Here is very useful recipe for those looking to avoid dairy products or even to just reduce the amount of fat in their diet. By whisking together some smooth jam and a couple of egg-whites, a deliciously light and frothy ‘cream’ can be created, for use as a finishing touch to trifles, puddings and pastries, or to enjoy by itself. The cream will be influenced by whatever flavour of jam you choose to use, but it doesn’t dominate at all. The above was made using seedless raspberry jam, and the subtlty of colour reflects the subtlty of flavour – a mere whisper on the palate. For an almost white ‘cream’ with a very faint flavour (if that suits your needs best), I can recommend making and using Christine Ferber’s Green Apple Jelly.
It is a surprisingly elegant solution for anyone with dietary restrictions, and dates from the cusp of the 17th and 18th centuries (circa 1700).
This particular recipe I found in a manuscript held by the Wellcome Collection in London, but I have also read variations in other manuscripts and locations. I am surprised tht it has fallen out of favour, for it is one of the simplest and easiest recipes I have adapted.
Well, I say adapted. In fact I have changed very little from the original instructions.
The one detail I did change was to reduce the number of egg-whites from three to two, reasoning that the eggs we have nowadays are much larger than those of three hundred years ago.
Thanks to modern technology, we are also spared the two hours of hand whisking (with a spoon of all things!) required in order to achieve the light and fluffy outcome pictured above, and can achieve the same result with about 10 minutes of whisking with your kitchen gadget of choice.
The potential worry regarding the consumption of raw egg whites is eliminated by the convenience of being able to purchase pasteurised egg whites in a carton.
The finished whip will hold its shape for several hours, should the need arise, allowing you to prepare this well in advance of your entertaining needs. I decided to leave the whipped ‘cream’ out, to test it’s durability, and can confirm that after 5 hours, it was still (mostly) holding its shape, as can be seen below.
Furthermore, this recipe is customisable in that you can vary the flavour of the whip by using different jams/jellies. For the smoothest result, they should be clear and set. Alternately, you could make your own by gently warming and sieving the jam to remove the fruit pieces in the conserve or jam flavour that you require. Apple, apricot, redcurrant, cranberry, blueberry, blackcurrant, plum, damson, marmalade…the possibilities are endless!
You can easily halve the recipe at first, to make a trial batch to see if you like it. However, this might be too small an amount for a stand mixer to get to grips with, so use a hand-held whisk instead.
2 large egg whites (80ml) 225g seedless raspberry jam (or smooth jam/jelly of choice)
Put both ingredients into a bowl and whisk using a mixer, for about 10 minutes, until the mixture is thick and glossy and holds its shape.
The autumn months are almost upon us and it truly is the season of mellow fruitfulness.
First among equals is the damson, a fruit I have been familiar with my whole life. Damsons are small, oval, wild plums with a signature ‘bloom’. They are different to bullaces, a different wild plum which is more round and apple-shaped. It was only a few years ago that I learned that damsons aren’t universally known, rather they are concentrated in just a few counties, namely Shropshire, Worcestershire, Buckinghamshire, Cheshire and Westmorland.
Damsons are really tart – there’s no possibility of enjoying them raw – and make fabulous jams and chutneys. I particularly enjoy them in sweet dishes, because their sourness and tartness are a great foil against sugar and sweetness.
And so to this recipe. This is a fabulously simple recipe which makes beautifully soft and creamy ice-cream with just two main ingredients, plus flavouring, without the need for an ice-cream maker. This last point is especially useful if, like me, you lack worktop space. There is no need to repeatedly remove it from the freezer and stir to remove ice crystals, because they never form. You can literally mix it in minutes and freeze overnight and enjoy perfectly smooth, delicious ice-cream immediately.
The ice-cream recipes over on TimeToCookOnline include salted caramel and malt, both of which can be made with storecupboard ingredients, but I fancied adapting this recipe to use fresh fruit, and my freezer provided the ingredients. I had a bag of damsons that had been languishing there for probably three years, so their time to shine was long overdue.
The method can be used for any frozen, or indeed fresh, fruit. Most importantly, it is necessary to get rid of as much water from the fruit as possible, as it will form ice-crystals when frozen and ruin the smoothness of your ice-cream. The majority of this post will be on how you can achieve this, plus a short-cut or two.
Fruit Puree Method – Damsons
The flesh of a damson clings tightly to the stone, so the best way to separate the two is by cooking. Sweetened, stewed damsons were a regular simple pudding on the table during my childhood. One had to spoon the cooked fruit into your mouth, then discretely return the stone to the spoon and lay it on the rim of your dish. For ice-cream purposes, though, a puree is what is required.
Put 1kg (or more if liked) of damsons, fresh and rinsed or frozen, into a saucepan.
Add 3-4 tablespoons of water and cover with a lid.
Turn the heat to low and let the fruit gently steam/stew until soft.
Pour the fruit into a sieve over a large bowl and stir with a wooden spoon to separate the fruit pulp from the stones and skins. Use the back of a knife to regularly scrape the pulp from the underside of the sieve. Be warned, damson juice will stain, so wear an apron and wipe up any spills promptly, especially if you have a wooden worktop.
When all that remains in the sieve is stones and skins (which can be discarded), measure the fruit puree and add HALF the volume of puree in granulated sugar. e.g 4 cups of juice will need 2 cups of sugar.
Return the puree to the pan, add the sugar and stir to dissolve.
Simmer over a low-medium heat until it has reduced and thickened. This may take a while, depending on the volume of puree you’re working with. There’s a lot of pectin in damsons, so if you spoon a little onto a cold plate and it sets, it’s done.
