removed the pie from the tin as I didn’t want the bubbled up salted caramel to harden and stick the pastry case firm to the pan. Leave your pie to cool for about 4 hours for the ingredients to chill and allow the salted caramel to set around the apples and stick together nicely. Sprinkle over some bronze crunch decoration to give an Autumnal depth of colour and another crunchy texture (just like Autumn conkers on the ground!)
19) Decide on whether you’re going to go for a bonfire toffee Halloween tree, mini side sparklers or a fountain firework tree decoration, serve up and enjoy!
TOP TIP: Give all three looks a go – it’s great fun to see the anticipation on your guests faces as you make them wait while you change the decoration 😀
P.S well done for making it to the end of this very long baking post – I told you my dessert was aptly named Autumn Adventure Apple Pie! I can’t give you a slice of pie as a reward, so here’s a rousing rendition of Cauliflower’s Fluffy instead!
I live in Brixton in London. I eat out far too much, am always planning my next trip and have a borderline unhealthy obsession with Harry Potter.