The styles and sizes vary, but most food cultures have a filled parcel that you can eat on the street: China has bao dumplings, Japan has onigiri, most Latin countries have empañadas, and so on. The Maltese version is the pastizz, which is somewhere in size between a samosa and a Cornish pasty. Its case is flaky pastry which is made by creating a spiral cross-section of dough and shortening (the same trick, roughly, as used in Portuguese pastéis de nata); the filling can be pretty much anything but is often either based on ricotta cheese or peas.
Starting from a Maltese Youtube video and halving the quantities, I chose a lightly curried pea-and-tomato filling, which is pretty straightforward and comes out rather like one of my favourite Indian dishes, mutter paneer (without the paneer, but I can’t see a good reason not to include that if you want). If you are looking carefully at the photos, you’ll see that I ran out of peas on one of my runs and substituted some mixed veg.
As with all versions of puff pastry, getting the layers right is tricky, and I got it spectacularly wrong on my first attempt, not least because the ratio of flour to water in the recipe is way off what it needs to be. This isn’t the most time consuming puff pastry recipe you’ll ever see: there’s a lot of elapsed time for resting, but it’s not too bad on actual work. But it’s fiddly to get the layers thin enough and roll them up into a good shape without breaking them. If you’re like me, you’ll need practise.
Anyway, the results are well worth it: they make a really good mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack, tasty, filling and nutritious.
Although I’m giving the filling recipe first, you’ll almost certainly want to start the dough first and make the filling during the extensive resting times.
You could add any of garlic, ginger or chilies to this if you want a spicier version. I like adding curry leaves, too, which isn’t exactly Maltese but adds aroma.
Sunflower or other neutral oil for frying
2g (1tsp) cumin seeds
7g curry powder (or your own favourite mix of ground coriander, cumin, turmeric, chili powder)
70g double concentrated tomato paste (my favourite brand is Cirio)
350g frozen peas
Take the peas out of the freezer. You can do this in advance, but you don’t have to.
Chop the onion finely
Heat cumin seeds in oil in a wok or medium size pan
Once the cumin seeds are spitting, add the onion and stir fry for a couple of minutes
Add the curry powder and continue frying until the onions are soft
Add the tomato paste and 100ml or so of water, stir until blended.
Add the peas, bring back to the boil, turn the heat down and simmer until the peas are cooked and the sauce is very thick.
Turn the heat off and leave until needed.
420g flour +40 second time, + 15g sunflower oil
125g shortening – Maltese recipes specify a vegetable shortening like Trex or Crisco, but you can almost certainly substitute ghee or melted butter if you prefer the taste (or use a mixture)
A little olive oil
Mix flour and salt in the bowl of your stand mixer; add water and knead on low to medium speed with the dough hook until you have a smooth but fairly stiff dough. You need enough water that you don’t have lots of uncombined flour, but not so much as to make the mixture sticky.
Form your dough into a thick cylinder, spread with shortening, wrap with cling film and leave to rest for around 30 minutes.
Roll the cylinder into a reasonably long and thin rectangle, spread with more shortening on both sides, place cling film over the top and rest again for another 30 minutes.
Now roll the dough as thin as you can possibly make it – still in a long, rectangle. Spread with shortening over the top.
Starting from one end, roll your dough into a long cigar shape, pulling the pastry as you go and making sure you get all the air out. You will need to go from side to side and back again, pulling and rolling. Leave to rest for another hour or two. Towards the end of this, preheat your oven to 200℃ fan.
Pull your cylinder so that it’s now very long. Cut the resulting cylinder into around twelve pieces.
Have a small bowl of olive oil ready. Dip both thumbs in oil, then pick up a piece of dough, dig both thumbs into one end and shape and stretch it into a cup – this may or may not remind you of primary school pottery classes.
Flip the cup inside out (so that the bit with the olive oil is on the outside, spoon a dollop of filling into it, and pinch the outside together to seal. When it’s done, put it on a baking tray, lying it roughly flat (don’t try to leave the seam pointing upwards). Repeat for the other eleven pastizzi.