What you should be left with is something of the consistency of runny honey.
Sugar Absorption Method – Fresh Apricots
This method is an adaptation of a jam-making method used by ‘The Jam Fairy’ Christine Ferber. I used it with fresh apricots which I spotted recently at a bargain £1 a punnet. It takes a little longer, but preserves the fresh flavour of the fruit.
Slice the apricots and remove the stones.
Score the inner flesh with a sharp knife, being careful not to cut too deeply – the skin should remain intact.
Lay your apricot halves side by side in a bowl in layers, flesh-side up.
When you can fit no more into the layer, cover generously with granulated sugar to a depth of about 1cm.
Continue layering and covering with sugar until all your fruit is in the bowl.
Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 8-10 hours, or overnight. The sugar will draw out the juices in the apricots and in turn be drawn into the flesh of the fruit.
Tip the fruit and sugar mixture into a saucepan and heat very gently until all the sugar granules have dissolved. Stir occasionally.
When all the sugar is dissolved, bring the syrup to a boil, turn off the heat and cover the pan. Leave to stand until cool.
Drain the fruit from the syrup.
Remove the skins of the fruit. The heat of the syrup will have softened the skins as well as separating them from the apricot flesh. If you lift up each apricot half by pinching the skin at the back, it should pull away quite easily. It is likely to remain attached at the edges, in which case you can help things along by scraping the flesh away with a teaspoon. Put the flesh into a separate bowl. Discard the skins. You can keep the apricot flavoured syrup to use as a glaze for fruit tarts, buns etc.
Puree the flesh.
Taste, and add a little lemon juice to taste to sharpen the flavour, if liked.
Tinned fruit in syrup has already been processed, so you could drain some tinned apricots/peaches/pears etc and puree the fruit. The flavour won’t be quite as fresh-tasting, but it’s much quicker and you can be feet up, waiting for your ice-cream to freeze in about 15 minutes.
Even quicker, you could substitute jam for the fruit. Use a good quality brand such as Bon Maman, which has compotes and conserves in a range of delicious flavours. How much you’ll need will depend on personal preferences, but I suggest starting with 300g and seeing how that goes. Warm the compote/conserve gently, then puree. You can always stir in extra as a ‘ripple’.
This damson ice-cream is the best ice-cream I have ever tasted. EVER. The intense sour/tartness of the fruit is a perfect foil to the intense sweetness of the condensed milk, and the result is smooth and rich and velvety, with a huge zing of ‘rippled’ damson. Gooseberries (perhaps with a dash of elderflower cordial) and rhubarb would also work well.
Despite the title, you can use this method to make any fruit ice-cream that takes your fancy. Because it was slightly runny, but intense in flavour, I used just 350ml of damson puree in the ice-cream, and another 150ml as ‘ripple’. The apricot puree was thicker, so I mixed in a full 500ml.
600ml chilled double cream
1 x 397g tin of sweetened condensed milk
500ml sweetened damson puree – divided
Put the cream and the condensed milk into the bowl of a mixer.
Add 350ml damson puree.
Whip the ingredients with a balloon whisk attachment until light and fluffy.
Pour into a suitable plastic container.
Add dollops of the remaining puree and swirl through with a knife.
It is June, and summer is upon us! It’s the time of salady goodness! And I have here a very easy salad for you which I’ve cobbled together over the years. It’s simple and fresh and delicious and exceedingly easy to make. In fact, the skill bar is set so low I’m going to sum it up in one sentence.
If you can use a knife, you can make this salad.
Yes, it’s that easy.
Like pretty much everyone, I think small is cute, especially when it comes to food. This salad embodies that notion, because all of the elements are of a similarly small size. It also addresses a perennial salad problem, that of gloopiness. Salad vegetables usually have a high water content, and when you start cutting into them, the juice starts to flow, so your salad can become somewhat waterlogged in a very short time. With just a couple of tweaks to your regular salad preparation, you can keep your ingredients crisp and fresh much longer.
Each element is neatly diced to keep the overall appearance looking clean and fresh. Cutting raw broccoli and cauliflower into miniature florets, as opposed to just chopping them, keeps the salad from becoming cluttered with stray leaves falling off. Plus mini florets look adorable.
Another advantage of this salad is how you can easily customise it to whatever you have to hand. For example, I had hoped to include radishes in the picture above, but the supermarket had not received its delivery and there were none to be had. So I just left them out. You’re only going to be limited by your imagination: if you’re a fan of fruit in salad, add in some chopped apple and pomegranate seeds, if you relish crunchy sharp flavours, add in some pickled vegetables. Just be sure to follow The Rule.
The One Rule: Everything in your salad should be roughly the same size.
Gather your ingredients and decide on the smallest item. In the salad above, it’s the sweetcorn, but it could just as easily be peas or something else. Using that as a guideline, peel and dice your salad ingredients to a similar size and mix them together.
This salad can be scaled to your requirements – for as small a number as one, as a main course, to a family-sized bowl as a side. Undressed, it will keep in the fridge for several days. The number of ingredients is enirely up to you, but there should be roughly the same quantity of each ingredient. Here’s a brief run down of how to prep various salad ingredients. The top two are the most important to ensure your salad stays gloop-free.
Cucumber: Cut off a 6-8cm piece and cut it in half lengthwise. Using a teaspoon, scrape out the seeds, leaving just the green flesh. Discard the seeds.¹ Slice the rest of the cucumber lengthwise into 1cm thick strips, then cut across into 1cm dice.
