Lisa Margan's Apple Torte with Walnut and Figs from Country Style
Apple Cake from Country Style
Lunch Lady Upside Down Apple + Cinnamon Cakes
Tamsin Carvan's Windfall Pie
Sarah Glover's Sweet Apple Cider Pie with Pine Needle Cream
Preserving fruit and vegetables was an undercurrent of my teenage years, when Mum and Dad realised their dream to have a couple of acres past Camden on the outskirts of Sydney. Dad loved to strip a tree of its ripe fruit and deposit bucket loads of peaches, apricots, pears...whatever was in season, on the potential ankle-twisting, uneven, sandstone back steps to the kitchen for Mum to preserve. Her reaction was always mock annoyance at the need to drop everything and deal with it, while being truly grateful for the end product - a wall-to-wall pantry full of preserved fruit, and homemade jam, relishes, chutneys and pickles to eat year-round. As a teenager I had little interest in Mum and Dad's self-sufficiency leanings, although I did go to an agricultural high school and made a cracker apricot jam. Like my friends I was more interested in listening to LPs of The Smiths, The Jam and Bill Bragg, reading Dolly magazine or exercising to video recordings of Aerobics Oz Style or Jane Fonda! It was the 80's. Fast forward 30 years and preserving is second nature to me. You tend to absorb these things by osmosis and now when the season delivers a bumper harvest it's time to roll the sleeves up, string on the apron, and preserve.
During the past fortnight our attention has turned to Granny Smith, Jonathon and wild apples off three apple trees we planted in our garden. The wild apple was transplanted from a previous garden 15 years ago, and the Granny Smith and Jonathon were transplanted from our garden behind our shop when we moved to our eight-acre block five years ago. Two other apple trees are yet to fruit, but we're hopeful they'll deliver in the next few years. Our apples have that imperfect homegrown look about them, with irregular knobbly shapes, and occasional codling moth and hail damage to discard. Codling moth is a yearly problem and this year Duncan tried to control it organically with sticky sheets of horticultural glue attached to the trunks of the trees to stop the female moths crawling into the trees. It didn't work. Despite the pest problems there's tremendous pride and satisfaction in growing fruit just metres from our kitchen door and a sense of responsibility to use as much of the harvest as possible. When Duncan picked a basket of apples I wondered whether they made up a bushel of apples. A quick Google search and a I was armed with the trivia that a bushel is 126 apples and we have closer to two pecks, 64.
When it comes to recipes I like to explore new territory and my family are guinea pigs for Country Style's Apple Cake (September 2014), Lisa Margan's Apple Torte with Walnut and Figs (May 2016), and Tamsin Carvan's Windfall Pie (June 2015), and Lunch Lady's Upside Down Apple + Cinnamon Cake (issue 2). The Windfall Pie is incredibly rustic. Duncan asked 'Does that mean it has whole apples, stems, and seeds in it?'. 'Yes', I replied, laughing, 'even leaves poked into the pastry'. The absolute hit with our sons were the Upside Down Apple + Cinnamon Cakes. Baked in a muffin pan, perfect lunch box fillers, and they even backed up for more when they arrived home from school. That's it for baking for a while. Our 20-year-old oven died on the weekend. We've started the process of researching the pros and cons of various brands of freestanding ovens, with a gas cooktop and electric oven in mind. If you have any advice, please share.
Postscript: As if on cue Gourmet Traveller sent its wrap-up of apple recipes. Let me at the Apple-Vanilla Tea Cake. Our boys have been asking for a traditional apple pie, so I finally made chef Sarah Glover's Sweet Apple Cider Pie with Pine Needle Cream from our Daily Plenty cook book (page 56).
Lunch Lady Upside Upside Down Apple + Cinnamon Cake
What you need: 75g butter diced into 12 cubes, 65g brown sugar, 6 small cooking apples sliced, 220g plain flour, 140g golden caster sugar, 2 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 160ml milk, 55g butter softened, 1 egg, 1 tsp vanilla.
What you do: Preheat oven to 180C (160C fan forced). Put a cube of butter into the base of each hole in a muffin tray and place in the oven for 3-5 minutes until butter melts. Sprinkle brown sugar over butter in each hole and stir. Cut 12 x 5mm thick slices across apple and place in muffin tray holes. Grate remaining apple and set aside. In a bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder and cinnamon. In another bowl combine grated apple, 1/4 cup butter, egg and vanilla in an electric mixer and mix until combined. Add dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Spoon mixture evenly over apples. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Cool in pan for 5 minutes and turn out on a wire rack.
Country Style Lisa Margan Apple Torte with Walnut and Figs
What you need: 6 Granny Smith or Gala apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced; 1 lemon, rind finely grated, juiced; 3 eggs; 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar; 1/2 cup caster sugar; 1 tsp vanilla extract; 125g unsalted butter, melted, cooled; 1/3 cup milk; 1 cup plain flour; 2 tsp baking powder; thick cream, honey and fresh figs, halved to serve. Topping: 1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped; 1/4 cup brown sugar; 1 tbsp ground cinnamon; 1 tbsp icing sugar, sifted.
What you do: Preheat oven to 180C. Grease 24cm springform pan and line base and sides with baking paper. Place apple, lemon rind and lemon juice in a large bowl. Toss to coat apple in lemon juice to prevent browning.
Using an electric mixer, beat eggs, brown sugar, caster sugar and vanilla extract for 5 minutes or until thick, light and doubled in volume. Whisk cooled, melted butter and milk in a jug until combined. Add to egg mixture and stir to combine. Sift flour and baking powder over egg mixture, and stir to combine. Pour one-third of mixture into prepared pan and smooth surface. Top with one-third of sliced apple mixture. Repeat layering, finishing with a layer of sliced apple.
To make topping, place walnuts, brown sugar, cinnamon and icing sugar in a bowl and stir to combine. Sprinkle walnut mixture over cake.
Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes or until a skewer inserted into centre comes out clean. Cool in pan. Remove torte from pan. Cut into slices and place on plates. Drizzle with cream and honey. Serve with figs.