Category Archive: Fruit


  1. Berry Pie – The Taste of Summer

    Well here we are, it’s September. Late summer days are shortening already but I am hanging on for dear life to the still warm mornings and evenings, pretending that it will never turn cold again. It’s still boiling hot back home in Washington State in the beautiful Pacific Northwest after all! I have it in me to keep my head in the sand a little longer…

    This time of year in Washington, one of the top fruit growing states in the USA, you drive down a highway anywhere east of the Cascade Mountains and the road is lined with little stands selling summer fruits and berries. Buckets of bright red and blue line the fog line beckoning you in to spill juice down your front as you shovel in what you can’t wait to taste when you get home.

    I must say, I always recommend buying an extra punnet for the car. When I was a kid, I used to eat cherries and raspberries until my fingers turned pink and my tummy grumbled in protest. It was the absolute best!

    Now, what to do with those punnets you actually get home? Well don’t just turn it all to jam – make a pie of course!

    Berry pie is my absolute favourite summer dessert. Bursting with juicy flavour, natural sugars and a tang to balance every bite, I think it is the ticket to prolonged summer happiness.

    Serve it warm, just cooled from the oven, with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream and you have equal to the American dream on a plate. I made this back for the 4th of July, which I spent here in London yet again. Homesick? Yes!  But this sweet berry pie made me feel like I could smell the sparklers and hear the pop of fireworks all the way from home…

    cooling berry pie baking pastry homemade

    Berry Pie
    Serves 12

    Ingredients 

    1 quantity Double Rich Pie Crust

    1kg mix of blackberries, raspberries and blueberries

    50g caster sugar (if the berries are tart, add a bit extra)

    1 lemon, zested and juiced

    Pinch of salt

    50g plain flour

    1 tablespoon corn starch

    2 tablespoons butter, cubed

    Method 

    Preheat the oven to 190°c/375°f . You will need a 28cm/12inch fluted pie tin, preferably with a removable bottom.

    Start by making the pastry then form it into two flattened disks and put it in the fridge to chill for at least 30 minutes to rest.

    In a large bowl, mix together the berries, sugar, lemon juice and zest, salt and the flours and allow to sit while you roll out the pie dough.

    Roll out one disk to line the bottom of the pie case. Press the dough neatly into the corners of the case so that you get neat bottom corners when you remove it for serving and roll off the over hanging dough with your rolling pin to neaten up the top edges. Please this in the fridge while you roll out the second disk.

    Roll the second disk out on a very well flour surface. Cut evenly sized strips out of the dough, making sure you can easily move them from the surface as any pulling will stretch the strips and make them irregular. Pour in the filling and begin the lattice. Starting from the center of the round and then use ever other strip going outwards. You should be following the same shape of the circle over the pie. and moving outwards on each side.

    lattice pie pastry berry summer baking

    If the pastry dough has warmed up a little too much, put the whole pie in the freezer for 5 minutes. You want the pastry to be cold as possible before baking so it comes out short and crisp.

    Bake the pie for a good 45 minutes on the middle shelf at 190°c/375°f for 30 minutes, check the top to make sure it doesn’t over brown and cook it for a further 15 minutes, turn the temperature down to 170°c/340°c if it’s getting a little too golden to keep it at a high temperature.  I find it useful to put a square of tin foil over the top of the pie during the remaining cooking time if it starts to go too brown to early. You want to cook it the whole way through to make sure the bottom crust is done.

    berry pie a la mode

    Allow the tart to cool down enough to handle and then carefully lift it out of the tin and slide it off the base onto a serving plate. This step is best done while the pastry is still quite warm, else it will stick to the case and break.

    Berry pie is the absolute best served a la mode with good vanilla ice cream and shared with friends. Just make sure to reserve a slice for tomorrow’s breakfast… you won’t regret it.

    (Thank you to my dear friend Sian Henley for the lovely photo at the beginning of this post. I was too busy pouring fourth of July punch and forgot to snap one before we sliced it!)

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  2. Hot Cross Buns

    Easter is almost here and I carry on wishing that fabulously silly Easter hats a la Steel Magnolias might be deemed appropriate attire anywhere outside the deep south of the USA … but alas. I’ll just comfort myself with other things, like gargantuin chocolate bunnies, jelly beans, coloured eggs and everything Cadbury’s. I really do love this holiday because even for the non-religious it’s just pagan enough for everyone to enjoy.

    But to commemorate a bygone era in another way – there are Hot Cross Buns, which are another of those old fashioned baked goods that keep coming back year after year. They fill our grocery store shelves in all sorts of strange variations from the original, which are never quite as good as the real McCoy. I even saw a chocolate version this year and bought it. Mistake! It was a no-go, trust me. Sounded fantastic but really ended up being some kind of mildly bitter, all too dry bread. So I’m sticking to the classics – dried golden raisins, red currants and orange with warming spices.

    hot cross buns easter baking

    They are filled with spice and fruit and are delicious fresh with slabs of butter and drizzled honey.  I am not a huge fan of dried peel, so have omitted it in my recipe, replacing it with fresh orange zest. If you love peel, of course add it in, replacing some of the weight of the sultanas and currants.