Tomatoes: Cut in half around the middle, then slice the seed stalk as shown in the picture. Scrape the seeds into a bowl and set side (see Harlequin Salad Dressing below). Slice the tomato flesh into 1cm dice. I used mini tomatoes, which were a bit fiddly, but they had beautiful mixture of reds and yellows.
Celery: Wash the stalks and trim the ends. Slice into 1cm strips. Cut across into 1cm dice.
Carrot: Top and tail and cut lengthways into 1cm thick slices. Cut each slice into 1cm strips and then cut across into 1cm dice.
Raw Broccoli: Cut mini florets from the 1-2 large branches. Cut the stalk into 1cm slices, then into 1cm strips and dice.
Raw Cauliflower: Cut mini florets from the 1-2 large branches. Cut the stalk into 1cm slices, then into 1cm strips and dice.
Raw French Beans: Top and tail and cut into 1cm slices.
Radishes: Top and tail and cut in half. Cut each half into four. If large, you might need to cut down further.
Peppers – all colours: Cut in half and remove the stalk and seeds. Cut into 1cm strips, then into 1cm dice.
Spring onions: Remove papery outer layers and trim roots. Slice into 1cm slices.
Red onions/shallots: Top and tail and remove papery outer layers. Cut into 1cm slices, then across into 1cm dice.
Red Cabbage – raw or pickled: Cut a 1cm slice, then cut into 1cm strips and slice into 1cm dice.
Sweetcorn – fresh, canned or frozen: No chopping required.
Peas – fresh or frozen: No chopping required.
Pomegranate Seeds: No chopping required.
Apple: Have the juice of a lemon ready squeezed. Peel (or not, you choose) your apple and cut in half. Remove the core and cut each half into 1cm slices. Cut the slices into strips and then cut across into dice. Toss immediately in lemon juice to prevent browning. Drain thoroughly before adding to the rest of the ingredients.
Pickled silverskin onions: No chopping required.
Pickled cornichons: Cut in half lengthwise, then slice into 1cm pieces.
Olives: Cut in quarters or eighths, depending on size.
When you’ve gathered and chopped your salad ingredients, the last flourishing touch is to add the secret ingredient which makes this salad really sing:
at least 1 sprig fresh mint
A little goes a long way, so one sprig is probably all you’ll need, unless in a moment of madness you’ve recklessly agreed to make Harlequin Salad in catering quantities.
Strip the leaves from the sprig of mint and shred finely. Turn the shreds and chop again crossways to cut the mint into small pieces and sprinkle over your chopped vegetables. Toss gently to combine.
Harlequin Salad Dressing
The tomato seeds can be a bit irritating, and in this instance would otherwise interfere with the clean salad appearance, but the flesh around them is deliciously tart and perfect to use in a dressing.
tomato seeds from the salad
salt and coarse-ground black pepper
a light vinegar (optional)
Sieve the tomato seeds over a bowl until all that remains are the seeds.
Add 1tbs olive oil, salt and pepper to the tomato seed juice and mix to combine.
Taste and adjust the seasoning. Add more oil/vinegar as required.
Set aside until ready to serve the salad.
Wash some lettuce leaves (I used Cos/Romaine), pat them dry with a paper towel and use them to line a serving dish.
Shake your dressing and pour over your chopped vegetables and toss gently to mix.
Spoon the dressed salad onto the leaves and serve.
¹I agonised over this, as it’s the only waste in this salad. Having thought about it for a while, my suggestion is to sieve the seeds to remove all the juice, and have a shot of cucumber water with your salad.
More interesting than toast, not as rich as cake, what’s not to love about a bun? The buns traditionally served towards then end of Lent are… well now, here’s the thing. They go by many names. Most people might think, as the title above implies, that they’re Hot Cross Buns, but that’s not strictly accurate. “Hot Cross Buns!” was originally the cry of the street vendors who sold Cross Buns – hot. Recipes also appear under the name “Good Friday Buns” and “Easter Buns”.
Interestingly, Cross Buns weren’t originally fruited, only spiced – and thanks to an edict from Queen Elizabeth I, could only be sold on Good Friday, Christmas and for funerals.
“That no baker or other person or persons shall at any time or times hereafter, make, utter or sell by retail within or without their houses, unto any the queen’s subjects, any spice cakes, buns, bisket or other spice bread (being bread out of size, and not by law allowed), except it be at burials, or upon the Friday before Easter, or at Christmas; upon pain of forfeiture of all such spice bread to the poor.”
John Powell, The Assyse of Breade, 1595
Fruit gradually crept into recipes from about the middle of the 19th century, presumably as industrialization and improved transport links brought foodstuffs from far flung places to the UK cheaper and quicker, all to make for a really indulgent treat after the privations of Lent.
This recipe comes from a very favourite author of mine: Frederick T. Vine. Doyen of numerous professional books for the baker and confectioner. This is his own personal recipe, scaled down from a recipe in which quantities such as pounds and quarts were bandied about, and a full batch of which would produce almost 650 penny buns. The quantities below will make about 12 x 100g buns, more if you drop the weight down to 85 grams. This might seem a large amount, but they can be gifted to friends and family, or easily frozen to enjoy at a later date.
The buns are enriched with milk, butter and egg and are packed with bags of fruit and spice. The original recipe also includes malt extract, which gives a wonderfully rich flavour, but isn’t usually something you find in the supermarket, so you can improvise by adding some powdered Ovaltine to the mixing liquid if you have difficulty sourcing it. You can omit it altogether if liked.