Bake for around 30 minutes. Take out of the oven when golden (and, we hope, flaky).
While leaving to cool, attempt to sing Maltese folksongs. Or not.
The weather in London today has been unremittingly grey with continuous drizzle, reminding me of a trip to Savonlinna in Finland, which is also the country which provided us with the biggest northern hemisphere rainstorm of our lives. So here, in homage to Finland and in honour of the poet Johan Ludvig Runeberg’s birthday next week, are Runebergintorttu or Runeberg Cakes.
To be fair on my many Finnish friends and on Savonlinna, which is a truly fabulous festival set in an impossible atmospheric mediaeval castle, it’s drop-dead gorgeous when the sun comes out (which it did the following day). And the Finns have a lot going for them, not least the best rainproof gear I’ve ever bought and also the best loudspeakers on the planet (with all those forests, the Finns really know their wood) and a surprisingly dry sense of humour (opera lovers need to check out Covid fan tutte).
One note on the photos: I don’t have the tall cylindrical moulds that you need to make Runebergintorttu properly, so mine are baked in a standard muffin tin. But they taste the same… If that level of authenticity bothers you, this is the kind of thing that should work.
I started with a recipe from scandikitchen.co.uk and only changed a few things: I couldn’t get hold of Leksands crispbread, but I did find some dark Ryvita which I believe to be pretty similar. I used blackberry jam rather than raspberry. Vanilla essence is easier to find than vanilla sugar in these parts. I didn’t have any amaretto either, so I grated the zest of the orange that made the orange juice and added that. Personally, I think the combination of orange, cardamom and rye turned out to be an absolute winner.
125g butter, plus some for greasing
50g ground almonds
100g plain flour
6g (1 tsp) baking powder
50g crispbread (Leksands, Ryvita or whatever), or just use breadcrumbs
80g caster sugar
1 whole egg plus 1 egg yolk
50ml orange juice, plus zest of the orange
Vanilla essence to taste
80g icing sugar
Raspberry jam (or, in my case, blackberry jelly) to finish
Preheat oven to 180℃ fan.
If your butter isn’t soft, cut it into small cubes and leave to soften.
Grease your muffin tin (or other cake mould) with some more butter.
Mix your flour, baking powder, ground almonds and salt.
Grind your crispbread into breadcrumbs
Cream the butter and sugar together
Add the eggs and mix
Add the flour mixture and combine
Add the breadcrumbs and cream and combine
Add the orange juice, zest and vanilla essence and mix thoroughly. You should now have a fairly thick, sticky batter.
Divide the batter into the moulds in your cake tin.
Bake for around 15 minutes.
Leave to cool in the tin for a short while, then turn them out.
You will serve the cakes upside down. Since they have probably domed somewhat, cut them reasonably flat so that they stand upright.
Mix the icing sugar with about 10ml warm water until you have a thick paste. Transfer this to a piping bag.
Pipe a circle of icing around the top of each cake. Put a dollop of jam into the middle of the circle. I found this easier than the original recipe, which suggests doing the jam first (as per the photos).
Leave the icing to dry (or don’t bother) and enjoy!
OK, so I can’t travel to Antigua right now. Or anywhere else, for that matter. But I can imagine myself on an Antiguan beach tucking into a breakfast of salt fish, eggplant and Sunday Bread.
I don’t eat that much white bread at home – our staple fare is more the rye sourdough that I make weekly – but I’ll make an exception for this Antiguan luxury version, which uses shortening to make it very puffy and soft. I’ve started with a recipe from a Caribbean Cookbook by Freda Gore, which comes by way of food website Cooking Sense. I’ve reduced the quantities by around a third (this is only for a household of two right now) and reduced the water further, because the dough would have been far too wet without this. I’ve also modified the order slightly by blending the shortening in at the end of the mixing process in the way the French do for making brioche.
Warning: this isn’t a complex bake, but you need to handle the dough very gently: any rough treatment on this kind of bread risks a collapse.
