While I may have summer on my mind, Bavaria is having a gloriously sunny, mild autumn, the bright blue skies a beautiful contrast to the falling leaves outside. If you’ve been following along, you‘ll know that Sunday is my favourite day for baking, especially when there is a little chill in the air. The shops are closed, the city is quiet, I can put some jazz on the kitchen radio and potter around peacefully amongst my pots and pans.
We are off to New Zealand soon, and no surprise, I’ve been thinking a lot about food that I plan to eat when we get there. While I love all the food and produce of my adopted home, I think all ex-pats know that for true comfort food you turn to the things you grew up with – especially when it comes to cakes and bakes. Every time we go to NZ I take Max to the most old fashioned bakery I can find and we try some Kiwi specialties: Lolly Cake, Ginger Crunch, Chocolate Afghans, Boston Buns and, in my not so humble opinion, the vey best of all, Apple Shortcake.
Stewed apples, still slightly tart, flavoured with cinnamon and allspice and layered between fluffy, buttery, crumbly short cake pastry? So good, and best of all, so easy to make at home. You don’t even need a mixer, or even a proper cake tin so no excuses not to whip one up for afternoon tea. I like to use a mixture of Braeburn and Granny Smith apples to get a good combination of sweet and tart. Use whatever apples you have to hand, adjusting the sweetness to taste while the apples are stewing.
Apple Shortcake is delicious while still hot out of the oven, served with a scoop of ice cream or some vanilla custard, but really comes into it‘s own if you let it cool down to room temperature before slicing. It gives the flavours a chance to settle down and balance out. You can sweeten the apples as much as you like, however you really need to taste them as they cook as only you know what type of apples you are using and your personal sweet tooth! I like it a little less sweet so I can taste the flavour of the apples.
Let me know if you try this recipe in the comments below, or using the hashtag #daysofjay on Instagram. Happy cooking!
Classic Apple Shortcake
for the filling:
- 6 large apples, Granny Smith, Braeburn, Royal Gala etc.
- 2-3 Tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp allspice
for the pastry:
- 125 g butter, softened
- 125 g sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 250 g plain flour
- 50 g cornflour / corn starch
- 1 tsp baking powder
- a good pinch of salt
- icing sugar
- Heat the oven to 180°C / 350°F / Gas 4 and grease a 20 x 30cm ovenproof dish with butter. Peel the apples and cut into quarters. Remove the cores, then slice the apples thinly.
- Put the apple slices into a large saucepan with two tablespoons of the sugar. Cook, stirring occasionally over low heat for 10 minutes or until softened. Stir in the cinnamon and allspice, taste to see if it is sweet enough for you, add more sugar if necessary and set aside.
- Meanwhile, beat the softened butter and sugar together in a large mixing bowl. Beat in the egg and vanilla until well combined. In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, cornflour, baking powder and salt, then stir the dry ingredients into the butter mixture until a soft dough forms. Knead it a couple of times with your hand to bring it together and form it into a ball.
- Divide the dough in half, and use your fingers to press one half into the prepared tin so that it evenly covers the base, then spread over the stewed apples. Tear off small pieces of the remaining pastry, flatten them out between your hands, then place on top of the apples, overlapping each slightly to form a lid. It’s supposed to look rustic, but try not to leave any gaps - see pictures.
TIPS & TRICKS:
Don‘t be scared of the pastry in this recipe, it is so simple and there is no rolling out required. You just press it into the pan which is perfect if your kitchen is a bit warm.
The butter really needs to be very soft, but not melted. Either leave it on the bench for an hour or so before you start cooking, or let it warm up a little in the oven as it heats up – don’t forget about it though and let it melt!