The original recipe suggested using flavouring essences of lemon and ‘spice’. I happened to have some lemon flavouring, but no ‘spice’, so I used regular ground spices. Reading an inordinately large number of baking books as I do, I’ve noticed that the use of essences is very prevalent in commercial baking mixtures. The reason seems to be that regular ground spices darken the dough, which is assumed to be unappealing to the customer. This opinion contrasts greatly with the fact that, for example, in modern times the appearance of the seeds in vanilla-flavoured items today are celebrated – how things change! Personally, I like the authentic appearance of the dark flecks of spice, not to mention the flavour. Feel free to go with your own blend of spices, but I really like the punchiness of the quantities below. After all, no-one likes a bland spice bun – if you’re promised spice, you want to be able to taste it.
These buns have a sweetened, tinted glaze to be painted on after they are baked. It uses gelatine to give shine without the stickiness. If you’re not keen on using gelatine and don’t mind a little stickiness with your shine, then omit the gelatine, swap the water for milk and warm to dissolve the sugar.
Hot Cross Buns
I’ve gone for a mixture of spices, but it is traditional to only use allspice. If you’d prefer this flavouring, I suggest just 1½tsp ground allspice, as it is quite potent.
I’ve switched around the method a little to make for a more straightforward approach.
180ml water 90g unsalted butter, cubed 15g malt extract OR 2tbs Ovaltine 180ml milk 30ml of beaten egg, from1 large egg 135g soft brown sugar ½tsp salt 1 sachet fast-acting yeast 30g mixed orange/lemon peel, finely sliced/chopped 180g currants 1/2tsp lemon flavouring OR zest of 1 lemon 1tsp ground nutmeg ½ tsp ground mace ½tsp ground allspice ½tsp ground mixed spice 500g strong white flour
Heat the water, butter and malt/Ovaltine until steaming and the butter melted, then add the (cold) milk. This should bring the temperature down to just warm.
Whisk in the egg, sugar, salt, lemon flavouring if using, and yeast.
Pour the warm mixture into a bowl.
Sift together the flour and spices and add to the bowl.
Knead into a soft and supple dough, about 10 mins.
Knead in the currants, zest if using, and peel, cover with plastic, and set to rise. Because of the enriched nature of this dough, this will take slightly longer than usual, about 1½ hours.
When the dough is risen, turn out onto a floured work surface and pat to deflate.
Weigh off the dough into 100g pieces, and then roll and shape each into a smooth ball.
Line a deep-sided baking tin with parchment.
Place the balls of dough into the pan, pressing with the flat of the had as you do so, to flatten them into discs about 2cm thick. Place these ‘cakes’ about 1cm apart from one another. This will mean they touch as they prove, giving a soft ‘kissing crust’ on each side and a rounded sqare shape.
Cut a cross into each bun using a dough cutter or similar. NB Take care not to cut all the way through, just deep enough so that the dough will stay apart during baking, preserving the cross.
Cover lightly with a cloth to rise for 30 minutes.
Heat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan. This is a slightly hotter temperature than usual for buns (180°C, 160°C Fan), because the sides of the tin will block direct heat, and the buns will therefore need cooking a little longer.
Pre-bake Glaze: Whisk the remaining egg with the milk and brush over the tops of the buns.
Bake for 20 minutes until risen and browned. Turn the tin around after 10 minutes to ensure even baking.
While the buns are baking, prepare the gelatine glaze. Soak the gelatine sheet in the water until softened. Heat gently to dissolve the gelatine, then stir in the treacle and sugar. Continue stirring until the sugar is dissolved.
When the buns are baked, remove from the oven and brush over with the glaze.
Cover lightly with a cloth and allow to cool in the tin for 15 minutes. The cloth will keep the steam close, making for a soft crust.
After 15 minutes uncover the buns and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. If you leave them to cool completely in the tin, they’re prone to sogginess.
To serve: Cut in half and toast both sides. When toasted, spread with salted butter. For added decadence, add some slices of vintage cheddar cheese. The contrasts between the hot spicy bread, the fruit, the richness of the butter and the sharp, cool and creamy tang of the cheese is sublime.
Lady Grisel Baillie was a Scottish noblewoman who lived in the 17th/18th century. She was married to a Scottish MP, and became known to social historians for the meticulously detailed account books she kept, which offer a glimpse into the cost of living during that time, including food and drink, servants wages, travel costs and entertainment. Lady Grisel was also something of a foodie, as she noted down many a menu from various dinners she and her husband attended.
Extracts of Lady Grisel’s household books were published by the Scottish Historical Society in 1911 and over the years I have dipped into this book many times, and have been somewhat frustrated that menus are recorded, but not recipes. She definitely had a recipe book, because the Scottish Historical Society lists it amongst her papers:
“Lady Grisell left three ‘Day Books’ folio size, the first running from 1692 to 1718 inclusive, and containing 442 pages ; the second from 1719 to 1742 inclusive, and containing 354 pages, and the third from 1742 to the date of her death (6th December 1746), continued by her daughter, Lady Murray. She also left books containing the accounts of expenses in connection with their journeys to Bath and to the Continent ; Books containing Inventories of Bottles, etc. ; a Book of Receipts ; a Book of Bills of Fare ; Books relating to estate management during the years 1742, 1743 and 1744, and many other Account and Memoranda Books.”
A few years ago, I revisited a manuscript at the Folger Library to study a recipe for Stilton Cheese that had caught my eye, (the results of which can be found in Petits Propos Culinaires 114, June 2019), and in the course of my research, discovered that the manuscript in which it appeared was the long-lost recipe book of Lady Grisel Baillie! The manuscript had been purchased by the Folger Library in June, 1959 from the London bookseller Francis Edwards, Ltd. for the princely sum of £35.00. More intriguing is what happened to it during the preceding 48 years, from 1911, when its existence was noted by the Scottish Historical Society, and its purchase and trans-Atlantic voyage in 1959, and why the current Mellerstain estate owners didn’t know where it was. Very mysterious!