    These hot cross buns are undoubtedly best on the first day, as with all breads, but toasted on the second and third with lashings of butter is also delicious. A few days on, make a hot cross bun bread and butter pudding! Yum. Now where is that bunny???

     

    HOT CROSS BUNS

    Makes 16-17 buns

    Ingredients

    30g fresh yeast

    80g caster sugar

    450g strong white flour (bread flour)

    1/2 teaspoon salt

    80g salted butter

    225-300g milk, warmed to blood temprature

    2 eggs, whisked

    1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

    1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg

    2 teaspoons mixed spice

    50g dried currants

    75g golden raisins

    Zest of two oranges

    For the Egg Wash

    Mix together 1 egg yolk, 50g milk and 1 teaspoon caster sugar,and pass through a sieve.

    For the Flour Paste 

    Mix together 1oog flour and 1tsp sugar with enough water to make a paste the consistency of toothpaste.

    Method

    Preheat the oven to 220ºc/425°f.

    Mix the yeast together with a tablespoon of the sugar until it turns to liquid – quite a good science trick! It happens by osmosis. Sift the flour and salt into a bowl or stand mixing bowl and rub the butter in with your fingers until it resembles sand. Add in the spices and the rest of the sugar, make a well in the centre and pour in the yeast. Swirl a bit of the milk in the yeast pot and pour it in to get everything you can then pour in all but about 50mls of the milk. Don’t be tempted to add it all in at first, you might not need it and could end up with a sloppy dough. Mix everything together until combined, it should be quite a wet dough but not sloppy at all like batter – if there are any dry patches or bits of flour left in the bowl add in the milk in increments until you have a uniformly wet dough. Then leave it for 10 minutes to allow the flour to absorb the liquid fully.

    Knead the dough for 10 minutes on a lightly floured surface or in a stand mixer for 5 minutes. The dough should look smooth and elastic and feel springy, which is a sign the gluten has developed nicely. Add in the fruits and the orange zest and knead together, then cover loosely with cling film and leave to rise until doubled in size. It should take about and hour to an hour and a half if its warm in your kitchen, longer if it’s cool.

    Hot Cross Bun Dough

    Knock back the dough and portion it out into 70g pieces. Shape into buns and place on a baking sheet.

    Hot Cross Buns Shaping Dough

    Lightly wash them with the egg wash and then pipe a cross on each using the flour paste.

     

    Hot Cross Buns Crosses

    Allow the buns to double in size, glaze them again carefully with the egg mixture on the dough only, avoiding the crosses, and then bake on the top shelf at 220ºc/425°f for 5 minutes. They should puff up beautifully. Turn down the heat to 200ºc/400°f and bake for another 10-15 minutes. Check regularly and if they start to go too brown too quickly, turn down the oven another 10º or so and continue baking. A little hint – if you have a conventional oven and your baking two sheets at once, like I did. Bake them for the first 5 minutes and then very carefully, without bumping them, switch their spots in the oven. Continue baking as normal.

    hot cross buns baking

    The buns are done when they are a dark golden colour and feel light for their size. Be careful not to get too much colour on them or they will be dry.

    Share among family and friends with lashings of butter and honey.

     

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  3. Apple and Pear Crisp with Oat Praline

    Were it not for waning sunshine, Autumn would be my favourite season. I love jeans, sweaters, scarves and boots. I love Halloween and all the pumpkins that come with it. I love the colour orange, crisp morning air and crunching leaves. I love that subtle quiet that comes when all the tourists head back home. Well almost – this is London after all, they tend to keep on coming! More the proud am I to live in such an awesome city.

    Speaking of ‘crisp’ and ‘crunch’, how about apples and pears coming into season? How about apple and pear crisp?! Or crumble, for the British lexicon. Crisp and crumble are one in the same and yet another reason to absolutely love Autumn!

    Any of you who have searched out a recipe for crisp or crumble will know that there are a million and one ways to make it. Everyone has their own version and is usually at least slightly sentimental about it. It is nuanced dish and rightly so, as is true with any ‘family recipe’.

