Autumn Comforts and Apple Pie

It’s such a luxury having the time to gently potter away, and fritter away the hours doing a bit of relaxing cooking. Not the kind that involves furiously thinking about how to use up the fridge odds and ends into something vaguely edible in fifteen minutes, but the kind of lovely slow stirring, stewing and baking that only a slow day at home can give.

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With autumn well underway, it’s time for comforting foods. I roasted up a batch of tomatoes for a roasted tomato soup based on Sophie Dahl’s recipe. It smelled delicious in the oven, but the tomatoes could have done with a bit more flavour. I’ve got my eye on another tomato soup recipe with the addition of sundried tomatoes and pesto.

DSC_1013Then the glories of sticky toffee pudding, which I have blogged about previously last year.

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Thanks to a massive bounty of windfall apples, I’ve also been baking multiple apple crumbles, and with the last of the lot, also decided to bake an apple pie. I adore the Hawksmoor sticky toffee pudding recipe, so was keen to try out the apple pie recipe too, which also sounded delicious.

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The pie had an unusual pastry recipe with 120g of sugar, and double cream instead of eggs used to bind the mixture together. It was more akin to a cookie dough on being handled, and on baking, was soft, slightly cakey, and the overall effect was a little like eating an apple cake. Possibly not my go-to recipe for apple pie in the future, but very tasty all the same.

Now that we’re coming towards the end of October, I’m starting to get little excited thoughts that Christmas really isn’t so far away. I love the idea of making the flat as cosy as possible, and with this, need to resist the temptation of all those delicious-smelling Anthropologie candles  – when they are packaged up so prettily, how is a girl to say no?

Hawksmoor at Home Sticky Toffee Pudding

The Hawksmoor Sticky Toffee Pudding (STP) is sublime. I was stuffed to the gills from the previous two courses, my stomach protesting vehmently at the thought of dessert. But one taste of this deliciously rich pudding, and I somehow found space for more. After that, it was a must-make at home! Armed with the recipe from the cookbook, I set to work.

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Because I am fussy, I baked this a few times to work out how to replicate the Hawksmoor version as much as possible. Just following the recipe produces a slightly rougher-textured pud, with tangible pieces of chopped date poking their way through the sponge. By blending the date mixture to a puree, you get a far smoother result. Although the recipe states dariole moulds, I had a good look at pictures online and I think it is actually baked in mini pudding moulds.

Just for fun, I baked the pud in both moulds to compare the two. The dariole moulds produce a tall sleek shape that looks very elegant. A moreish couple of mouthfuls and it’s gone.

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The pudding mould predictably produces a fatter, more traditional rounded STP. The sponge is beautifully soft and bouncy, and hungrily soaks up the toffee sauce.

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Given their thinner shape, the dariole STPs definitely require less baking than the pudding mould STPs. My first batch had a thicker, slightly chewy crust, so I took the next lot out five minutes earlier, and that seemed  to do the trick. I also compared ceramic pudding moulds with metal ones. I wouldn’t recommend using ceramic moulds unless you are serving the puddings inside them. They took longer to bake in the middle and were difficult to extract from the moulds, despite liberal buttering beforehand.

Anyway, like all good puddings, STP must be served hot. So it’s a bit of a organisation kerfuffle to make sure you have your puddings out of the oven, the sauce bubblingly hot, and the plates warmed before the whole lot come together into a delightful mouthful. It tastes sweet, but not overly so, and deliciously rich. Very good in small quantities.

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Just don’t count the calories, because there are a gazillionty-billionty. Also bear in mind when making this that the Hawksmoor recipe makes colossal quantities. I halved the recipe, partly for the sake of my waist-hip ratio, and for lack of freezer space.

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Adapted from Hawksmoor at Home

Makes 8 (dariole moulds) or 6 (pudding moulds)

For the puddings:

  • 125g dates, roughly chopped
  • 3g bicarbonate of soda
  • 187ml boiling water
  • 40g beef suet
  • 63g dark muscovado sugar
  • 62g light muscovado sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 162g self-raising flour
  • 3g baking powder
  • pinch of sea salt

For the toffee sauce:

  • 63g dark muscovado sugar
  • 62g light muscovado sugar
  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 125ml double cream
  • pinch of sea salt

Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Butter your moulds well, and cut out circles of baking paper to cover the base of each mould. Prepare the same number of foil squares to make lids for the moulds.

Put the chopped dates and bicarbonate of soda together in a bowl. Pour over the boiling water. Leave to stand for several minutes. Meanwhile, mix the sugars and suet together. Crack in the egg, and mix together. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder, and salt together.

Blend the chopped dates and liquid into a puree with a stick blender.

Now fold half the date puree into the bowl of sugar, suet and egg. Then fold in the floury mixture until combined. Finally fold in the remaining date puree.

Fill each mould two-thirds full, and cover each with a foil square to form a lid. Place the moulds onto a baking sheet and put into the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Whilst the puddings are baking, measure out all the sauce ingredients into a saucepan. Put on a low heat. Once melted, simmer for around 5 minutes until thickened. If you are serving the puddings straight away then unmould each pudding. Some may need the bases trimming flat so they stand up straight. Plate the puddings individually onto warmed serving plates, and ladle a spoonful of toffee sauce over each pudding, going round one by one, and adding more as they soak the hot sauce up.

If making the puddings for later, divide the sauce into two. After unmoulding and trimming the puddings, stand them all together in one dish, and cover with half the piping hot sauce as above. Allow them to soak all this up. Cover the dish, until the puddings are needed.

When needed, reheat the puddings in their dish, covered in foil, in a 180˚C oven for around 15 minutes until warm. Reheat the remaining sauce until hot, and pour over each pudding as before. Hawksmoor recommend serving with cold clotted cream or ice-cream. Mmmmmm.