This week the Great British bake off was all about pies. I don’t very often bake pies, usually just if I have a social occasion to bake a pudding for, or I buy the ready made pastry to do a quick savoury one. So this was a good opportunity to be inspired and bake a fruit pie as the contestants did in round 1.
I decided to go simple: a classic apple pie with a slight twist – cooking the apples in butter and brown sugar to give them a caramel/toffee flavour, with a dash of cinnamon. The pastry is a plain shortcrust, so overall the pie isn’t too sweet. I’ve made this quite a few times before, but not for a while. I know Tom loves a good fruit pie, and would have them more often if he could, so I knew this bake would go down well. Andrew also got very excited about having some – the boys usually have fruit and natural yoghurt for pudding, so it was a treat to have a small piece of apple pie on a Saturday night after tea. Not that they would have noticed, but the bake was good enough to avoid the infamous soggy bottom!
Here’s the recipe, which only has 8 ingredients, it really is that simple! Just make sure that you work with cold hands for the pastry, and don’t overwork it. If you like custard or cream, this would work well with one of those, but I’m not a fan of either on my puddings, and I like this just as it is.
2 large bramley apples
100g brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp cornflour
370g plain flour
First make the pastry: I usually cut the butter into chunks and put it in the freezer for 10 minutes or so to chill it before using it (except this time I left it a bit longer and it was very cold, but it still worked fine).
Rub the butter and flour together in a bowl with your fingers until you have a breadcrumb consistency.
Make a well in the centre of the crumbs and add a little cold water at a time, bringing the dough together with your hands until it sticks together in a firm ball but isn’t overly sticky.
Leave it to rest at (cool) room temperature until you have made the filling.
Peel and chop the apples into chunks.
Melt the butter, sugar and cinnamon in a pan and add the apple, stirring and cooking for a few minutes until golden.
Sprinkle the cornflour over the apple filling and stir in, then leave aside to cool slightly.
On a floured board, cut the pastry into 2 pieces, one about 2 thirds of the dough and one about a third.
Roll out the bigger piece of pastry to fit the bottom of your pie dish, and press it down into the bottom and sides.
Put the filling into the pie and spread around evenly.
Roll out the remaining pastry until big enough to cover the top of the pie.
Press down the edges of the pastry where the bottom bit touches the top bit, using a fork to make indents around the rim, and trim off any excess pastry around the rim.
Use the fork to make some holes in the lid of the pie, so that steam can escape when baking.
Bake in the oven at 180ºC for about 30-40 minutes until lightly golden.
As we were away last weekend, I missed a week of baking inspired by the Great British Bake Off (GBBO). The desserts the contestants made last week were very impressive, and I think I would have gone for baking a torte if I’d have had chance to do some baking myself (that was one of the things they had to bake). This week it was all about pies. For the first bake they had to make a Wellington (with whatever filling they liked), for the second – the technical challenge – they had to make what looked like an incredibly difficult chicken and bacon pie with a hand-molded, hot-water pastry (a bit like a pork pie really), and for the third they had to bake a sweet American pie (with whatever filling they liked).
As I’m not into cooking meat at all at the moment, I thought a sweet pie would be my best option. I was particularly interested in the short clip that was shown as part of the programme, telling us all about the history of the apple pie in America, as that was one of the first sweet American pies to really make it big, even though none of the GBBO contestants chose to make something that simple – their flavours were along the lines of pumpkin pie, squash pie, sweet potato pie, Key lime pie, and peanut butter pie. I haven’t had apple pie for a long time, so I decided that this simple but effective pie would go down well with my boys and me. Andrew’s Aunty Jenny was even with us on the day I made it, so I had an extra taster this time; the adults approved, but Andrew wasn’t too bothered – I think he was too tired by the point we ate it.
I went for a simple shortcrust pastry with no sugar, and a caramelised apple filling. I didn’t want to make the pastry sweet, because I don’t like pastry too sweet and think that it’s actually nicer to have the contrast of a plain pastry with the sweetness of the apple filling. (Maybe Paul Hollywood would approve? He didn’t seem to like the sickly sweet American pies that some contestants came up with, but preferred more mellowed-down British versions!) Plus I’ve found it hard to make sweet pastry in the past, whereas plain shortcrust is easier in my experience. I found a great page on Delia Smith’s website, giving tips on how to achieve good shortcrust pastry, which points out some of the potential pitfalls to avoid. I have to say it turned out very well and I found it pretty easy to make, even without a food processor – the main thing is making sure everything is at the right temperature when you need to use it.
Here’s my recipe, which has very few ingredients, but the outcome is a yummy, good classic apple pie.
8oz plain white flour
4oz unsalted butter
2 large Bramley apples
80g brown sugar
50g unsalted butter
First make the pastry so it has time to rest whilst you’re doing the other bits (or leave it for a few hours or overnight). Take the butter out of the fridge and leave it to soften to room temperature. According to Delia, you should just be able to cut through it easily with a knife, but it should still be quite solid.
Cut the butter into small chunks and add to the flour. Rub the butter into the flour using your fingertips, working quickly and lifting the flour up as you rub, to keep it light and aerated. Don’t overdo it, but stop when you have a rough breadcrumb-like texture.
Gradually add small amounts of cold water, like a couple of tablespoons at a time, and mix with a knife to bring the mixture together into a dough. Once it gets wet enough, finish bringing it together with your hands, and form into a ball. Stop handling it, put it into a food bag, and leave it to rest in the fridge for at least an hour, if not more – overnight is good.
Then make the apple filling. Peel and core the apples, and cut them into chunks.
Melt the butter and sugar in a pan on a moderate heat. Add the apples, and cook for about 5-10 minutes until lightly golden and a bit squidgy. Just before you finish cooking them, add the flour and stir in until the caramel sauce thickens. Take the pan off the heat and allow the filling to cool completely.
When the pastry is well chilled, take it out of the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature before rolling it. Getting the temperature right is key in making successful pastry, so don’t try to rush it. At this point, pre-heat the oven to 180ºC (fan).
Once warmed up enough (but not too warm!), cut the pastry into two pieces: about one third of the whole for one piece and two thirds for the other.
Roll the bigger bit of pastry out to about 3mm thick, big enough to fit the bottom and sides of your pie dish, with a small overhang.
Line the pie dish with the pastry, and cut off any excess bits of pastry beyond the small overhang.
Pour the cooled apple filling into the pastry-lined pie dish.
Roll the smaller bit of pastry out to about 3mm thick, big enough to cover the top of the pie dish. Place this pastry on top of the filling. There should be enough room in the dish after the filling has gone in so that there is a lip of pastry that can join with the lid pastry.
Press the lid pastry together with this lip of pastry from around the side, using a fork to squish them together and make a nice pattern at the same time. Use the fork to make several pricks in the pastry lid, to allow steam to escape when cooking.
Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes, until the pastry is golden.
Remove from the oven, and eat as fresh as possible – hot apple pie is so much better than cold apple pie! 🙂