• The straw that broke the camel’s back

    “The straw that broke the camel’s back’, a seemingly minor or routine action that causes an unpredictably large and sudden reaction, because of the cumulative effect of small actions’ (Wikipedia).

    You will know if you have read any of my recent posts that I am partial to a crumble slice.  In fact you will be aware that I have been making quite a number of them:  mincemeat crumble slices, apple crumble slices and yesterday, I added to the list by making a pear and ginger crumble tart (really just a slice in a tart form).  Why, you might ask?  Well, I need to try out a few more crumble slices before my new adventure at the end of March.  I also needed to complete the fifth week of my 52 week challenge and I felt that a tart rather than a slice filled the brief better, albeit that in retrospect I think that my choice of bake may have been a bit of a cop out (not strictly patisserie).

    Despite me thinking that my choice was possibly a bit of a cop out, the bake went well.  I am used to making the crumble bottom and top (a simple mixture of plain flour, caster sugar and melted butter) but I wanted to try another filling.  As I had bought some pears a week or so back, which were definitely past their best so I thought I would make a pear and ginger filling.

    Rather than trying out a new recipe, I played around with the apple filling from Donna Hay’s recipe for apple crumble slice.  I cooked the pears with some sugar, butter, sultanas and ground ginger.  Given that the pears were not at their best, I had to discard quite a lot of pear before I started the filling, so the end result was less voluminous than I would usually have.  When it came to spreading the filling over the already baked base, it didn’t take long to realise that I my filling was a little scant.  I spread the filling as evenly as I could, but felt that the ratio of filling to biscuit base/crumble would have been out so with wishful thinking I opened my larder cupboard to see whether I had a tin of pears stashed away.  Lucky for me, I did.  Even luckier for me, they were in date.  I cut up most of the tinned pears and interspersed them between the pear filling.  The extra pears seemed to do the trick.

    After topping the filling with the crumble topping (which I had scattered a few chopped, toasted hazelnuts through for good measure) and baking it for the required 35 minutes, all that remained was to let my creation cool and then tuck into it.  Although it was a good bake, albeit that the ginger could have been a little stronger, I came to the realisation that after all these months of making crumble slices that maybe I was a little crumbled out.  Both making them and eating them. You could say that this crumble tart was ‘the straw that broke the camels back’.  Hence the title of this blog.

    Despite being all crumbled out, I won’t have any rest from making them as I have a weekly order for an apple crumble slice, but I think I need to give the taste testing a rest for a little while.  In fact, despite my grand plan to do 52 patisserie challenges this year, I think I am going to have to deviate from my plan for a little while (so soon, I hear you say).

    Rather than focusing on sweet bakes for a while (my sweet taste buds and waist line are a little over saturated and my husband is starting to blame me for a extra kilogram or two that he has put on over recent months), I am going to shift my challenge to two areas (1) more savoury bakes and (2) vegan bakes.

    The first, for two reasons.  Firstly, after weeks of baking sweet things, I am craving savoury food.  Secondly, scrolling through Instagram the other day, I came across a post from Nathan Outlaw, promoting a new book from Richard Bertinet, called ‘Crumb: show the dough who’s boss’.  It didn’t take my brain much persuading to pop into Waterstones on the weekend to pick up a copy.  It was so fresh off the press that they hadn’t even put the book on the shelves when I asked whether they had a copy of it.  Needless to say, it is a gem of a book and I am hoping to try my first recipe or two from it this weekend.

    The second is that, with the rapid increase of people exploring a vegan lifestyle or at least dabbling in it from time to time, I am keen to try out more vegan baking recipes.  I have already started experimenting in this area and plan to write a couple of posts on about my foray in vegan baking next.

  • A fruit for all seasons

    I have been fortunate over the past few days to have been given a couple of opportunities to take my business forward this year.   One of them isn’t until April and the other will have a mutually agreed start date.  As they say, you only have one chance to make the right impression so I have the next few months to ensure that I have everything in order so that I make the right impression when I present my bakes.

    As you will know from my most recent posts, I am partial to the crumble slice.  So much so that I want to include these in the bakes I offer.  I am very keen to use what is in season in the UK, so I spent some time yesterday looking up what fruit is in season at different times of the year.  Depending on what site you look at you get a slightly different list.  After a bit of digging and thinking about what I already know about seasonality, I settled on a list from the Vegetarian Society:

    Seasonal UK grown produce

    • January: Apples, Pears
    • February: Apples, Pears
    • March: Rhubarb
    • April: Rhubarb
    • May: Rhubarb, Strawberries
    • June: Blackcurrants, Cherries, Gooseberries, Raspberries, Redcurrants, Rhubarb, Strawberries, Tayberries
    • July: Blackberries, Blackcurrants, Blueberries, Cherries, Gooseberries, Greengages, Loganberries, Raspberries, Redcurrants, Rhubarb, Strawberries
    • August: Blackberries, Blackcurrants, Cherries, Damsons, Greengages, Loganberries, Plums, Raspberries, Redcurrants, Rhubarb, Strawberries
    • September: Blackberries, Damsons, Pears, Plums, Raspberries, Rhubarb, Strawberries
    • October: Apples, Blackberries, Elderberries, Pears
    • November: Apples, Cranberries, Elderberries, Pears
    • December: Apples, Cranberries, Pears