The point of this extended preamble is that this recipe comes from that self-same, long-lost recipe book. It has been on my radar for a while, because it is a sweet pie with chestnuts, and when I spotted nets of fresh chestnuts in the shops this week, I was enthused to have a stab at it.
Which also brings me to the word of the day: scald. Both apples and chestnuts are scalded in this recipe, and after much hunting about reading other usages, the best definition I can come up with is: cooked gently in their skins. When scalded, the apple skin will peel off by itself freely, leaving the partially cooked flesh intact. I suspect this was done to prevent wastage, preserve flavour and minimise juice. Similarly, the chestnuts are scalded in order to soften them and to loosen both the skin and the pith surrounding the nut. This all sounds simple, but, from experience, left unsupervised, things can get a little tricky. It doesn’t take much for the water in which the apples are scalding to become too hot, thereby causing the apples to burst, and then you have to retrieve your apple pulp from the ‘soup’ in the saucepan. Scald the chestnuts for too long, and then you will have difficulty extracting them whole. This isn’t too much of a disaster, as the crumbled pieces are perfect for this dish, but if you were wanting them for another use – candying, for example – the wastage in broken nuts can get quite high.
Why you should make this pie
Well, it’s absolutely delicious, that’s why! It’s unusual, in that it is a sweet pie with chestnuts, and thus something of a novelty in modern recipes. During the long, slow baking, the pastry crisps up beautifully, and the chestnuts and candied lemon soak up some of the apple juice and become soft. The texture of the apples and the chestnuts is much more interesting that a regular apple pie and the contrast between the filling and the two different types of pastry is a delight. This pie embodies autumn in a deliciously comforting way, you’ll be elbowing your way back to the nets of chestnuts to make it again. Perfect for the upcoming holiday season!
Chestnut and Apple Pie
These quantities are for a 20cm diameter pie. You can obviously use as many or as few chestnuts as you like. You can, of course, shorten the prep time by using stewed apple and ready-cooked chestnuts. The only caveat to this I would add is that the ready-cooked chestnuts you can buy tend to be a little dark, whereas if you scald them yourself, they come out very similar in colour to the apple pulp.
If you’re making this from scratch, prepare the apples and chestnuts a day or so ahead, and then assemble the pie when required. The cooked apples and chestnuts will keep in the fridge several days.
Filling 4 Bramley Apples (or 600g unsweetened stewed apple) 1 x 400g net of raw chestnuts (or 300g cooked chestnuts) 30g candied lemon peel 30g unsalted butter 3-4tbs caster sugar 3tbs cornflour zest of 1/2 a lemon (optional)
1 x box of ready rolled puff pastry egg-white for glazing
Base Pastry 225g plain flour 60g cornflour 140g unsalted butter ice cold water
Put the flours and butter into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
With the machine running, gradually add the cold water a tablespoon at a time until the mixture comes together in a ball.
Tip the mixture onto a floured surface, knead smooth.
Roll out the pastry to the desired thickness (5mm) and line a greased, 20cm pie tin. Ease the pastry into the corners of the tin, rather than stretch it, and allow the excess to hang over the edges of the tin.
Place in the fridge to chill until required.
To scald the apples
Put the apples, whole, into a saucepan and add just enough water to cover.
Lay a saucer upside-down on top of the apples, to keep them submerged.
Put the saucepan on a gentle heat (I use 5 on a 1-9 scale) and allow the apples to barely simmer for 30 minutes. Keep an eye on them, and if the skin starts to split, remove from the heat and the water immediately.
Lift the scalded apples out of the pan and set aside to cool.
When cool enough to handle, peel away the skin and then scoop all the flesh from the core.
Mash the apple pulp with a fork. You don’t need to make it puree-smooth, just get rid of the larger lumps.
Mix the sugar and cornflour together and then add to the apple pulp and mix thoroughly.
Taste the apple pulp and add more sugar to taste.
Set the apple pulp aside until required.
To scald the chestnuts
Using a sharp knife, cut a slit ito each nut, being sure to pierce bith the hard outer shell and the soft skin underneath.
Put the nuts into a saucepan and cover with cold water.
Set pan on a gentle heat, and simmer the chestnuts for 30 minutes.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool in the water.
Remove the chestnuts one at a time and peel away the softened shell and skin. Don’t worry if the nut doesn’t come out whole, as pieces are perfect for this recipe. Don’t drain the chestnuts, because the shells will harden quickly once out of the water, and make peeling them difficult.
Crumble the chestnuts into pieces – not too small – and store in a covered container in the fridge until required.
To assemble the pie.
Heat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
Slice the candied lemon peel into thin slivers. If you don’t have whole pieces, diced is fine, just make sure they’re not too big.
Divide the butter into three. Keep chilled until required.
Remove the pie tin from the fridge and trim the excess pastry. Leave about a 2cm overhang from the edge of the tin.
Fill the pie
Add a layer of apple pulp.
Add half the chestnuts in a layer
Add half the lemon peel
Dot over 1 portion of the butter in thin slices.
Add a layer of apple pulp.
Add half the chestnuts in a layer
Add half the lemon peel
Dot over 1 portion of the butter in thin slices.
Add a layer of apple pulp.
Dot over the last portion of the butter in thin slices.
Grate over the zest of half a lemon (optional). I like the lemony zing, but it can be omitted if you prefer.
Unroll the puff pastry and smooth out with a few strokes of the rolling pin.
