Today is Guy Fawkes Day - which traditionally commemorates the king surviving a Catholic assassination attempt but now is just an excuse to drink mulled cider, eat sausages and let off fireworks. Coming so soon after Halloween, you hear quite a lot of people harrumphing about how we should make the most of our traditional British festivals and ignore the American ones. But Halloween was British before it was American, so that doesn't really hold water. And anyway, as I don't have children I am not particularly wedded to either event (although Bonfire Night is more fun, as far as I am concerned).
The big thing is that Bonfire Night really does mark the beginning of winter. It's properly chilly now, the leaves are changing colour and falling from the trees and all the food has rich, autumnal flavours. I've been baking cakes and breads redolent with booze, honey and spices, making hearty meals of slow-cooked meats and pulses, taking advantage of seasonal produce like quinces and girolles, and making preserves for the winter months. I've been baking pies.
|Cutting the pastry offcuts into maple leaf shapes|
I had in mind to make an apple pie. Then I saw this one. It was just so darn pretty I decided to decorate my pie in a similar way. I have a maple leaf shaped cutter that I knew would be just the thing. I wanted a slightly more subtle effect, so instead of kneading colours into pastry offcuts, I mixed dabs of colour with a little beaten eggwhite and smeared it onto the leaves with my fingers.
|My tree shape got a little distorted|
500g shortcrust pastry
Food colouring paste
Apples (I used 6 very small Cox's and 5 small Bramleys)
Zest of a lemon
1tbs spices (your choice - I used cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and a touch of cloves)
1/2 cup maple syrup (the real stuff, don't even think about maple flavouring)
75g walnuts, chopped
Peel, core and chop the apples and place in a saucepan with a splash of water and the grated lemon zest. Cook over low heat until the Bramleys have collapsed to fluff and the Cox's apples are just tender. Cool.
Gradually add the maple syrup to the cornflour in a bowl, and mix until there aren't any lumps, then beat in one of the eggs and the spices. Stir the cornflour mixture into the cooled apples and add the walnuts.
Roll out half the pastry and use to line a pie plate. Pile the apples into the dish. Separate the second egg and brush the yolk around the rim of the dish, then roll out the second half of the pastry and top the pie. Using a sharp knife, cut a tree shape out of the lid, then glaze the lid with more of the egg yolk.
Roll out the pastry trimmings and cut into leaf shapes. Beat the separated eggwhite until frothy and divide it between 3 or 4 ramekins (depending on how many colours you are going to use) and add a different colour to each one. Use a finger to dab colour on each of the cut out leaves, then mark veins on them with a toothpick and stick them on the pie. I then also glazed them with a bit more egg yolk, but I actually think that was a bad idea because it dulled the colours a bit.
Bake at 180C for about 45 minutes, or until a beautiful golden brown. Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes before eating.
|The perfect autumnal pie|