Before I know it, it’s mid-April already. My beloved wood anemones (Anemone nemorosa) are in bloom, and I have been dying to get out of the house and pop into the closest forest, to have a sniff of these beautiful, humble flowers. And yet, I have been stuck indoors, living in (what would probably classify as) intimate symbiosis with my laptop, working restlessly on planning my wedding.
I constantly find myself travelling in my thoughts to the earthy, still pretty leafless forests, to the meadows with first, shy cuckooflowers (Cardamine pratensis), firmly stating: May is fast approaching. Picking up these rather non-conspicuous flowers (in Polish called maślanka or, less poetically, meadow cress), is on of the most cherished childhood memories I have. Wandering around vast (everything is vast when you’re three years old), freshly greened meadows, with my Babcia or Mama with me, picking up handful of these spring flowers, only delicately scented, was something I was looking forward to every year as a child. I always loved the fact that in Polish language maj means May, and umajony means adorned with flowers or greenery. How can May not be everyone’s favourite month?
But what to do, since April in England has proven to be a rather wayward companion, providing the heavy with clouds skies, rains and not at all springlike temperatures. I have hardly seen the sun this week (with the exception for today), which made me long for my mum’s comforting apple pie. It’s the sun I missed the most this week, and yet – I found myself in the kitchen, baking a pie which is a definition of autumn.
As I am trying to watch out my intake of refined sugars recently, this apple pie is an (almost) healthy dessert. As healthy as buttery pastry gets, that is. Shortcrust pastry, chunky apple and raisin filling topped with an almond crumble. Although it didn’t substitute the sun, it did highlight our Tuesday evening.
IMPROMPTU APPLE PIE
for the pastry
1/2 cup flour
1tsp light muscovado sugar
1 egg yolk
for the filling
two dessert apples
juice of half a lemon
1tbsp flaked almonds
2tsp mixed peel
1tsp honey (optional)
for the crumble
50g butter, melted
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup ground almonds
1tsp light muscovado sugar
pinch of cinnamon
oats to sprinkle
HOW TO MAKE?
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Grease 4 small, round pie tins (for individual apple pies) with butter. Set aside.
2. Prepare the pastry. Add the flour to the pastry board together with ground almonds, butter and sugar, and chop everything with a big knife, until you’ll get a crumble-like texture. Add the egg yolk and quickly knead a dough. Make sure not to overwork it! Wrap the dough in cling film and place in the fridge for 10-15minutes.
3. Peel and de-core the apples, and cut them into small chunks. Add the chunks to a bowl, together with lemon juice, cinnamon, almonds, raisins and mixed peel. Add honey only if you are using a sour apple variety (dessert apples are sweet enough, they don’t need any extra sugar). Set aside.
4. Take the pastry dough out of the fridge and roll out 4 circles, to fit the pastry tins you’re using. Make sure the pastry covers not only bottom of the tins, but also the sides. Once the pastry tins are lined with the pastry, pierce the bottom of it with a fork.
5. Prepare the crumble. Add flour, sugar, cinnamon and ground almond to the pastry board. Slowly pour melted butter on top, judging if you will need all the butter. Mix the butter with the dry ingredients with your hands, until you’ll have desired crumble (some prefer their crumble sandy, some chunky).
6. Spoon the apple filling into the pastry cases, add the crumble on top, covering the apples completely. Lastly, sprinkle the top of the crumble with some oats.
7. Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.
8. They taste best warm, with custard or ice cream, if you feel like treating yourself. Enjoy!
TIP: you can replace raisins and mixed peel with grated ginger (Żubrek’s idea). Be careful with the amount of ginger though, as it is quite a sharp flavour.