Apple picking season may be over, and last weekendâ€™s freak Halloween snow pretty much ensured that it was, but apple-eating season is in full flow here in New York.
Walking through Union Square Farmersâ€™ Market on the way to work, the stalls are loaded with apples of all shapes and sizes.Â Â The names are so wonderful too â€“ from the epic; Idared, Fortune, Empire, Northern Spy â€¦Â to the illustrative; Honeycrisp, Crispin, Ginger Gold â€¦ and even the more prosaic; Jonathan (got to love that!)
So apples are on my mind and on my table.
Around this time of year when I was a child, my mum would buy enormous cooking apples and bring them home to bake. Sheâ€™d core them, and stuff the hole with raisins and brown sugar, then microwave them until they were soft and sweet. Sometimes weâ€™d eat them with custard. This is the very essence of Autumnal comfort food.
Baked toffee apples (serves 4 â€“ for more people, just add more apples)4 large apples â€“ not necessarily baking apples, whatever you like, but adjust the time for size. Iâ€™m assuming something like Granny Smith 3 tbsp butter at room temp 3 tbsp light brown sugar Â½ tsp cinnamon Optional â€“ 2 tbsp raisins Â 3 tbsp apple juice or water Â
- Preheat the oven to 325 f
- Core the apples with an apple corer
- Mix the butter sugar and cinnamon (and raisins if using), then stuff the mixture tightly into the apples
- Place in a baking dish and pour in the juice. Cover with foil and bake for 45 mins until the toffee is bubbling
- Serve with ice cream, cream or custard
Custard is The Great British Sauce. And this is the season for it.
Iâ€™ll confess; I love Ambrosia pots, M&S tubs, even boiling water instant packets, but nothing quite beats the taste that you get when you make it from scratch. This recipe is a classic, from Delia Smith.1 vanilla pod 275ml single or double cream (or full fat milk if you must) 3 large egg yolks 25g sugar 1 tsp cornflour / cornstarch Â
- Split the vanilla pod in half and scrape out the seeds. put the seeds and pod into the cream / milk, and heat gently for 5 mins – don’t let it boil
- Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour
- Fish out the vanilla pod from the hot cream, then pour about half of it into the egg yolk mixture (thatâ€™s why itâ€™s important to keep the cream warm rather than simmering â€“ you donâ€™t want the eggs to scramble)
- Stir the egg yolks and cream together then add the rest of the cream. Pour the whole lot back into the pan and heat gently. The best thing to use here is a spatula, so you keep everything moving from the bottom of the pan. Heat and stir until it reaches simmering point and thickens
- Pour into a jug and serve, or place a layer of plastic wrap onto the surface of the custard to prevent a skin forming, and re-heat when you want it â€“ this is basically what microwaves are made for
- Should the custard go grainy â€“ it wonâ€™t, donâ€™t get too concerned, but if it does – pour it out of the pan into a bowl and whisk like mad to cool it down fast