Wet the edges of the shortcrust pastry with water.
Lay the puff pastry over the top of the pie and press the edges together gently.
Trim the puff pastry to the size of the shortcrust pastry.
Crimp the pastry edges as shown in the top photograph.
Cut out decorations for the top of the pie from the puff pastry offcuts and lay them on the pastry lid. I did a few apples and chestnuts.
Brush the top of the pie with eggwhite.
Bake the pie for 60 minutes. Turn the pie around after 30 minutes to ensure even colouring.
After a further 20 minutes, if your puff pastry isn’t quite cooked through, turn the heat up to 220°C, 200°C Fan for the last 10 minutes.
Remove the pie from the oven and cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.
Remove the pie from the tin and allow to cool until just warm.
This recipe appears in the 17th century manuscript book of Lady Anne Fanshawe (MS.7113 at the Wellcome Collection), and is attributed to Lady Scarborough. What might appear, from the name, at first to be something pastry-based, is in fact a form of meringue.
Unsweetened fruit (I used apples) pulp is mixed with sugar and eggwhites and whisked until stiff and white. The recipe calls for this to be dropped in spoonfuls onto glass and dried in the oven, although I made adaptations for the modern kitchen. After a couple of practice runs, the result is, to all intents and purposes, an apple-flavoured meringue. Not as sweet as regular meringues, with the pleasantly tart flavour of sharp apples.
It is from the same recipe family as Apple Snow, with a slight alteration in porportions and a spell in the oven, and to my mind would be delightful served alongside that ethereal confection.
The main challenge with this recipe was the missing details. Apple and sugar quantities are given, but the instruction to beat them ‘with white of egg’ is open to interpretation. Additionally, “dry it in a stove” is hardly suffering from an over-abundance of detail. Hence the trial runs.
One of the batches I made whilst juggling baking times and temperatures turned a light caramel colour, which I suspect is not how the finished puffs should look, but proved to be absolutely delicious – crisp, delicate with a whisper of toffee apple. I’m counting that particular error as a win!
Although I have only used apple here, the recipe does state that any fruit pulp can be used. My advice would be to choose pulp that has some bulk to it. Berries might prove too moist. Stone fruit, rhubarb and gooseberries would all be suitable, especially if tart, as the sugar content is quite high, and it would ‘cut through’ it nicely.
340g cooked cooking apples 225g caster sugar 2 large egg-whites (about 80g)
Puree the apple smooth with a stick blender. Sieve the puree if liked (I didn’t, but I was very thorough with the blender).
Add the remaining ingredients and whisk until light, white and stiff. I used a stand mixer on High and this took 10 minutes.
Heat the oven to 100°C, 80°C Fan. This temperature will be for the white puffs, for caramel puffs, increase the temperature to 140°C, 120°C Fan after 2 hours.
Add a decorative nozzle to a piping bag and spoon in some of the mixture. Pipe the mixture onto a baking sheet lined with parchment. There will be some shrinkage as the puffs dry out, so pipe them on the large side. For example, the white puffs in the top photo were 5cm tall when first piped. When dried, they are about 3cm tall.
Dry in the oven for 5-6 hours, depending on the size and how moist they are. Prop the oven door ajar by inserting the handle of a wooden spoon, for the first hour or so, to help dispel the moisture, (otherwise it stays trapped in the oven and slows down drying time).
After about 4 hours, remove the baking sheet from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes. The puffs should be firm enough by this stage to gently peel off from the parchment. Turn the puffs upside down and lay them back on the parchment, so that the bases can dry (about an hour). If you don’t let the puffs cool down first, you will squish them as you try to remove them from the paper. If the puffs aren’t firm even when cooled down, put them back in the oven for another 30 minutes and try again.
For Caramel Puffs, bake as above for 2 hours, then increase the heat to 140°C, 120°C Fan and bake for 1 hour. Check the colour/dryness and bake a little longer if still sticky.
Once the puffs are dried to your liking, store them in an airtight container. They will absorb moisture and become sticky if left in the open air for any length of time.
This was a spur-of-the-moment bake this week, and in just over 1 hour after reading the recipe, I was taking this picture. Not as fast as scones, admittedly, but made from store-cupboard ingredients and comes together in mere minutes.
I found the recipe in a manuscript recipe book from The Wellcome Library, an impressively long-lived book containing over 100 years of family entries, starting around 1750.
The use of bicarbonate of soda became popular in the 19th century for its speed and ease of use, especially in areas where fresh yeast was difficult to come by. This is a very early recipe – not the earliest I’ve found – that award goes to the recipe in “The Virginia Housewife” by Mary Randolph, published in the US in 1824, but this recipe has the added deliciousness of currants and candied peel.
Notes in the book suggest a larger proportion of peel and fruit can be used if liked, but I think it’s perfect as is. Best enjoyed fresh from the oven, it is delicious plain and also spread with an indulgent layer of butter.
You can add a little lemon juice to sour the milk if liked – the bicarbonate reacts best with acidity – or you could use buttermilk, a mixture of milk and plain yogurt or whey.
450g plain flour
115g caster sugar
115g unsalted butter
60g candied orange peel – diced small
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
Butter a square, 20cm tin or cover a baking sheet with parchment if you want to bake it freeform.
When the oven is heated, mix the flour, currants, sugar, peel and soda in a bowl.
Melt the butter in the microwave or in a pan on a low heat.
Add the milk (or whatever liquid you are using) to the melted butter and pour into the dry ingredients.
Mix thoroughly and either shape into a round on the baking sheet or in the tin, if using. Try and mound the mixture up into a dome shape, if possible, but don’t faff about too much The quicker you get the cake into the oven after adding the liquid, the more lift you’ll get from the reaction of the soda.