400 ml warm water (around 40℃)
600g strong white flour
125g vegetable shortening (Stork or Trex in the UK, I believe the U.S. equivalent is Crisco), at room temperature
30g butter, at room temperature
In a small bowl, mix sugar, yeast and water; leave for a few minutes until frothy.
Cut the butter and shortening into small cubes
Mix the flour and salt in the bowl of your stand mixer, then pour in your wet mix
Mix gently with the dough hook or with a wooden spoon until combined. Make sure that you’ve taken the flour from the bottom of the bowl and blended it in.
One third at a time, add the butter/shortening and mix on medium speed with the dough hook until most of it has been incorporated.
The dough should come off the sides of the bowl pretty easily now. Form it into a ball with your hands and transfer it to an oiled bowl. Cover with a tea towel and leave to rise until approximately doubled in size.
Transfer the dough onto a lightly floured surface, flour your hands and give it a brief knead, stretching one surface of the dough and tucking the sides into the bottom, before transferring it back to the bowl.
Leave to rise again until pillowy and soft. Some time during this, switch on your oven to 190℃ fan.
Line a baking tray with a silicone sheet.
Transfer the dough back to your floured board. Cut it into two pieces, then take a small piece of the end of each.
Form each large piece into a loaf, again stretching the surface and tucking it underneath, being extra careful to preserve the airiness. Transfer your loaves to the silicone sheet.
Roll each small piece into a long thin cylinder, then use this to create a decoration of your choice.
Leave to rest for 10-15 minutes.
Brush lightly with a little water.
Bake for 20-30 minutes until golden. Use your favourite test for done-ness: hitting the back and seeing what it sounds like, poking a skewer in, or just your sense of taste and colour.
Continuing with the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s coffee-and-cake tradition, here’s a cake from Croatia that deserves to be close to the top of the best-seller list, particularly with a coffee after a brisk morning winter walk (I speak from immediate experience).
In point of fact, Mađarica (or Madjarica, if you prefer to avoid the “d with stroke”) is the Croatian word for “Hungarian girl”, and the cake bears a distinct resemblance to the Hungarian Dobos torte, created in 1885 for the National General Exhibition of Budapest. Who knows (or, for that matter, who cares) which came first?
Croatians seem to bake this cake for the thousands: all the recipes I came across were for seriously large quantities. I went for this recipe from Tamara Novacoviç and halved it, which still made for a generous cake.
Mađarica is one of those multi-layer cakes where you’re trying to get the layers as thin as you possibly can. Croatian recipes tend to assume that you’re using a standard cake tin and baking the layers one at a time. Since you’re trying to make a rectangular cake, I figure it’s easier to use large flat tins (Swiss roll tins or similar) and then cut the layers to size after baking. Obviously, how you tackle this is going to depend on what tins you have available.
25g plain flour
25g cocoa powder
vanilla extract or paste to taste
25g dark chocolate
½ tbsp rum
Mix the flour and cocoa powder in a bowl and set aside. Have a balloon whisk ready.
Put the milk, sugar and vanilla into a saucepan and bring to the boil. When just boiling, take it off the heat, pour about a quarter of it into the bowl with the flour and cocoa powder, and whisk until thoroughly dissolved.
Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and return the saucepan to the heat. Add the chocolate, reduce the heat and keep whisking until the mixture thickens.
Take the mixture off the heat, give it a minute or so to cool slightly, then add the butter and whisk until thoroughly melted.
Stir in the rum.
Cover (to avoid too much skin forming – you can’t avoid having a bit) and leave to cool while you make the rest of the cake.
300g plain flour
½ tsp (2g) baking powder
1 egg white
90g sour cream
90 g sugar
90g butter, at room temperature
I’m going to confess at this point (in case it isn’t obvious from the photos) that I wimped out: I had two 33x22cm Swiss roll tins ready but I didn’t dare roll the dough thin enough to use more than one of them. I should have had the courage to use both – my layers are definitely twice the thickness they should be – so that’s what I recommend that you do.
