Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Something with apple

Last week saw the 44th birthday of a very good friend of ours. "Shall I come over for coffee and pie?" he asked cheerily on the phone. And indeed, come Saturday morning he showed up on our doorstep with his infant son, as his wife was out of town. Just days before, another friend of ours had mentioned "all that delicious baking" I do and I was forced to reluctantly admit that well, I hadn't done any - save the odd batch of biscuits - for quite some time. Why I haven't done any baking? I'm not sure. I could say I was swallowed up by work at school. Or by work on my book. Or by lots of nice outings and general busyness during the summer holidays. Or simply by a kind of kitchen lethargy. A combination of all the above is probably most accurate.
Anyway. "Shall I come over for coffee and pie?" rang in my ears all Friday through to Saturday morning and a kind of panic gripped me. Much like at the start of every school year, I wondered: "Can I still do it? What if it turns out my teaching/baking 'successes' have been nothing but flukes all along?" Silly, self-absorbed thoughts, of course. As with teaching, the best thing to do is ignore thought altogether and just get on with it.  I was in the mood for 'something with apple', and so I dusted off my favourite kitchen companion Nigel Slater for a bit of inspiration. As I got on with preparing the dough and peeling/coring apples, I felt a pleasant quietness emerge within me, a deep sense of satisfaction in what I was doing. To cut a long story short: I found myself completely in the moment and apparently I hadn't been there for a while. And when I pulled that glorious, golden pie out of the oven - well, that must have been the highlight of my day.

When our friend had been, seen and eaten, I set about clearing out my baking cupboard to give it a good clean. Then I reorganised all my baking necessities, throwing out stuff that was over the use-by date (quite a lot, to my shame). Measuring spoons, bowls, whisks, flour, packets of baking powder and all sorts of other useful utensils and ingredients passed through my hands. And as they did so, I felt an old familiar thrill.


The photo has nothing at all to do with the pie. I asked M to leave a piece of pie for me to photograph, but he 'forgot.' Hence a photo taken in a Berlin cafe where we drank some lovely green tea. We spent part of our summer there (in Berlin, not the cafe) about which I will write later.
Apple Shortcake
Adapted from The Kitchen Diaries, by Nigel Slater
For the pastry:
150g butter, softened 
150g raw cane Sugar
250g spelt flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
lemon rind of one organic lemon
a little milk to finish
For the apples:
5-6 apples
lemon juice
50g butter
1 tablespoon raw cane sugar
  • lightly butter an 18cm pie tin (Nigel says a shallow one, but since I don't own one of those, I used my usual loose-bottomed springform tin)
  • using a hand mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy
  • gently mix in the egg, then stir in flour, baking powder and lemon rind
  • with a light hand, work ingredients into a ball in the bowl or on a thoroughly floured work surface
  • cut pastry in half, wrap one half in glad wrap and store in fridge for a half hour
  • roll out the other half of the pastry to line the tin (this may require some patchwork), then store tin in fridge for a half hour
  • preheat oven 180 degrees Celsius
  • peel and core the apples, slice them into wedges and throw them in a pan of cold water to which you have added the lemon juice to stop the apples discolouring
  • heat a pan, allow the 50g of butter to melt
  • when the butter sizzles, add the apples, bake until they have coloured lightly, sprinkle the sugar over the apples and cook until lightly caramelised
  • remove the pie tin from the fridge, carefully transfer the apples to the pie tin
  • roll out the other half of the pastry and cover the whole pie (again, this may require some patchwork); press the pastry edges together so as to 'close' the pie
  • brush the top with a little milk
  • bake for 40 minutes
  • allow to cool briefly, then eat warm with unsweetened whipped cream


  1. oh it sounds lovely! baking is such a perfect way in which to lose or find yourself I find x

    1. It sure is, Tess. Sadly, I'd almost forgotten!

  2. Yummy, apple pie. I am not eating any sweet baking this month but reading about baking is good, too (if rather tempting). Looking forward to read about your Berlin adventures. x

    1. Lovely to see you here, Christina. Will be popping over to your space soon.

  3. Hey Isabelle,
    Apple pie reminds me of my Mum. It was a staple pudding as a child during the Autumn and Winter months due to the huge cooking apple tree in the garden. I am very much looking forward to hearing all about Berlin. And how lovely to see you back here too.
    Leanne xx

    1. So good to see you here, Leanne. Yes, apple pie seems to conjure up childhood nostalgia for a lot of people. I look forward to telling you about Berlin - the atmosphere was great and the kids loved it too.

  4. Haha it must have been a really good cake, if M "forgot" to leave a piece for you to photograph :-) !!

    1. I was surprised at how well it turned out. I was a bit nervous, baking for someone else after quite some time!

  5. Glad to hear that you got your baking groove back! Hope that you keep enjoying it. The pie sounds delicious! xx

    1. Thanks, Amy. I'm definitely planning on doing more - and sharing the recipes!

  6. I love apple pie. And Nigel Slater. Lovely to see you back xx

    1. Nigel Slater is super. Such a fantastic writer; I like taking him up for a bit of bedtime reading too.Thanks for popping over!

  7. I was so happy to see a post from you popping up in my feed, you have such a relaxed, distinctive writing voice. I know what you mean about having a 'baking reputation', and the awkward feeling when someone appears at the door unexpectedly and all you have is a few dusty, shop bought biscuits to offer. X

    1. Haha, Penny; that's exactly what happened. A dear friend of mine came to visit, no doubt expecting one of my home bakes, but was too polite not to say anything about the - as you so accurately put it - "dusty, shop bought biscuits," I dished up with coffee.

      And thanks so much for your kind words; they really made my day.


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