    Sweet and tart with a hint of salt, this staple dessert can be as simple as chopping up some fruit and chucking it into a baking dish with a layer of buttery crumb on the top, but it can also be something a bit more special…

    I am dressing mine up a bit by separating out the components to create a more beautiful dish with a blast of colour, suited to a dinner party rather than a standard weeknight supper. I cook the fruit in one step, the crumble in another and then add a couple of very easy bits to make the final dish even more gorgeous.

    apple-pear-crumble-after-the-market

    Apple and Pear Crisp with Raspberry Coulis and Oat Praline

    Serves 6

    Preheat oven to 180

    INGREDIENTS

    Filling

    3 eating apples, cut into chunks

    3 conference pears, cut into chunks

    50g butter, cubed

    40g light brown soft sugar

    40g caster sugar

    1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

    1/2 tsp good quality vanilla extract

    1 lemon, zested

    grating of nutmeg

    Praline

    50g pecans

    50g blanched almonds

    50g caster sugar

    Crumble

    250g butter

    250g flour

    1tbsp caster sugar

    100g oats

    Raspberry Coulis

    300g frozen raspberries

    2tbs icing sugar

    1tsp lemon juice (to taste)

    METHOD

    For the filling:

    Mix spices with sugar. Toss chopped fruit and cubed butter in spiced sugar, vanilla and lemon zest and spread evenly in a roasting tin. Bake on the middle level of the oven until just soft and lightly golden, stirring occasionally. It should take about half an hour to fourty minutes.

    Take the raspberries out of the freezer.

    For the crumble:

    Whiz up the cubed butter, flour and a pinch of in a food processor, or alternatively cut in and rub in until like fine breadcrumbs. See my ‘Shortcrust and Cherry Pie’ post for instructions. Mix through the sugar and oats, spread over a baking sheet and bake on the top shelf of the oven for twenty to thirty minutes until golden and crispy, a bit like crumbled shortbread.

    For the praline:

    Oil a baking sheet and set aside. Turn on the extractor as cooking sugar always creates smoke, put the sugar and nuts in a frying pan and gently melt the sugar over a low heat. Once fully melted, swirl and cook to a caramel. It should be a dark golden but not burned.  Pour the caramel and nuts onto the oiled baking sheet and allow to cool.

    Once cooled completely, whizz up in the food processor or put in a plastic bag, wrap in a tea towel and bash up with a rolling pin. Don’t be tempted to do this while warm, you’ll end up with a sticky mess!

    While the caramel is cooling, check the fruit and the crumble. If done, break up the crumble and leave both it and the fruit in the oven, turned down to warm.

    For the coulis:

    Whizz up frozen raspberries, now close to defrosted, with lemon juice and sifted icing sugar. Because the raspberries are still half frozen, the coulis should look a bright pink colour rather than deep red. Think of a smoothie. The ice crystals have this affect by creating tiny bubbles as they cut through the fruit. Let out with water to desired consistency. Put into a squeeze bottle. If you don’t have one, a spoon will do the job too.

    For the styling:

    Start by squeezing a design on the bottom of the plate. Think of a messy grid. Do leave a border around the food as a frame, it will make the whole dish look more appealing.

    Next spoon the apple and pear mixture into the centre, making sure there is some height to the middle – always good for any dish.

    Sprinkle over a layer of crumble and then the praline.

    Serve with an optional jug of cream or custard on the side, or if you’re me – a neat little ball of vanilla ice cream in a small glass.

    There it is – the humble crumble, but so much better.

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  4. Short Crust and Cherry Pie

    It’s that time of year when we are all getting just a little tired of the fresh fruit bowl… pie season! Let’s start with making the perfect pie pastry, then fill it with what you like. Today, I’ll be filling my pie with cherries, which have been in amazing abundance this year.

    IMG_7788

    Below are my favorite recipes and methods for perfect short crust pastries. Like my grandma’s recipes, the base of these start with a combination of butter, flour and salt with additions of lard, egg yolk and sugar to make them as flakey, rich or sweet as you want them for different recipes. For the purposes of this lesson, I will be making the Double Rich Pie Crust recipe.

    RECIPES

    Basic Pie Crust 250g plain flour, 1 large pinch salt, 140g cold unsalted butter or 100g cold unsalted butter and 40g cold lard, 2 large egg yolks, 3 TBS chilled water (or 5 TBS chilled water, no egg yolks)

    Double Rich Pie Crust 500g plain flour, 1/8 tsp salt, 280g cold unsalted butter/200g cold unsalted butter and 80g lard, 4 large egg yolks, 5-6 TBS chilled water (plus extra)

    Sweet Rich Pie Crust To the 250g flour recipe, add 1 TBS caster sugar with salt.