Preheat oven to 180℃.
Prepare two 33cm x 22cm Swiss roll tins (or whatever other baking trays you have) by greasing them and lining them with baking paper.
Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl.
Cut the butter into cubes and put it with the sugar, sour cream and egg white into the bowl of your mixer; beat until smooth.
Add the flour mixture and knead to a smooth dough. Add a bit more sour cream or water if your dough is too crumbly.
Now the tricky part: divide the dough into two, and roll each half thinly enough to spread out evenly over its baking tin. It’s probably easiest to do this by rolling the dough between two sheets of baking paper. Transfer your rolled dough to the tin.
Bake for around 8-10 minutes.
Leave to cool on a wire rack.
Assembly and glaze
50g dark chocolate
20g sunflower oil (or other neutral oil)
Cut each cake/biscuit layer into three, using a ruler or measuring tape to make pieces that are as close to identical in size as you possibly can.
Place the first layer on your serving plate.
Spread around one fifth of the filling evenly over the layer, then add the next layer. Repeat this four more times to build up your cake.
Melt the chocolate and butter together (30s in a microwave should do this fine, if you can’t be bothered to wash up a double boiler).
Add the oil and mix thoroughly.
Pour the glaze over the top of the cake, making sure that you cover the whole cake with an even layer of glaze. Some of the glaze will have dripped over the sides: if you want, even this off with a palette knife.
Refrigerate for several hours (or overnight) until the glaze hardens.
Let’s start 2021 and the second half of this trip around the world with an easy, cheerful bake from the Czech Republic. Like every country in the former Austro-Hungarian empire, Czech has a strong coffee-and-cake culture, and the bake that you see everywhere is a light cake made with fresh fruit called Bublanina – a close relative of the French clafoutis.
The idea of a Bublanina is that the cake batter bubbles up around the fresh fruit. The trick is to use enough fruit that’s fresh enough that the cake is moist and fruity, but not so much that it’s damp and soggy. There’s no prescription about what fruit to use: it’s really a case of whatever’s in season. In the middle of a London winter, I went for blueberries (which are presumably in season somewhere across the globe), but strawberries, cherries, peaches and plums are all possible.
You have various options on the batter. At one of the end, you can just shove everything into a bowl and mix it; at the other, you can separate the eggs and pack air into the whites as a raising agent, soufflé-style. You can make the batter more traditional by using some semolina flour, can emulate the clafoutis by adding ground almonds, you can use various flavourings (vanilla, orange or lemon zest, Grand Marnier, etc). I’ve kept it simple and gone with a recipe from czechcookbook.com by Kristýna Koutná, a native of Brno, one of my favourite places in Czech; I’ve added lemon zest and changed the amount of flour slightly (my batter was definitely coming out runnier than Kristýna’s video).
A couple of notes on the photos: (1) I used 250g of blueberries, which was all I had. 400-500g would have been better. (2) The ingredients shot is missing the vanilla and lemon.
Butter for greasing cake tin
320g plain flour (plus 20g or so for sprinkling)
200g sugar (plus 30g or so for sprinkling)
8g baking powder
Grated zest of 1 lemon
240 ml milk
40 ml oil
Vanilla extract to taste
400g fresh fruit in season
Icing sugar for dusting
Preheat oven to 180℃ fan
Grease a cake tin or baking dish (I used a rectangular Pyrex dish or around 30cm x 20cm, but you can use any shape you like). Dust it with flour and shake out the excess.
If you’re using fruit like peaches or large strawberries that need to be cut up, do so now: make sure the fruit isn’t too wet.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix flour, sugar and baking powder and blend.
Add lemon zest, eggs, milk and oil
With the standard beater, mix until smooth – do not overbeat.
Pour the batter into your cake tin or dish
Lay out the fruit on the batter. If it sinks, it doesn’t matter.
Sprinkle a bit of sugar over the top.
