“GUYS. Look at all those apples. Bloody hell I love apple season, look at them all!”
It was October 1st and I was way too excited about apples, wandering around Borough Market with Sophie and Em as part of what Timehop shows to be an annual get-together, trying to spot a wild Delbard Estivale (apple type, not Pokémon). I’d blame being slightly delirious on the fact that I’d been stung by a huge wasp – unprovoked! – a couple of hours earlier*, but I feel like it’s justified – it’s a great month for English apples, meaning we can branch out beyond the supermarket standard breeds and the madness that is importing from New Zealand and the USA.
So for In Season this month, we’re looking at the classic early-autumn fruits, apple and blackberry. Read More
‘ve been putting this post off in hopes that I’d have a recipe to put up, but the broken oven in our flat has thwarted me. I managed to make a birthday cake in a kitchen fairly foreign to me – a towering chocolate affair, with whisky buttercream and caramel ganache – but the recipe needs tweaks before it can appear here. Instead, a yawning content chasm has opened.
The fan and element have both blown, and by the time the new parts are fitted, it will have been three weeks since the bad news was delivered via WhatsApp. Three weeks of mentally planning meals and then remembering they’re an impossibility. Three weeks of being desperate to bake something to use up the 40 eggs I bought last weekend. A slight surplus, but worth it – they taste different in a way that’s hard to pinpoint. Richer, perhaps? Either way, they’re part of the dearth of creative cooking, lately. It’s all eggs on this, eggs on that. (Really, it’s a pretty good problem to have.) Read More
I’ve had a number of flops in recent weeks, which is why it’s been quiet around here – I’d rather not post than post a recipe that I didn’t feel was quite right. I’ve tried sifting my flour, and I’ve thrown out anything on the baking shelf that was out of date. The next thing to try is using an oven thermometer, to see if the temperature knob is lying to me.
In the meantime, shortbread. As one of the first things I ever learned to bake, it’s my reset button at times like this. Its familiar measurements and hands-on nature bring me back to a place where I can’t mess up. With added autumnal spices, I’m well and truly in my happy place.
It’s also my first bake inspired the Great British Bake Off. Quite often, I tend to overlook biscuits when planning what to bake – this isn’t totally unrelated to the fact that I have a bad habit of eating biscuit dough before it makes it into the oven.
But it’s about time I got back to it, having avoided pies, cakes, and bread because of the aforementioned loss of mojo. With these little mouthfuls of autumn I am, as my mother would say, back on the horse.
Makes 35 biscuits
225g plain flour
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
15g light brown sugar
60g caster sugar
1) Preheat oven to 180C and line 3 baking trays with baking parchment (or just use one and do it in batches).
2) Mix together the flour, polenta, and pumpkin pie spice in a large bowl until the spices and polenta are evenly distributed. Add the sugars and butter and rub together until a loose dough comes together. Press it all into a ball.
3) Flour a clean surface and roll the dough out to about 5mm thick. Use a cutter about 2 inches in diameter to cut out your biscuits. Bake for about 13 minutes, until the top has just lost its sheen, and transfer to a wire rack to cool.
4) While the biscuits cool, prepare the topping (almost a glaze!) by mixing together the icing sugar, spices, water, and milk. Use a pastry brush to glaze the tops of the biscuits – once the first layer is dry, there should be enough for a second layer. For a more subtle taste, stick to one layer.
On Monday morning, I stepped out of the front door and it smelt like the summer finally turning to my favourite season. There was an edge to the air, the temperature a little cooler. “At last,” I thought, “Autumn’s arrived. Not long till I can crack out the tweed jacket again.”
And by 1pm I was cursing wearing three quarter sleeves and trying to convince myself that it wasn’t really obvious that my entire face was sweating. What the hell, autumn? You’re teasing me.
I tried to encourage you with salted caramel candles, but their smell mingled with my bravest perfume to make my bedroom smell like holiday caravans and now I’m terrified I stepped onto a packed tube smelling musty and a bit like pee.
There are a lot of smells I wish I could bottle: the smell of the house I grew up in, a fragrance you can’t detect unless you’ve been away from it for too long; the fresh crispness as summer turns to autumn and winter turns to spring, smell, taste, and feel all in one; sizzling bacon wafting through the flat.
I could also do with a perfume that smells of baking bread with butter, sugar and spices. Maybe Nigella should do a celebrity perfume. Who wouldn’t want to smell like dessert? (Apart from cannibals, maybe).
Because even if it’s still 26C outside, the aroma of pumpkin, maple, and all the best spices will make everything feel a bit more cozy. In one whiff it’s chilly Sunday mornings and knee high Fairisle socks, wooly hats and coming in from the rain to clasp a huge mug of hot chocolate with both hands.
The maple and pumpkin flavours are delicate, the back up singers to the star of the show – pumpkin pie spice. Since cobbling together a jar of the stuff, I’ve thrown it into yoghurt and onto toast, but I like it best wrapped up in warm, soft dough.
Now I just need the weather to catch up with me.
Pumpkin pie spice
Below is the ratio of spices – it’s easily scaled up to make a jar full.
2 tbsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp ground cloves
Mix ’em up and store in an airtight container!
The dough and the filling both use Moose Maple Butter, a taste revelation that burst into my life a couple of months ago at Food Blogger Connect. It’s UK launch isn’t until November – but it’s worth the wait. Your morning (and lunch, and evening…) toast will never be the same again.
For the dough:
350g plain flour
1 envelope of yeast
1/2 tsp salt
55g maple butter
110g pumpkin puree
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
For the filling:
55g maple butter
2 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
1) Whisk together 2/3 the flour, the yeast, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, lightly beat the eggs.nIn a small saucepan, warm the milk and butter until the butter has just melted. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly before whisking in the pumpkin and vanilla extract.
2) Pour the milk mixture into the dry ingredients, and mix with a spatula. Add the eggs and stir until evenly distributed.
3) Add the remaining flour, mix until fully incorporated and transfer the mixture to a large greased bowl. Cover with cling film and live in a warm place until doubled in size. While the dough rises, mix together the sugar and spices and grease a large roasting tray.
4) When the dough has risen, tip it out onto a generously floured surface, and lightly knead about 3 tbsp of flour into the dough. Split the dough into two equal portions. On the floured surface, roll one portion out into 25cm circle.
5) Warm the butter until just melted and spread half of it over the rolled dough, using the back of a spoon or a pastry brush to push it to the edges. Sprinkle with half the sugar and spice mix.
6) Use a pizza cutter to divide the circle into 16 segments. Roll each segment tightly from the edge of the circle inwards and transfer to the roasting tray. Repeat with the second portion of dough and remaining filling.
7) Cover with a clean towel and leave in a warm place until almost doubled in size. Preheat oven to 180C.
8) When almost doubled in size, bake the rolls on the centre shelf of the oven for 35 minutes, until a deep golden brown on top. Allow to cool slightly before serving.