    (Source:  Vegetarian Society)

    With seasonality in mind, I have come up with a short-list of possible crumble slices:

    • Apple crumble slice
    • Lemon crumble slice
    • Pear and ginger crumble slice
    • Plum and almond crumble slice
    • Raspberry crumble slice
    • Rhubarb crumble slice

    Over the next few months (as the different fruits come into season) I will be giving these recipes a go.

  • Let’s get ready to crumble

    As you know, I made a mincemeat and pecan crumble slice on a number of occasions over the Christmas period.  As you will also know, on the whole, the bake was met with a favourable response.   Despite the favourable response, with the festive period over and done with for another year, so too was my mincemeat and pecan crumble slice.  The time had come to try something new or somewhat new.  As a lover of all things crumble, but in particular a crumble slice, I didn’t want to get rid of the bake in its entirety, but rather the mincemeat layer.

    En route to my Mum’s last week, we stopped at a delicatessen in Highworth for a bite to eat and picked up a couple of pieces of crumble slices for taste testing – mixed berries and lemon.   We picked up the lemon slice on one of the members of staff’s recommendations.  While we enjoyed the mixed berry slice, it was the lemon slice that we liked the most.   I hadn’t really considered doing a lemon slice prior to this sampling but it really was quite delicious.

    Scouring the Internet when I got home, I found a recipe at Kitchen Confidante for Meyer lemon jam crumb bars.  Although a delicious looking recipe, the base of the bar was made separately and contained different ingredients to the crumble topping.  I was ideally looking for a simple crumble slice recipe, much like the mincemeat and pecan crumble slice.  I decided to combine the idea of using jam from the Meyer lemon jam crumb bar (rather than lemon curd) and the majority of the recipe for the base and crumble topping from the recipe for the mincemeat and pecan crumble slice.  I did however replace the pecan nuts with flaked almonds in the crumble topping as I thought almonds would go well with lemon.  The result was a delicious, lemon and almond tasting slice.

    Rather than putting all my eggs in one basket, I decided to make a second crumble slice.  This time using a Donna Hay recipe for apple crumble slice.  I made the apple filling on the Saturday (the recipe suggested that this could be made up to two days in advance as long as it was refrigerated) – a delicious combination of stewed apples, sultanas, brown sugar and nutmeg – and then completed the bake on Sunday.  Again the end result was a delicious tasting crumble slice.

    Pleased with how both of my bakes turned out, I dropped them off at the coffee roasters in Cirencester for them to do a taste test and decide which one they wanted to replace the mincemeat and pecan crumble slice with.  After a couple of days, I got the following response and an order for some for their cafe:, which I need to bake tomorrow and deliver on Monday:

    “Really loved the rhubarb crumble (I think it was rhubarb)?”.

    Okay, so it wasn’t rhubarb, but apple.  I think stewing the apples with brown sugar, nutmeg and sultanas changed the colour of the apples so that they mimicked rhubarb.  Anyway, although my apples were masquerading as rhubarb the coffee roaster loved the slice anyway and placed an order.

    I have to say that in my heart of hearts I would have preferred it if they had liked the lemon crumble slice instead of the apple crumble slice as it is slightly easier to make.  I guess there is something in the saying ‘you get out what you put in’.

    Anyway, as the apple crumble slice was the preferred one, I have decided to share the recipe with you.

    Ingredients

    Base and crumble 

    • 600g plain flour, sifted
    • 295g caster sugar
    • 375g unsalted butter, melted

    Apple filling

    • 50g unsalted butter, chopped
    • 1.2kg granny smith apples, peeled and chopped
    • 135g brown sugar
    • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
    • 80g sultanas
    • Icing for dusting

    Method

    • Preheat oven to 180°C.
    • Lightly grease and line a 20cm x 30cm tin with baking paper.
    • Place the flour, sugar and butter in a large bowl and mix well to combine. Press half the crumble mixture into the base of the tin.
    • Refrigerate for 10 minutes or until firm.  Remove from the fridge and cook for 20–25 minutes or until a light golden brown.  Set aside.
    • To make the apple filling, place the butter, apples, sugar, nutmeg and sultanas in a large saucepan over high heat.  Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Remove the lid and cook for 5 minutes or until the apples are soft and the liquid has been absorbed.
    • Spoon the filling over the  base in an even layer.  Sprinkle the remaining crumble mixture over the apples and cook  in the oven for 35–40 minutes or until golden brown.  Allow to cool in the tin, dust with icing sugar and cut into slices to serve.  Makes 16.

    (Source: Donna Hay)

    Happy baking!