Bake for 50-55 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Turn the sheet/tin around after 30 minutes to help with even colouring.
This recipe is for a traditional steamed sponge, the type many of us remember from our childhoods. So comforting in the winter months, with a blanket of hot custard draped over. They are a breeze to mix, but in these days when most people have a gas or electric stove-top, rather than an always-on range, the three-hour steaming time makes the cooking something of a marathon.
To make things easier for everyone, I’ve scaled this recipe down to make four individual puddings which can be cooked in a steamer pan over simmering water. Not only are mini puddings delightfully small and perfectly formed, they take a mere 30 minutes to steam. This means that they can be put on to cook as everyone sits down to the meal, and be ready by the time the main course is done and cleared away.
As if this weren’t cause enough to rejoice, this recipe can also be easily and infinitely adapted with different ingredients and flavours, even to the point of producing four differently-flavoured puddings from the one mixture. A few suggestions are included below, but do please experiment with your own creations too!
The base instructions are for a plain sponge.
170g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
85g caster sugar
1 large egg
½ tsp vanilla extract
softened butter for greasing the pudding bowls
Bring a pan of water to a simmer.
Put the butter, flour, salt, sugar and baking powder into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
Tip out into a bowl.
Whisk the egg and vanilla with the milk and stir into the dry ingredients until smooth.
Generously butter four individual pudding bowls and divide the mixture evenly amongst the prepared bowls.
Cut four squares of foil for the lids and make a single pleat in the middle. This will allow the sponge mixture to expand during cooking without forcing the foil cover off. Butter the inside surface of the foil, then fold over and around the pudding bowls.
Arrange the four bowls in the steamer pan, cover with a lid and place over the simmering water.
Steam for 30 minutes.
Peel off the foil and run a knife around the side of the puddings to loosen them.
Turn out the puddings and serve with cream, custard or pudding sauce of your choice.
These tweaks can be made to the basic vanilla sponge.
Jam Sponge – put a tablespoon of your favourite jam into the bottom of the pudding bowls before adding the sponge mixture. Have some of the jam warmed for serving.
Fruit Sponge – put 2 tablespoons of cooked fruit into the bottom of the pudding bowls before adding the sponge mixture. Again, have extra fruit to hand when serving.
Raisin decoration – dot large colourful raisins onto the sides of the buttered moulds before adding the plain sponge mixture.
Raisin sponge – Add 60g raisins to the plain mixture. You can also ornament the sides of the bowls as above.
Coconut sponge – add 60g dessicated coconut to the sponge mixture. Stick more coconut to the butter in the moulds before adding the sponge mixture.
Citrus sponge – omit the vanilla flavouring, add the grated zest of a lemon/orange/lime to the sponge mixture, together with the juice. Use a little less milk to mix. Add 60g of diced, candied peel of the same flavour if liked.
Candied fruit sponge – use 60g of candied fruit such as cherries, cranberries, pineapple, either on their own or mixed.
The following tweaks should be done by altering the method slightly and using the creaming method for the sponge (creaming butter and sugar, then eggs then dry ingredients), as the darker colour of the sponge sometimes highlights butter pieces that have not fully combined with the other ingredients.
Dried fruit pudding with toffee top. Use brown sugar to mix the sponge and add 60g of chopped figs, dates or prunes to the sponge mixture. Mix 30g of softened butter and 30g of soft, dark brown sugar and divide amongst the bowls before adding the sponge mixture.
Double jam sponge – Omit the vanilla, before adding the milk and egg, stir 3 tablespoons of jam into the sponge mixture. Add 1 tablespoon of jam to the bottom of each of the pudding bowls.
Chocolate sponge – Add 2 tablespoons of cocoa to the mixture and use a little more milk to mix. Add 60g chocolate chips to the mixture, or put them in the bottom of each pudding mould to form a chocolate ‘cap’. Alternately, half fill the moulds then add the chocolate chips in a well, and cover with more sponge mixture. This will make for a molten centre once cooked.
Coffee and Walnut sponge – Omit the vanilla, add a tablespoon of espresso powder or coffee essence to the sponge mixture and stir through 60g chopped walnuts. Put a half-walnut upside down in the bottom of each basin before adding the sponge mixture.
This is a deliciously simple, autumnal dessert that, although it can be assembled from very few, ordinary ingredients, ends up tasting so much better than the sum of its parts – the crisp, golden outside, hot and sharp insides and cool cream or hot, rich custard make this a dish of delicious contrasts. It is one of the many British desserts that evolved to use up stale bread and cooked fruit. Whilst the filling can be almost any fruit purée you have to hand, the construction needs to observe a few rules if it is going to look as impressive when served as it tastes.
Firstly, the fruit purée needs to be relatively firm and ‘dry’, with little or no visible liquid. If your cooked fruit is especially moist, then just set it in a sieve to drain – the resultant liquid can be sweetened and served as a pouring syrup or saved for use in/on other desserts. Alternatively, set it over a low heat in a wide pan, to help evaporate the excess liquid. If you think your fruit is still too soft, you could consider whisking in an egg yolk or two to help thicken it during cooking, making it more of a fruit custard.
The bread should not be plastic-wrapped and pre-sliced. The best charlottes are made when the bread can absorb some moisture from the filling in much the same way as it does in Summer Pudding, and sliced bread just doesn’t have a suitable surface for this. Not that having your bread sliced by a machine is bad – it can make it wonderfully thin and regular – just buy a whole loaf and get the bakery to cut it for you on their machine. If it’s not stale, just leave the slices you intend to use out on the counter for an hour, they’ll dry just enough. During baking, the dry outside will, thanks to the coating of butter, crisp up and turn wonderfully golden, and the inside will draw moisture from the filling and pull everything together, so that you have a firm pudding to turn out.