Bake for around 40 minutes until golden brown on top
Leave to cool
Dust with icing sugar before serving
You can eat bublanina warm or cool it to room temperature. If you find it a bit dry on its own (particularly if, like me, you were a bit short of fruit), add a fruit coulis.
So this is it: we’ve reached bake no. 40, in other words half way round the world. To celebrate, here’s a bake that’s truly from half way round the world: Pitcairn Island, roughly equidistant from New Zealand and Chile. It’s a tiny island which is truly in the middle of nowhere, so much so that you can’t a can’t even fly there: cargo boat is your only option. The island’s main trade is conducted by a dangerous looking process of taking goods out in improbably small canoes and either shinning up the steep sides of the cargo vessels or sending the goods up by pulley. Pitcairn is most famous as the place where the Bounty mutineers fetched up, so lots of the people are called Christian (Fletcher Christian was the leader of the Mutiny).
Not many people own a copy of the Pitcairn Island Cookbook, by Irma Christian, but my wife and I do, because our writer friend Dea Birkett went there in the 1990s and wrote a book, Serpent in Paradise, about her travels, including the dark side of what she found. The book reveals tge Pitcairn diet to be generally incredibly high in sugar, so I’ve chosen a recipe that’s atypical in not having much sugar at all. Essentially, it’s a fairly standard cornbread, but with the South Seas twist of using coconut milk instead of water to bind your dough together: this happens to make it really delicious, so it’s going to be my cornbread of choice from now on. Having said which, I’d probably go half-half cornmeal and plain flour rather than the 1:3 in Irma’s recipe – which is a tad erratic, by the way, so I’ve made a few critical changes.
170g cornmeal (I used coarse, but fine will work also)
420g plain flour
10g baking powder
2 tbs sunflower or corn oil
400g tin coconut milk
Preheat oven to 200℃ fan
Grease a small, rectangular baking tin
Mix all the dry ingredients
Pour in the oil and coconut milk, mix until you have a smooth dough
Add your dough to the tin and smooth it out. If you want to avoid a cracked ridge in the middle, score the dough with a sharp knife or razor (I didn’t bother)
Bake for around 40 minutes (use the usual test that a skewer should come out dry)
Cool on a rack
That’s it! A delicious, easy, low sugar bake to celebrate the half way point of this series!
It being that time of year, I was casting around for a Christmas cake that was suitably exotic for this blog, but still had that fruit-laden richness for cold winter evenings. To my surprise, the one that leapt out at me was a recipe from Sri Lanka, which makes something that’s recognisably in the English Christmas Cake tradition, but softer and moister. The ever-reliable sbs.com.au provided the recipe.
What distinguishes the Sri Lankan version is a hefty dose of chow-chow preserve (other Sri Lankan touches are the addition of rosewater and cardamom). Chow-chow is a fruit with many names: choko, chouchou, mirliton, chayote; it’s roughly the shape and consistency of a quince, with a bright green skin reminiscent of a Granny Smith apple. I couldn’t find the preserve locally, but the fruit was readily available in Indian or Caribbean stores, of which we have plenty in London, so I made my own preserve, which wasn’t difficult. (Admission: I did leave mine on the stove for way too long, so it crystallised on setting: this didn’t seem to damage the cake overly.)
Traditionally, you would cover the cake with marzipan and hard icing. That’s too much sweetness for me, so I just made the fruit cake. I also left mine relatively soft and gooey, which is really delicious, at the expense of being tricky to cut. You may want to leave yours in a bit longer than I did.
The chow-chow preserve
Starting with this recipe, this made enough for two cakes. You may want to halve the amounts.
1.1 kg chayote (3 fruits)
1.5 kg sugar
380 ml water
¾ tsp salt
Peel and chop the chayote.
Put everything into a preserving pan and cook until the fruit is soft and the syrup is thick. You probably want a sugar temperature of around 105℃ – I went well over that.
Cool, and put into sterilised jars until needed.
