October is the month of the British apple, with autumn gardens, hedgerows and orchards brimming with thousands of delicious varieties. Its versatility and resourcefulness undoubtedly makes it Blighty’s most reliable and widely use fruit. Whether in the form of dry scrumpy cider, the perfect accompaniment to a Sunday roast, or the base to of a lightly spiced sponge, I am the apple’s number one fan.
At the height of the British season, Monday 21st October saw growers, producers, makers and bakers celebrate this first-rate fruit on National Apple Day. First held in 1990, after the significant demise in British orchards, the need to support British growers and UK varieties of this favoured fruit was never more prominent. Today, although fighting off stiff competition from foreign, supermarket imports, the British apple is thriving – with people more aware than ever of food miles, and undisclosed supply chains, the British apple has never been so popular.
Although a seasonal glut forces you to think innovatively in the kitchen, for me, the apple in routed in so much tradition, I can’t help but enjoy it most in classic British recipes. Chutneys, crumbles, pies and cakes are simply the best way to celebrate the apple’s fantastic flavours and textures. One of my all time favourite recipes is Dorset Apple Cake. Lightly spiced and bursting with tart apple, this West Country classic can be enjoyed as a warming dessert, or savoured simply with a cup of tea.
I suppose in the case of this recipe I must call it Somerset Apple Cake, as these apples were lovingly grown and picked by a generous green-fingered local! Using the same traditional recipe I have treasured for years, locally grown, tart Somerset cooking apples are perfect for packing a flavoursome punch, cutting through the sweet caramel flavours brought to the table by the use of soft brown and Demerara sugars. The addition of cinnamon and nutmeg only enhances this recipe, complimenting the tart fruit fantastically, making for a truly comforting autumnal treat.
If this seasonal recipe is not satisfying enough, make this tart apple cake into an indulgent dessert, served warm, straight from the oven, along with a fiery ginger custard – my favourite recipe yet! If ginger is not for you, apple cake tastes just as heavenly with thick cream or even ice cream. Although custard as personal favourite, I also like to enjoy mine warm with a generous scoop of Granny Gothards Clotted Cream Ice Cream - utterly delicious! How lucky am I to live in such a fantastic foodie location, in abundance of sublime growers and producers!
250g cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped
Splash of lemon juice
225g plain flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
115g unsalted butter
165g soft brown sugar
2-3 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Demerara for sprinkling
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4, and grease and flour your chosen baking tin. Place your coarsely chopped apples in a bowl and sprinkle with lemon juice, just enough to ensure the apple does not turn brown.
2. Mix the butter sugar and spices in a food mixer until the mixture is light and fluffy – ideally, mix for 5 minutes. Add the egg and a little flour, first combing in the mixer slowly, before mixing on a fast setting for 20 seconds or until the mixture returns to a smooth, glossy consistency.
3. Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl and slowly fold together until all the ingredients are combined. If the mixture is still a little thick, add a little more milk. Transfer the mixture either into your greased tin, or muffin cases and sprinkle with Demerara sugar, before cooking in the over for 40 minutes.
4. The a cake tester is inserted and come out clean, and the cake is dark, brown and crispy on top, remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Serve with a choice of toppings; custard, ice cream or cream, or simply enjoy on its own with a cup of tea!
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