    Cherry Pie Filling About 1kg/2lbs fresh, tart, whole cherries 1 TBS Almond Liqueur 3 TBS Corn Flour 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon 150-200g/1 cup-1 1/2 cups granulated sugar (depending how tart cherries are) 2 TBS granulated sugar (for topping)

    METHOD

    First thing’s first – pop a small jug or cup of water in the fridge to chill down. You’ll need it very cold. Now, follow this same method for each pie pastry recipe and you’ll get there. Start by choosing either the slow manual or quick machine method for rubbing fat into flour, then follow the steps after. For now, let’s focus mainly on the quick method. I’ll add some more photographs of the slow method a bit later… To start, measure flour and salt into a large bowl and cut up cold unsalted butter into cubes. If you don’t have unsalted, for heaven’s sake just use salted and omit the salt in the recipe. Life’s too short for needless extra trips to the grocery store…

    IMG_7700

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  5. Pâte sucrée

    The patisseries of Paris make everyone swoon and Pâte sucrée is the base for those fabulous tarts and biscuits that stand at the front of the shop window. Rich yet light, works perfectly with chocolate, fruit, cream, custard, cheese cake, citrus filling and tastes as delicious raw as it does cooked – it really is a wonder of the pastry world. Trust me, when you learn to make this pastry you might not go back to any other! Save for the near-holy american apple pie that is, which undoubtedly calls for short crust… or does it?

    It’s not the easiest to make but when you get it right it is oh so satisfying. The recipe and method I am using is adapted from the Leith’s How to Cook book, which I highly recommend. You can of course make it in a Magimix or other food processor if you want to, or bung the wet ingredients in a bowl and knead in the dry, but it won’t be as good. Besides, pastry making really is for those who get pleasure out of the cooking process as much as the eating, so I’m going to show you the old fashioned way.

    As with most good things baked, butter, eggs and sugar enrich this dough to decadence. Use it for mini fruit pies as I have here, citrus or chocolate tarts, accompaniment biscuits… anything you think needs a sweet base really. One thing to remember though: as this pastry has more sugar than a usual one it should be blind baked (i.e. without filling) at a slightly lower temprature of 190°c/375°f and on the top shelf of your oven for high heat. If you are using a fan oven adjust accordingly, usually down 20°c.

    IMG_6295

    INGREDIENTS
    (Adapted from Leith’s HTC)

    250g plain flour
    1/8 tsp salt
    125g unsalted butter (cool but slightly soft)
    125g caster sugar
    3 large egg yolks (cold)
    3 drops vanilla extract

    METHOD
    (Adapted from Leith’s HTC)

    Have out: weighed ingredients, a pallet knife, cling film (two layers) and a butter knife for the initial stages.

    Start by sifting the flour and salt onto a clean smooth surface, then use your fist to make it into a large ring. You’ll be working in the middle of the ring so make sure to leave plenty of space. Now for some hand movement instructions. Remember when you used to make shadow puppets when you were a kid? Make a goose. Ok now you are going to keep the goose’s beak almost all the way shut while you push down with the pads of your fingers rather than your nails. Once you get started you’ll get what I mean… a bit like pecking.

    First separate cold eggs, reserve whites if you like and keep egg yolks cold until ready to use.

    Put the cool butter in the centre of the circle of flour and push it into the surface with the pads of your fingers so it is smooshed down. Then pour the sugar over the butter and, using only one hand, mix it it in with your finger tips.

    IMG_6296

    Use a few scooping motions if needed to flip sugar back over the butter and pinching motions to smoosh it together. You want to do this step efficiently so that the butter does not melt or become greasy.

    Peck in sugar

    If necessary use your second hand to help move more quickly but ideally keep it to one so you have your other hand free to move flour away if you need to.

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  6. Dark Chocolate Banana Cake

    When you have about a hundred bananas lying around the office that need eating you just have to make banana cake. Chuck in some leftover dark chocolate (the rest of the bar you’ve just bought and eaten a few squares of counts as ‘leftover’ in my book), a tablespoon of cocoa powder and a little extra butter and you’ve got a deliciously sweet and bitter cake.

    Ingredients
    Handful of roughly chopped dark chocolate
    4 teaspoons double action baking powder
    1/2 tsp sodium bicarbonate
    1 tablespoon cocoa powder
    8oz plain flour
    4 1/2 oz butter
    4oz caster sugar
    3 banana’s smushed
    2 room temperature eggs
    2 bananas, sliced down the center along the ‘spine’ curve for the top of the cake

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  7. Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

    I picked up a few stems of rhubarb from our local farmer’s market yesterday. I love rhubarb- it’s like magic celery, but fruity instead of salty. Just don’t eat it raw. It’s so sour you might implode with puckering… NOT a good look!

    The Flavour Thesaurus (see Cookbooks To Live By in the left margin), says that rhubarb, when it is ripe, contains a slight strawberry-like floral flavour, which is why strawberry and rhubarb are so often paired together in the US. Strawberry-Rhubarb pie is one of my absolute favourites. Tart and sweet, it goes perfectly with vanilla ice cream- which I also LOVE. This recipe is so easy, there aren’t a lot of pictures. It always turns out well because the strawberries add the sweetness rhubarb needs where in other rhubarb recipes too little sugar can cause a disaster.

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