Hand Made Heaven | Salted Caramel Apple Crumble

I have a lot of cook books. Like, a lot. I’ve just realised that, of the bookshelf that is entirely dedicated to cook books, it’s full. I have come to the conclusion that I can never ever move from my current house, because moving the books is just too damn hard.

Whether you have overflowing selves like me, or no shelves, or you just want a book that covers all your day-to-day baking needs, get your hands on this. Hand Made Baking is an instant classic, and will be your go-to bible for years to come. Everything is practical, within reach of beginners, but with enough finesse to please a more seasoned baker. His tag line of simple, sophisticated, delicious is just about the perfect description for every recipe.

And Kamran? He writes over at The Sophisticated Gourmet, a gorgeous blog that I’ve been following for a little while now. Oh, and he’s 22. That’s right, TWENTY BLOODY TWO. To be so good, so young, Kamran quite simply had to be born to this. And we are all the better for it.

The forecast for Perth this weekend is pretty monstrous – storms, wind, rain, and cold, AKA Bri’s dream weather, on the proviso I can spend it in bed with books and movies. And probably a bowl of this, because why wouldn’t you? 

This apple crumble is perfect all on its own, but I couldn’t help but add lashings of salted butter caramel that I had tucked away in the fridge. There are few recipes that I make more than once, but I made this every weekend for a month, for the guys at work, for Rob, for friends at a party, because there is no one who won’t love this recipe.

P.S. Kamran’s tip of using half sweet apples and half tart is the perfect way of getting a balanced, not overly sweet crumble. Genius.

Salted Caramel Apple Crumble

Adapted from Hand Made Baking by Kamran Siddiqi

2 tsp lemon juice
6 apples, cored and thinly sliced
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of sea salt
1/2 cup caramel sauce (store bought is fine, or something like this)

120g plain flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
Pinch of cinnamon
85g cold unsalted butter, chopped
150g traditional oats
70g brown sugar

Heat your oven to 200*C. Spray a brownie pan with oil, or grease with butter.

Combine the sliced apples in a large bowl with the lemon juice. Combine the sugar, salt and cinnamon, then add to the apples and carefully stir to coat. Pour into the baking dish, scatter tablespoons of caramel over the apples.

Whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, sugar and cinnamon in a bowl large enough to get your hands into. Rub the butter into the flour mixture with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the oats and combine.

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Cover the apples with the crumble, then bake for 20-25 minutes until the crumble is golden. Serve with custard or ice cream

 
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And that’s why I’m not allowed to play with fire

Accident prone. Klutz. Breaker of nice things. Danger to self and society. I get called a lot of things, and they’re usually all true.

I set fire to my hair once. Ok, ok! I’ve done it twice. Both times were accidents though, much like the time I singed off the tips of my eyelashes. What?! Don’t look at me like that, it could have happened to anybody. All I’m saying is, don’t use a stove-top kettle with a hangover. And curling irons are dangerous. As are aerosol cans and gas stove tops.

I don’t normally like to advocate burning things. Pyromania is bad, mmkay?

HOWEVER. There is an exception to the rule in butter. Sweet jeebus, burnt butter is a miracle ingredient that makes everything taste better. Even butter better is that it has both sweet and savoury applications. That’s right, it goes just as well in pasta dishes as it does in cakes.

Remember how I accidentally ended up with 5 kilos of carrots, and it resulted in epic carrot soup? Well, I also accidentally found myself in possession of 2 kilos of apples. Thus, apple pie.

I’m a little afraid of making proper pies, so instead, I make galettes. It’s all the key ingredients of pie, but easy and ‘rustic’. The simple step of browning the butter before adding it to the apples kind of makes you wonder why you never thought of it before.

With 48 hours to go until Spring, and Winter taking its dying breaths, this weekend is the perfect time to give this a go.

Brown Butter Apple Galette

From White on Rice Couple

2 sheets of puff pastry, or my favourite recipe here
340g unsalted butter
9 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced thin
65g caster sugar
100g packed brown sugar
1/4 cup plain flour
1 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice (the fresh stuff, not from a bottle)

Preheat oven to 220°C

Add the butter to a saucepan over medium heat. Cook the butter for a couple of minutes until it starts to foam, and then turn brown. The butter will take on a slightly nutty, toasted smell. Once this happens, remove from heat and set aside to cool for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, toss together the apple slices in a large bowl with the sugars and flour, until the apple is well coated. Once the butter has cooled, add it to the apples, making sure you scrape in all the little brown bits (because they’re delicious!). Add the lemon juice, and toss again to coat. Set aside.

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Roll out the dough between two pieces of baking paper until evenly round and about half a centimeter thick. Add half of the apples to the middle of the dough, spreading them out evenly and leaving a border around the edge of about 5cm.