The final important consideration is the shape of the bowl in which you construct your charlotte. It needs to be both oven-proof and domed/tapering. Straight-sided charlottes are usually cold desserts such as the Charlotte Russe, which uses sponge fingers and a firmly set cream and is also thoroughly chilled before being served, which helps greatly with presentation. A traditional, domed pudding bowl, or individual pudding bowls, are ideal. Their tapering form is most conducive to maintaining an impressive shape of your hot charlotte. The fluted tins commonly marketed as brioche tins are also the ideal shape, with the added detail of fluting giving the turned-out dish a very elegant appearance.
This is an adaptation of Mrs Rundell’s recipe from 1808. Her version calls for raw apples, sugar and butter and is baked slowly for 3 hours with a weight on top to help compress the apples as they shrink during cooking. This recipe is much shorter, just over one hour, but this length of time is necessary for the bread to crisp, turn golden and be sturdy enough to support the fruit filling until serving time. Higher heat and baking for a shorter time means that, when turned out, the pudding slowly sags and collapses, like a Victorian matron with her corset removed. The use of an already-cooked puree makes preparation that much quicker and the cooked pudding less prone to loss of volume.
I used some apples from a friend’s garden for this recipe, and added no sugar – the sharpness was a great contrast against the rich, buttery crust. I highly recommend this approach. If your fruit is especially sharp, consider using a sweet custard as an accompaniment.
750g fruit pulp
stale white bread slices
pouring cream or custard to serve
Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan.
Butter the inside of your bowl(s) generously with softened butter.
Cut the crusts from the bread. Cut a circle or flower shape for the bottom of your bowl and put it in first. It will make for a neat top once you turn out the pudding, and also hide the ends of all the side pieces of bread.
Line your bowl(s) with the crustless bread. How you choose to do this is up to you. Personally, I keep the pieced of bread whole and patch where necessary. If your bread is fresh and springy, you can make things easier for yourself by using a rolling pin to flatten them slightly. If you are using individual pudding bowls, you might want to reduce this to a width of 1.5cm, as the smaller form will need thinner slices if it is still to look dainty when turned out. Place the slices inside the pudding at a slight angle and press into the butter. Leave the excess sticking out of the top of the bowl for now. Make sure there are no spaces or holes for fruit to leak through. You can see on the above photo that a little apple juice has squeezed out and been caramelised by the heat of the oven. Delicious, but a flaw if you’re after an unblemished exterior to your charlotte.
Fill the lined mould with the fruit puree.
Butter slices of crustless bread for the top of the mould. Fold the ends of the bread at the sides inward and place the final pieces of bread butter-side upward over the top.
Spread a little butter onto a sheet of parchment and place this butter-side down over your filled bowl.
Add a cake tin on top together with an oven-safe weight, such as a foil-wrapped metal weight or quarry tile.
Bake for about an hour until the outside of the buttered bread is crisp and golden brown and the filling piping hot. For individual puddings, bake for 30-40minutes.
Remove the weight/tin/parchment and bake for a further 10 minutes, to allow the lid to crisp up.
Remove from the oven and turn out onto your serving dish.
Pudding pies used to be immensely popular in the 18th century, and describe a particular style of dish where a pastry case is filled with a thick, flavoured and sweetened porridge and the two baked together. Obviously, you’re now saying to yourself, ‘Hang on a second, that’s a tart, not a pie’, and you’d be quite right, of course, but only by 21st century semantics. In addition, the ‘pudding’ of the title is to our modern eyes, rather vague, but to those of an 18th century cook, it was curiously specific, and not for the reason you might think.
Look up the word ‘pudding’ in the Oxford English dictionary, and the very first definition is: A stuffed entrail or sausage, and related senses. Yes, no mention of warm, comforting delicacies served at the conclusion of a meal, but innards and stuff in ’em! In the 17th and 18th centuries, pudding could be sweet or savoury. Echoes of these savoury puddings are still visible today in the black and white puddings sold in butchers shops. Sweet puddings included dense mixtures of dried fruits, peel, suet and spices, either stuffed into entrails or wrapped in floured cloths and simmered in water, as the traditional Clootie Dumplings of Scotland are today.
A more accurate description of pudding from these times would be that of a foodstuff of a certain texture, and so it is with pudding pies. The texture is more akin to a baked cheesecake, smooth and dense, but with just a fraction of the richness, they’re practically health food! In this instance, the filling is flavoured with the sharpness of gooseberries. I like the way it cuts through the denseness and really lifts and brightens the filling, but any smooth fruit puree will work well, the best results coming from sharply acidic fruit.
Fruit Pudding Pies
112g ground rice
100ml gooseberry pulp
4 large eggs
zest of a lemon
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
4 individual pudding, or deep tart, dishes lined with shortcrust pastry
Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas 4.
Stir the ground rice, butter and milk over heat until quite thick, then pour into a basin.
Add the sugar and stir together until cold.
Add the gooseberry pulp, well-beaten eggs, lemon and nutmeg.
Spoon the mixture into the pastry-lined dishes and smooth over.
Put the tarts onto a baking sheet and cover lightly with a sheet of foil, to prevent the filling darkening too much.
Bake for 20-30 minutes, depending on the size and shape of your pie dishes. Remove the foil after 15 minutes and turn the pie dishes around if they seem to be colouring unevenly.