Apple Hand Pies

The welcome arrival of September (and my very favourite season) also means the arrival of apple season.  We have a tree full of apples to use in the garden and one of my family’s favourite things is apple pie.

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These are little hand pies and they are just the thing to have on hand for hungry children.  They are portable too, so great to take with you on a trip to the park or to work.

Apples are available all year round, but it’s really worth looking out for the new seasonal arrivals that have been grown locally, to enjoy apple season to the full.

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Crust:
375g plain/all-purpose flour
165g butter, cut into cubes and refrigerated
2tbs sugar
1tsp salt
Iced water
1 egg and a little milk to make a wash

Filling:
2 crisp dessert apples, peeled, cored and chopped into small pieces
Juice from half a lemon
3tbs sugar
2tsp cornflour
1tsp cinnamon
Pinch of ground cloves
1/2tsp salt
10 soft caramels (like Werther’s) cut into tiny pieces (optional)

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Method:
Place the flour, butter, sugar and salt into a food processor, fitted with the steel blade and pulse until crumbly, with pieces of butter still visible.

Then add one tablespoon of the iced water at a time, pulsing until the dough just comes together – around 4-5 should be enough.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board, cut in half and pat each half into a disc.  Wrap in cling film and chill for 30 minutes.

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For the filling, place the apples into a large bowl and toss them with the juice from the lemon so they don’t turn brown. Then add the sugar, salt, spices and cornflour and turn to coat.

Leaving one batch of dough in the fridge, roll out the first batch evenly on a lightly floured board and cut out circles for the bases (using a cutter measuring approximately 7.5cm/3 inches).  Place them onto a lined baking sheet, re-rolling until most of the dough is used up.  Refrigerate any scraps.

Then place a small, heaping amount of the apple mixture into the centre of each one and top with a few caramel pieces if using.  Take care to leave a gap around the edge.

Caramel apple hand pies

Roll out the rest of the dough and cut out the same number of circles, but use a slightly larger cutter.  Use up the scraps of the first batch if needed.

Brush the pastry bases around the apples with the egg wash and place the remaining pastry circles over the filling.  Crimp and seal the edges together using a fork, dipped in flour to stop it sticking.

When they all have their lids, it is important to chill the pies before baking.  Leave them in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour.  This helps stop the pastry shrinking and bursting open in the oven.  They can also be frozen at this point too.

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Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/400°F

When you are ready to bake, brush the tops with the egg wash and cut little vents in the lids to allow steam to escape.  You can also sprinkle with a little extra sugar too.

Bake for around 20 minutes or until the pies are golden and cooked through.

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These are the perfect after school treat, but a personal pie is good at any time and these can be taken on a picnic, or placed into a lunchbox too.

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Sage Derby and Onion Buttermilk Scones

Using buttermilk in scones results in a really moist, tender and flaky texture that makes these a really delicious treat.  So often, scones can be dry and crumby – especially ones that you buy and even with butter, they really aren’t very good. Home made ones are always better and they are so easy to make.

Sage Derby Scones

These are filled with sweet caramelised onions, cubes of Sage Derby cheese and topped with a little Gruyere cheese and a crispy sage leaf.

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I decided to leave the cheese in cubes, rather than grate it as I wanted there to be little pockets of the Sage Derby inside the individual scones.

Ingredients:
2-3 onions, finely chopped
knob of butter and a splash of olive oil for frying
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
250g Self-raising flour
70g cold butter, cut into cubes
1 egg, beaten
100ml buttermilk, plus extra for brushing the scones
1 (heaped) tsp of English mustard
100g Sage Derby cheese, I used Fowlers – cut into little dice
A little gruyere or cheddar to sprinkle on top of the scones – around 50g
Six sage leaves

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Method:
Start by cooking the onions.  Heat a small knob of butter and a splash of oil in a non-stick pan and gently cook the onions with a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Cook them low and slow until the have reduced, become sticky and caramelised.  Set aside on some kitchen paper to absorb excess oil and leave to cool completely.

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Pre-heat the oven to 220ºC/425°F and line a baking sheet with parchment or a non-stick liner

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Rub the butter into the flour, either by hand or in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  The mixture should look like rough breadcrumbs.

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Mix the mustard in with the buttermilk and then add to the egg.

Stir the wet ingredients into the dry and mix briefly, to just combine.  Add the onions and mix again, just so they are incorporated and then stir through the cheese cubes.

Sprinkle a little flour on the parchment or baking liner.  Bring the dough together and place directly onto the liner. Pat the dough out into a disc that is around 1.5 inches/3.5cm thick.

Use a pizza cutter and cut the dough into six wedges and move them away from each other to give them room to expand a little.

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Brush the tops with a little buttermilk and sprinkle with a small amount of grated cheese.

Rub the sage leaves with a tiny amount of olive oil and press onto the top of each scone.

Bake for 12-15 minutes until they have become golden, well risen and sound hollow if you turn them over and give them a little tap.

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Best enjoyed warm with real butter and I like to serve them with chutney.  This one was an apple, date and stout one which worked very well.  Perfect for afternoon tea or an after school treat.

Gin and Tonic Friands

When I purchased the black cherry flavoured icing sugar from The Vanilla Valley recently, I couldn’t resist adding some gin and tonic flavoured icing sugar to my order.  The obvious recipe of choice for me was friands as icing sugar is one of the main ingredients.

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These are alcohol free, so would be good to take to work for a bake sale, but I did try adding real gin to the glaze with great results.

In reality, these friands are lemon friands and would be just as good with ordinary icing sugar. The tart lemon curd in the middle cuts through the sweetness and I couldn’t resist topping with a little candied lemon slice for a bit of kitsch.

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I think it’s important to use a decent quality lemon curd here too, some of the very cheap versions taste like washing up liquid.  I chose Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference which wasn’t the most expensive one, but I did avoid the cheapest.  Of course home made is always best if you can get hold of some.

G&T Friands

Ingredients:
250ml egg whites – I use Two Chicks pasteurised egg whites
250g Sugar and Crumbs Gin and Tonic flavoured icing sugar
130g ground almonds
100g plain/all-purpose flour
Zest of one small lemon
165g butter – melted and cooled, plus extra for greasing the tin
1/2 jar of good quality lemon curd

To decorate:
1 cup of gin and tonic flavoured icing sugar, sieved
Water (or gin!)
Candied lemon slices

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Method:
Pre heat the oven to 180°C/350°F and brush the friand pan with melted butter

Whisk the egg whites until broken down and frothy.

Fold in the almonds, flour and zest until just incorporated and stir in the cooled, melted butter.

Divide the mixture equally between the cups in the tin.

I used a piping bag to squeeze a little lemon curd into each cake, but you could easily do this with two teaspoons.  You only need a small amount – around a teaspoon.

Bake the friands for around 25-30 minutes.  They will rise up a little and become golden. Leave to cool in the tin for 10-15 minutes in order to firm up a little, before leaving to cool completely on a wire rack.

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To decorate, mix the icing sugar with a small amount of water (or gin if using) to make a fairly thick, but still runny, glaze. Drizzle over the little cakes and stud each one with a candied lemon slice.

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Definitely an unusual alternative to afternoon tea, but a welcome one.

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