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Fold the edge of the dough over the apples, creasing if need be. Repeat with the remaining dough and apples.

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Brush the edges of the dough with cream, milk or a whisked egg, and sprinkle with a little more sugar, and then a little bit of flaked salt.

Bake for 20 minutes, then turn down the oven to 180°C and bake for a further 30 minutes, or until the crust is golden.

Serve with vanilla ice cream.

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Sunday, baking Sunday

Waking on a Sunday is a beautiful thing.

Want to spend it in bed? Trips to Bunnings, scoffing $2 hot dogs? Catch ups with friends? Anything, or nothing is possible (and completely acceptable. At least, it better be).

For many, it’s a day of cooking. Complicated recipes get a test run, slow cookers get switched on, freezers are stocked. My Twitter feed is filled with recipes, breakfasts, questions and ideas being thrown about. It’s inspiring and drool inducing at the same time.

On this particular Sunday, the one just past, a pure winter’s day was taking over. There’s no way I’m going out in the storm that’s coming, so the day is filled with finding a use for the glut of fruit in my kitchen. Plus, my house is bloody cold. Standing over a warm oven sounds like heaven!

Speaking of heaven, what is more so on a winter’s day than crumble? Apples, brown sugar and oats… Oh, and a handful of frozen blueberries for additional gooey amazingness. The cornflour thickens the fruit’s juice into a slightly jam-like goodness, further adding to just how good this is.

Apple & Blueberry Crumble

Filling
4 large apples, peeled, cored and diced
1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
1/2 cup caster sugar
2 tablespoons cornflour

Crumble
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, room temperature, diced
1 cup plain flour

Preheat the oven to 180*c

Combine apple, blueberries, lemon and vanilla in a bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together sugar and cornflour until combined.

Toss together fruit and sugar, until thoroughly combined. Place in a baking dish.

In a smaller bowl, combine the flour, oats, and brown sugar. Smush the butter into the flour mixture with your fingers, until a crumble mixture is formed.

Place the crumble over the fruit evenly, adding a little extra in the gaps (just because it’s delicious)

Place the baking dish on a tray covered with baking paper (In case the crumble bubbles over, this makes cleaning a little easier!). Bake for 40 minutes, until the crumble turns golden.

Serve with cream. Or ice cream. Or custard. Creme fraiche. Pretty much anything delicious.

Cake Club. Where it’s at.

I’m not great at group activities.

I have the hand-eye coordination of a newborn sloth, ruling out sports.  It doesn’t help that I loathe running, sweating or  anything involving exercise. I’m no good at LANs or gaming because I don’t grasp tilting AND panning at the same time, and regularly leave my co-players to be munched on by the hoards of undead. Ooopsies. Knitting groups are just begging for me to trip on loose wool and impale myself on a stray needle. Singstar has diagnosed me as clinically tone-deaf, so there goes bands.

But ladies and gentlemen, I believe I have found my niche.
Clandestine Cake Club.

You heard me. A secret club where I get to make and devour cake. Like a BAWSE.

First rule of Cake Club.
We don’t talk about fight club Cake Club.
At least, we don’t talk about it’s location. We set a theme, and you bring a cake. It’s pretty simple.
Anyone is welcome, so if you feel so inclined, please email and join us. We drink tea, talk crap and eat cake. It’s awesome.

Working to the theme of Autumn Fruits, I researched. Chocolate is always a natural instinct. One that I’m trying to step away from. I decided to try a slightly less traditional cake, and I found my answer in semolina.

The semolina cake on its own is not particularly sweet, making it a great option for those who don’t have an overly sweet tooth. It also means that if you do have a sweet tooth *cough* ME! *cough* then you have the option to fill/layer with things that are a little on the sweeter side.
It doesn’t rise much, so if you want a big cake, do consider doubling the mixture.

Caramelized Apple and Pear Semolina Cake

2 apples, peeled, cored and quartered
2 pears, peeled and cored and quartered
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cardamom
1 1/2 cups fine semolina
3/4 cup caster sugar
2 tsp baking paoder
250g natural yoghurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
180g melted butter, cooled

1) Preheat the oven to 180*c. Line a cake tin with baking paper and grease.

2) Slice apples and pears thinly (use a mandolin in you have one). Melt the 3 tbsp in a heavy based pan. Add cinnamon, cardamom and brown sugar. Stir until the brown sugar starts to dissolve. Add the apple and pears and cook, stirring for 10 minutes or until caramelized. Set aside.

3) Combine semolina, sugar and baking powder in a large mixing bowl. Add yoghurt, butter and vanilla, and mix until combined.

4) Pour half the mixture into the tin. Layer half the apple and pear mixture, then carefully spread the other half of the semolina batter over the top.

5) Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until cooked through. A skewer will come out clean and dry when inserted into the middle of the cake.

6) Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the tin before cooling completely on a wire rack. Top with remaining apple and pear mixture, and serve.

I’m a reformed people pleaser. If that’s ok with you.

My name is Bri, and I don’t know how to say no to people.

If you’re my friends, this is a great gig.
Sure, I’ll pick you and your mates up at 4am and spend 2 hours driving them all home.
Sure, I’ll set all the tables at your wedding.
Sure, I’ll  work all weekend.
If you’re me, well, you don’t get a lot of sleep. But that’s ok, because I’m making people happy.

So, when the request for me to make someone something comes out, I’m hardly going to turn down the challenge, am I?
Luckily, in this instance, the request came from my gorgeous, talented friend Sam Perry.
In which case, you trying say no.
“Bri, I never get any of the stuff you make, make something for me.”
Uhhhh… Ok.

The good thing about the times when people ask me to make things off the cuff, is they generally aren’t too picky about what I present them with. A culinary free for all. Winning.

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars

Adapted from Zoom Yummy

Base

1 1/2 cups crushed lattice biscuit crumbs
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Filling
500g cream cheese, softened
1/2 cups caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs

Apple filling
2 large apples
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1 tablespoon brown sugar

Crumble
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup plain flour

Topping
3/4 cup caramel sauce

1. Preheat the oven to 175 °C.

2. Mix the melted butter and Lattice cracker crumbs until thoroughly combined. Press the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake in preheated oven for 6 minutes. Remove pan to a cooling rack.

3. In the meantime, in a larger bowl, beat the cream cheese with 1/2 cup sugar until smooth (about 1 minute). Add the eggs, 1 at a time (beat about 20 seconds after each addition). Next add the vanilla and mix until combined.
Make sure not to over-beat the cheesecake batter as this will lead to excess air being incorporated in and may cause cracking later on.
Pour the cream cheese batter over the warm crust.

4. Peel the apples and chop them into small bits. Mix the apple bits with the cinnamon and sugars. Spread the apple evenly over the cream cheese mixture.

5. In a smaller bowl, combine the flour, oats, and brown sugar for a crumb topping. Cube the butter and using a fork, create a crumbly mixture. Crumble over the cream cheese mixture.

6. Bake 30 minutes, or until the filling has set. Reduce the temperature to 150 °C for the last 5 minutes.

7. Cut into bars and drizzle with the caramel topping.

I used these to bribe several of my friends, and they were declared “The best thing you’ve ever made”.

I very rarely eat my own cooking, but I ate 4 on Sunday afternoon while watching Letters to Juliet.
Judge away, it’s fine, I deserve it. I have these to console me.

P.S. Blair, ask and you shall receive

Rain, Top Smells and Apple Pie Cookies

I woke up on Tuesday at 5:30am.

This is unusual for several reasons:
1. I’m not a morning person. Like, at all. Left to my own body clock, I’m hard pressed to be awake before 11am. I worked really hard (and by really hard, I mean not at all) to earn my nickname Housecat.

2. I was woken by noise. I’m a fairly heavy sleeper. There’s a story of me sleeping through a cyclone as a kid.

Now, this noise that woke me from my glorious, heavy slumber?
Rain. Proper, fat droplet rain. The good kind.
When you consider that only 48 hours before, I woke to crystal-clear, cloudless blue skies and 35* heat, this was a remarkable turn around in weather fortunes. But, thus is Perth’s spring weather. A little on the unpredictable side.
As I lay there, I realised not only could you hear the rain, but you could smell it.
Rain would make my top 10 favourite smells, easy. And then, in that way that only happens when you’re half asleep, my brain kind of took off. Smellsmellsmell. What else do I like?
Jasmine, for one. Puppies. Onion. Garlic. Bacon. Put them together in a frying pan, and it’s my olfactory heaven. But there’s something about pulling baked goods out of the oven. Hot biscuits, pies, tarts. It’s all sugary, crumbly delightfulness, that will easily bring a grown man to his knees. And then *bam* I knew what I had to make.
Apple Pie Cookies.
It’s apple. Cinnamon. Nutmeg. Sugar. It’s a pie, but it’s a biscuit. It’s basically The Best Idea Ever.
This recipe from Smitten Kitchen had caught my eye a couple of days earlier, and I couldn’t resist. And frankly, you shouldn’t either.

Now. For those of you playing at home, this is what we are getting ourselves in for:
It’s sweet (obviously), but it’s not too sweet. This is a good thing.
It’s a lot of biscuit/crust, not a lot of filling. But enough to get its point across.
It’s brilliant with a cuppa, because that’s what just about all the women I work with paired it with, and what the girls from my local cafe instantly made themselves.