150g unsalted cashews
150g unsalted almonds
200g glacé cherries
500g chow-chow preserve
150g glacé pineapple
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cardamom
½ tsp ground cloves
1 tsp rosewater (see Note)
Grated zest of 1 orange
Grated zest of 1 lemon
60 ml brandy
250g unsalted butter
385g caster sugar
180 g semolina flour
Preheat oven to 140℃ fan
Line a cake tin with baking paper (these quantities work perfectly for a fairly tall 20cm x 20cm tin)
Chop the almonds, toast them in a dry pan, set aside to cool
Chop the cashews, toast them in a dry pan, set aside to cool
Halve the cherries (if they weren’t already bought that way
Chop the pineapple and chow-chow preserve so that the pieces are smaller than half a glacé cherry. How small you want to go is up to you.
Put all fruits, zest, spices, rosewater and brandy into a large bowl and mix them up.
When the nuts are cool, add them also and mix
Chop the butter into small pieces and cream it with the sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer
One a time, separate the eggs, adding the yolk to the butter-sugar mix and incorporating it, and reserving the white in another bowl.
Combine the egg yolk/sugar/butter mix with the fruit-nut mix, add the semolina flour and stir until evenly spread.
Beat the egg whites until soft but not hard, fold into the mix.
Spoon the mixture into your lined tin, pressing it to the edges to smooth out any ruffles in the baking paper.
Cut another square of paper and place it on the top: this will stop the cake drying out
Bake for around 3 hours, or more if you prefer a less gooey cake
It’s time for the bake from my own country. There are so many to choose from: timeless cakes like the Victoria Sponge, regional specials like the Eccles cake or Bakewell tart, seasonal fruit cakes or hot cross buns, tea time favourites of scones or crumpets, or the humble muffin, which even has “English” in its name (everywhere except, of course, in England). But I’ve chosen to do a pastry style that I’ve hardly seen anywhere else in the world: the hot water pie crust, using it to make the classic English game pie. Since it’s coming up to December and people are thinking about Christmas, I’ve gone for a recipe from the BBC with the seasonal twist of cranberries and chestnuts.
Although you can warm up this kind of pie, it’s more often eaten cold as a lunch dish. It’s a fabulous main course for a picnic, although you’ll need freezer capacity since the game season doesn’t generally coincide with picnic weather in these parts. But the same technique should work for a pork pie or other variants.
The pastry-making technique is a bit like choux pastry without the eggs: boil up fat and water together, then quickly combine the flour and mix. As with most recipes for hot water crust, the BBC’s specifies lard, which is difficult to find right now and, in any case, isn’t to everyone’s taste. I used butter and it worked fine. The key is to work quickly when mixing and rolling the pastry, which is beautifully elastic when it’s still warm.
Cranberry sauce filling
150g fresh or frozen cranberries (buy 200g – we’re using the rest later)
50g golden caster sugar
If using frozen cranberries, defrost them.
Add all ingredients into a pan, bring to the boil and simmer until cranberries are soft and the liquid is much reduced
Pour into a bowl to cool
800g mixed boneless game, such as rabbit, venison, wild boar, pheasant, partridge or pigeon
300g pork belly
200g bacon lardons
150g cooked chestnuts (the vacuum packed ones readily available in UK supermarkets work well)
50g fresh or frozen cranberries
½ tsp ground mace
2 large pinches of ground nutmeg
Small bunch sage
Small bunch thyme
Finely mince the pork belly (or blitz in a food processor)
Chop the game finely. I went for around 5mm cubes, which gives a fairly coarse filling which is well matched to the size of the lardons in the supermarket packet. But you can go finer if you prefer.
Chop the chestnuts coarsely.
Chop the sage and the thyme finely.
Mix everything together as evenly as you can: it takes a surprisingly long time to get the belly mince evenly distributed around the rest of the filling.
Making the hot water crust pastry and filling the pie
200g butter, plus some for greasing
575g plain flour, plus some for the board
Preheat oven to 160℃ fan.
Boil a kettle.
