The nights are fair drawing in, Bake Off is on our screens and the jumpers are on. Although it seemed as though summer ended when hurricane Bertha came barging her way through it, apparently it’s now officially autumn, announced by the equinox on 23 September.
The changing season, although the beginning of an extended period of cold the likes of which we have forgotten could exist, does bring some beauty. Not only the beauty of black suede boots and faux fur wintry accessories, but also the beauty of nature. Even if we aren’t quite at the mists stage yet- long may this unseasonal sunshine continue- Keats was right about the mellow fruitfulness. The trees in the garden are bent heavy with fruit and the recent glut of cooking and eating apples means I have made more apple based desserts than I can count in the past few weeks.
The classic standby is the humble crumble, possibly the easiest and tastiest way to see off a surfeit of apples. When every possible variation on a crumble got boring, I made an apple sponge pudding-y thing by Delia, Mary Berry’s apple tart and some disastrous apple turnovers.
If you have more apples in your garden than you know what to do with, the very simple recipes below might come in useful. Especially for those experiencing an ‘oh god not another crumble’/ ‘BBC Good Food has let me down’ moment.
Although considered baby food in this country, apple compôte is readily available on supermarket shelves in France and considered acceptable for adults to eat (I hope. I ate a lot of it when I was there). It’s so easy to make and tastes lovely stirred into yoghurt, spooned onto granola or even on its own.
Simply take four large cooking apples, peel, core, and quarter them and cut each quarter in half. Put in a large pan with two tablespoons of water and one tablespoon of caster sugar. Add a dusting of cinnamon if you like. Cover and leave on a low heat for about fifteen minutes until the apples have turned to delicious mush, stirring every now and then. Add more sugar to taste. If you like a very smooth texture, you could sieve them at this point. If not pour into a bowl, leave to cool and then either eat straight away or store in the fridge for up to two weeks.
This might be a bit retro, but it’s that rare combination of a pudding which is both tasty and not really, really bad for you. It’s also dead easy to make. Simply preheat the oven to 180°C and core one cooking apple per person. Mix together one teaspoon of muscovado sugar, a small handful of sultanas, a dusting of cinnamon and nutmeg and a teaspoon of crushed, flaked almonds per apple. You could substitute the sultanas for any other dried fruits, and even soak them in brandy for a couple of hours before cooking if you’re feeling fancy.
One you’ve spooned the fruit mixture into the apple(s), top with a knob of butter and a sprinkling of brown sugar and bake in the oven on a tinfoil lined baking tray for around 40 minutes. Serve with vanilla ice cream and pretend you’re back in primary school.
Salted Caramel Apple Slices
The combination of toffee and apple works, but the combination of salted caramel and apple is even better. Make this sauce to dip sweet, crunchy slices of apple into, or serve alongside any apple based desserts.
To make your own salted caramel, first put on a long-sleeved top. Bare arms over a pan containing molten sugar is not a good idea. Next, place 100g salted butter, 100g granulated sugar and 100g light brown sugar in a large saucepan, add a splash of water, heat and stir for a few minutes until it forms a brown, sticky liquid. Slowly whisk in 150ml double cream and keep over a high heat for a minute. Add ½ or full teaspoon of sea salt and leave to cool and thicken. It will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks.
To hell with the fact that the sugar, butter and cream in this salted caramel sauce cancels out the healthy effort of the apple. It’s autumn. Which means it’s nearly winter and we need a treat.
Now that autumn is here and the apples are ripe, it’s time to make cider. I do enjoy cider. Such is my enjoyment of a nice half of the apple stuff that someone once reduced my entire character into two words and one of them was ‘cider’. The other was less than complimentary, too, but in my defence I was on a camping holiday in the UK at the time and therefore daytime drinking in the pub was essential. Besides, a moment sipping cold cider in warm sunshine somewhere, feeling that delicious slow wooze envelop you, is a moment of pure joy.
Although I don’t have a cider recipe, I do have some favourites to recommend. Thatcher’s Gold is the most refreshing drink in the world, and is just dry enough. Ampleforth Premium Cider is made by the monks at Ampleforth Abbey in Yorkshire, who tend their orchards and then make cider using traditional methods, leaving it to mature and carbonate in the bottle. It is very dry, has quite a distinctive flavour and is a whopping 8.3% vol. I also have a soft spot for Thatcher’s Katy cider, purely because we have a Katy apple tree in the garden.