I hadn’t made pastry before (CHALLENGE ACCEPTED), so I followed that part of the recipe to the letter. Except I forgot to check the pantry before I started cooking, so there was a trip to the supermarket for more flour (this recipe only needed 3 trips, win!) midway through. But that’s ok.
I like this because it lends itself to experimentation. Other fruits? Spices? What happens if we whack in a couple of chocolate chips… Oooh, I like that idea.

Here we go…

Apple Pie Cookies
Adapted (slightly) from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

Crust
2 1/2 cups plain flour, plus more for dusting surfaces, dipping fork, rolling pin
2 tablespoons caster sugar
1 teaspoon table salt
2 sticks (8 ounces, 16 tablespoons or 1 cup) unsalted butter, very cold
1/2 cup water, very cold

Filling
3 medium apples, whatever you like to bake with
Squeeze of lemon juice (optional)
1/3 cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Few gratings fresh nutmeg
A pinch of any other spices you like in your apple pie

To finish
1 large egg

Additional stuff
A couple baking sheets covered with parchment paper
Rolling pin, pastry brush (for egg wash), fork (for crimping and dipping) and sharp knife (to make slits)
Two round cookie cutters of different sizes. I used 2 7/8-inch and 1 4/5-inch rounds. You’ll want to make sure there’s at least a 3/4-inch different in the sizes, as you’ll need the extra margin to crimp your dough.

Make your pie dough: Whisk together flour, sugar and salt in the bottom of a large, wide-ish bowl. Using a pastry blender, two forks or your fingertips, work the butter into the flour until the biggest pieces of butter are the size of small peas. (You’ll want to chop your butter into small bits first.) Gently stir in the ice water with a rubber spatula, mixing it until a craggy mass forms. Get your hands in the bowl and knead it just two or three times to form a ball. Divide dough in half. Wrap each half in plastic wrap and flatten a bit, like a disc. Chill in fridge for at least an hour or up to two days. [Even more detailed pie dough instructions in this post, check it out!]

Meanwhile, get everything else together: Line up five small dishes. In the first one, pour some water. Leave the second one empty; you’ll use it for your apples in a bit. In the third one, mix the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and any other spices you like in your pie, such as a pinch of cloves. In the fourth one, place a little bit of flour to dust your surface and dip your fork for crimping. In the fifth one, whisk an egg with one teaspoon of water until smooth.

So many bowls...

On a well-floured counter, roll out your pie dough pretty thin, a little shy of 1/8-inch thick. Lift and rotate your dough as you roll it, to ensure that it rolls out evenly and so you can be sure it’s not sticking in any place. [More rolling tips here!] Use the larger of your two cookie cutters [mine was 2 7/8-inch) to cut as many rounds as you can from the dough. Transfer them to parchment-lined baking sheets and keep them in the fridge until you need them. Once you’ve finished the first packet, repeat the process with the second packet of dough

Prepare your apples: Peel your apples. Cut thin (1/8-inch thick) slices from one side of whole apple, stopping when you hit the core. Repeat on opposite side. You can get about 10 usable slices from each side of a small-medium-ish apple. OR, you could use a mandolin, which is what I did. Use the smaller of your two cookie cutters (mine was about 1 2/3 inches) to cut the apples into cute little discs that will fit inside your pie cookies. Place them in your second bowl, covering them with a few drops of lemon juice if you find that they’re browning quickly.

Preheat oven to 170 degrees celcius.

And now, assemble away! Grab your first disc of chilled dough and lightly dampen it on one side with the water. This is to help it seal. Take your first disc of apple and toss it in the cinnamon spice sugar. Place it on the damp side of the bottom disk. Place a second disc of dough on top; I found it easiest to seal it by picking the whole thing up (this is when you’ll be glad that your dough is cold and semi-firm; if it’s soft and getting sticky, chill it until it’s easy to pick up) and press the tops and bottoms around the apple with your fingers. Back on the floured counter, cut decorative slits in your “pies”. Dip your fork in the flour and use it to create a decorative crimp on the sealed edges. Brush your cookie with egg wash and sprinkle with additional spice/sugar mix. Replace on baking sheet and chill while you prepare the others.

Battle stations

Bake your apple pie cookies for 25 minutes, or until puffed and bronzed and very pie-like. (If this is your first batch, peer in at them at 20 minutes, to make sure your oven doesn’t run hot.) Transfer to a cooling rack to cool before eating them. Safety first, kids. No one likes a burnt tongue. No one.

*Trumpet fanfare*

Annnd done

If you can, serve them warm, because that’s when they are The Shizz, but they were great cold, too.
Keep them in an airtight container, provided they don’t get inhaled immediately. I’m looking at you, housemates.