Grease a 20cm springform cake tin.
In a small bowl, beat the egg.
In a large bowl, mix the flour and salt.
Cut the butter into cubes, perhaps 2cm per side.
Get your rolling pin and board ready, spread some flour on them.
Now work quickly: combine the water and butter in a jug and mix thoroughly. If the butter is taking too long to melt and the whole thing has cooled down, top up the temperature with 30 seconds in the microwave.
Pour your wet mix into the flour and rapidly combine it, kneading a little until you have a smooth dough with no dry flour.
Take a quarter of the dough and wrap it in cling film.
Roll the rest of the dough to a circle somewhat larger than the diameter of your tin plus twice its height.
Transfer the dough to the tin, using it to line the base and sides. For now, leave any excess hanging over the sides.
Fill the pie in the following order: half the meat filling, all the cranberry sauce, then the second half of the filling. The top should be slightly domed.
Roll out the remaining dough and slice into 1cm strips.
Make a lattice on the top of the pie with the strips of dough – leaving gaps (or at least one gap) big enough to poke a funnel through. If you’ve run out, cut off some of the overhanging pastry and roll them out to make up the shortfall.
Brush the top with some of the beaten egg (you’ll only need a little of it)
Bake for 45 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 140℃ fan, then bake for another 90 minutes.
4 gelatine leaves, or 1 sachet powdered gelatine
300ml veal or chicken stock
Leave the pie to cool for at least an hour, preferably two.
Warm the stock to close to boiling, then add and dissolve the gelatine in it.
Pour the stock through a funnel into one or more holes in the lattice until it nearly overflows. Discard any excess stock.
For Americans, the phrase “Apple Pie and Motherhood” (or possibly “Apple Pie and Mom”) means “a thing in life that everyone agrees to be unarguably good”. But even Americans would accept that Apple Pie comes from the Netherlands. In fact, there are two variants of Dutch Apple Pie: appeltaart, the lattice-topped version that I’ve made here, and appelkruimeltaart, a crumble-topped version whose American equivalent is Pennsylvania Dutch Apple Pie.
Most Dutch recipes (I’ve started with this one) go for a shortcrust pastry with a fairly high butter to flour ratio (this recipe uses 2:3, but I’ve seen higher), sweetened with brown sugar. As often, I’ve cut down the amount of sugar – the original recipe goes for 50% more than I’ve used. The Dutch use self-raising flour, which moves the end result somewhere in the direction of a cake compared to a typical French apple tart or English pie. A neat trick is to cover your base with a layer of breadcrumbs: this soaks up the juices in the early part of the bake and helps to prevent the dreaded soggy bottom.
The filling is usually fairly heavily spiced and often has other fruit or nuts in addition to the apple. I’ve chosen cinnamon and raisins, but there are plenty of alternatives: cloves, ginger, walnuts or almonds to name just a few. At least once recipe recommends soaking your raisins in rum.
If you’re not in the Netherlands with access to Goudreinet (Golden Rennet) or Belle de Boskoop apples, you’ll have to improvise. You’re going to want an apple which is crisp enough not to disintegrate while baking, and which has plenty of flavour and a level of tartness. Lockdown London isn’t offering my usual levels of choice, so I went for 50/50 Granny Smith and Cox’s Orange Pippin, which worked pretty well. The Granny Smiths are there for tartness, but I’d worry that using them exclusively would be both too sour and too watery.
300 g self raising flour, plus flour for rolling
100 g soft brown sugar
a pinch of salt
200 g cold butter
1 egg, beaten
Combine the flour, sugar and salt.
Cut the butter into small cubes and mix into the flour mixture with your fingertips until you’ve got rid of the lumps of unblended butter.
Keep aside a small amount of egg for brushing, pour the rest into your mixture and blend until you have a smooth dough which no longer sticks to the side of your bowl.
Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes.
