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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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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Fresh Tomato Galette with Goats Cheese

This galette has lots of fresh tomatoes, goats cheese, balsamic caramelised onions and thyme – all baked together in a buttery crust, flavoured with Grana Padano cheese.

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It makes the most of the summer tomato harvest that is so good right now and would be even better if you use home-grown, or heirloom tomatoes.  I picked my tomatoes up from my favourite farm shop and they were locally grown – so much better than forced tomatoes that have been flown half way around the world that taste of nothing!

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Galettes have to be one of the easiest tarts to bake as they are supposed to look rustic!  This crust has the addition of the cheese to give it an extra savoury note that really sets the whole thing off.

I start with a base of slowly cooked onions, caramelised with balsamic vinegar then crumbled goats cheese, thyme leaves and topped with the sliced tomatoes and a little gruyere.  You can never have too much cheese – right?

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Make the most of these late summer days and enjoy at a picnic in the park, or in the garden with salad and cold white wine.

…or alternatively; inside, with the doors shut – well away from wasps!

Crust Ingredients:
240g plain/all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Grana Padano cheese
170g very cold butter, cut into cubes
1tsp salt
Iced water
1 egg beaten with a splash of milk to make a wash
Black onion seeds and seseme seeds for sprinkling

Filling:
1 punnet of fresh tomatoes
Goats cheese – approx 220g, crumbled
Gruyere cheese – around a handful, grated
3 medium sized brown onions
Pinch of brown sugar
Balsamic vinegar
Small bunch of fresh thyme, leaves picked
1tbs olive oil
Small knob of butter
Salt and black pepper

Method:
For the crust, I use the food processor, fitted with the steel blade.  Place the flour, salt, cheese and butter and pulse until just incorporated.  Add the iced water a little at a time, pulsing until the dough just comes together.  Take it out, form into a flattened disc, wrap in cling film and chill for at least 30 minutes.

For the filling, slice each onion in half and cut thinly.  Heat the oil and butter and cook the onions with a good pinch of salt.  Cook until they start to become translucent.  Add a pinch of sugar and they need to be left on a low heat, stirring occasionally, until they are a lovely walnut colour, but not burnt.

Leave them cooking low and slow for around 30 minutes.  When they are looking ready, stir in a splash of balsamic vinegar (balsamic glaze would also be ok here) let it cook in for a couple of minutes and turn off the heat.  Set aside to cool.

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Pre-heat the oven to 190°C/375°F

Slice all the tomatoes and place onto some kitchen paper to absorb extra juices.

When the onions are cold, its time to roll out the chilled dough.  I prefer to sprinkle a little flour onto my baking sheet liner and roll out directly onto it.  This helps transport the galette into the oven.

Roll out the dough into a rough circle, about half a centimeter.  Spread out the caramelised onions, leaving around a 5cm/2 inch border around the edge.

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Top with the crumbled goats cheese, a grind of black pepper and a little of the thyme leaves.

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Place the sliced tomatoes over the top, season with salt and pepper and grate over a little gruyere cheese and more thyme leaves.

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Bring the pastry up over the filling, leaving the centre exposed, folding and pleating as you go.

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Brush with the beaten egg wash and sprinkle a few onion and seseme seeds over the outside of the crust.  Transfer to a baking sheet and bake for around 45 minutes, but keep an eye it, it should be golden brown and the filling just starting to catch on the edges.

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Leave to cool for a few minutes if serving it warm with salad for a delicious lunch.  I think its just as good cold and would be a great addition for a picnic or lunchbox.

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