1 kg apples (see above)
Juice of 1 lemon, or more to taste
6g ground cinnamon
50 g sugar
50 g raisins
Peel, core and chop the apples into quarters, then chop each quarter into 4-5 slices. As you go, put the pieces into a bowl with the lemon juice and mix them around: the lemon will stop the apples going brown as you work.
Add the raisins.
Combine the sugar and cinnamon, add them to the apples and raisins and mix everything until even.
Breadcrumbs (probably around 30g – sorry, I didn’t measure)
I used the fan setting on my oven and I wish I hadn’t – baking for longer without the fan would have resulted in a somewhat softer filling. If you like the apples crunchier, go with the fan option.
Preheat oven to 180℃ conventional.
Grease a 22-23cm springform tin with butter.
Divide the dough into 3 portions, roughly 40%, 40%, 20%.
Roll out the first portion into a circle and use this to line the base of your tin. Trim off any excess and keep it.
Roll the next portion into a long rectangle (you may need more than one) and use it to line the sides of your tin. Again, trim off and keep any excess.
Add all the excess dough to your third piece, roll it out and cut into strips, around 1cm wide.
Spread the breadcrumbs evenly to cover the base of your tart.
Fill the tart with the apple mixture, trying to get rid of the air gaps so the apples are packed well down (but don’t press too hard). The filling will probably form a slight dome over the top: that’s fine.
With your strips of dough, form a lattice over the tart. The Dutch tend to do a kind of overlapping W-shaped pattern – my attempt at this was comically clumsy, as you’ll see from the photos, but this didn’t really matter. You can also do a standard criss-cross version (and if you’re feeling particularly competent, weave it).
Brush the top of the pastry lattice with the remaining egg.
Bake until the pastry is a deep golden brown, which should take around 50 minutes (conventional) or 40 minutes (fan) – depending, as ever, on your oven.
Leave to cool. After 10 minutes or so, extract the pie from the tin.
Enjoy. It’s the perfect treat for a damp, autumnal day.
So here’s the problem. I’m out of bread, I’m in lockdown and not heading for the shops, and it’s an hour to lunchtime. The solution? The Irish have this right: make soda bread. You can do the whole thing in 40 minutes (of which half is waiting while it’s in the oven), it’s delicious and it requires no particularly high level of skill. In short, I am confident that this will be the easiest of this whole “80 bakes”, a winner that I keep coming back to.
You can choose any combination of flours you like: 100% white and 100% wholemeal are both fine, but my favourite is 50/50 white wheat and wholemeal spelt. The recipe specifies buttermilk, which definitely helps because of its slight acidity, but you can use milk as an alternative. I suspect that milk with a tablespoon of yoghurt would work well, although I haven’t actually tried.
If we’re all honest, this is closer to an oversized scone than a bread, which is perfectly fine, because scones are lovely. And like scones, once you’ve mastered this plain recipe, you can move on to all sorts of flavourings, sweet and savoury: raisins, honey, nuts, dates are great for sweet versions; bacon, cheese (and also nuts) for savoury.
This recipe is only slightly adapted from the one in Emmanuel Hadjiandreou’s excellent How to make bread.
Sunflower or other oil for greasing
125g white flour (plain or strong, it doesn’t really matter)
125g wholemeal flour, plus a bit for the board (I use spelt, but wheat is fine)
4g baking soda
260g buttermilk (or 260g milk, or 240g milk plus 20g yoghurt)
Preheat oven to 200℃
Brush a small pie dish with a little oil
Stir together all the dry ingredients in a bowl until evenly mixed
Pour in the buttermilk and mix until you have an even dough with no separately visible flour. Don’t overdo the mixing.
Transfer the ball of dough to a board lightly dusted with flour; with your hands also lightly floured, form it into a firm, even ball.
Transfer the ball of dough to your pie dish and make two gashes across the top to form a cross.
Bake for 20-30 minutes until it sounds hollow when tapped.
Transfer to a rack and cool for 10 minutes or so before eating
Soda bread is best eaten immediately after that initial cooling – but if that doesn’t work out, it’s still great for a day or so. It does NOT keep particularly well.