Apple Custard Autumn: The Recipe

I’ve just been reminded that I promised the recipe for Apple Custard Cupcakes two whole months ago … so here it is (better late than never – sorry!). It’s a winning comfort-food if you were brought up on Bird’s custard powder, but I’m sure that your favourite custard recipe would be an ideal substitution for the filling if you haven’t the same homely associations as I have with licking clean the (Bird’s) custard spoon as a child (usually whenever my Mum was making an orange and Swiss Roll trifle).

applecustard

Apple Custard Cupcakes (adapted from The Australian Woman’s Weekly)

3 1/4 oz (90 g) butter, softened
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
4 oz (110 g) caster sugar
2 eggs
4 oz (110 g) self-raising flour
1 1/2 oz (30 g) custard powder
2 tbsp milk
1 apple, unpeeled, cored and finely sliced
1 1/2 oz (30 g) extra butter, melted
1 tbsp extra caster sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Custard
1 tbsp custard powder
1 tbsp caster sugar
125 ml milk
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Line a 12-hole muffin tray with paper cases. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Make the custard (if you’re going with Bird’s custard powder, mix a little of the milk with the powder, sugar and vanilla; heat the remaining milk until it begins to boil, then pour it onto the custard powder paste; stir to stop any lumps forming (unless you’re a traditional school dinner lady 😉 ), then pour it all back into the saucepan where it will thicken further with the residual heat).

In a large bowl, combine the butter, vanilla, sugar, eggs, sieved flour and custard powder. Mix at low speed until all ingredients are moistened, then beat at a medium speed until the mixture becomes a paler colour.

Divide half of the cake mixture among the paper cases. Spoon some custard onto each cake, then top with the remaining cake mixture. Spread the mixture to cover the custard.

Press the apple slices onto the tops of each cake.

Bake in the centre of the oven until golden – about 25 to 30 minutes.

Remove the cakes from the oven and brush the tops with melted butter while they are still hot. Sprinkle with a mixture of sugar and cinnamon. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Apple Custard Autumn

I’ve been even busier than usual recently as O has been away from home taking professional exams in the States. The children have been wonderful in his absence, but they don’t leave many opportunities in the day (or night!) for sitting in front of a computer. On the other hand, M (my 3 yr-old) has developed a passion for baking of all sorts. I have only to look at a wooden spoon or whisk and she’s dragging a chair across the kitchen so that she can climb up beside me and ‘help’. She knows exactly what goes into our bread (“flour, water, salt and east”, as she says!) and can even turn her very own pastry into “jam hearts”.

With the start of a new term and thoughts of Christmas in the not-too-distant future (believe me, they are already counting down the sleeps!), my 2 girls have also been very aware of the increasing signs of Autumn since O has been away, especially on our daily morning walks to school when their misty breath hangs in the air. Last year, I wrote about the apples that are in abundance at this time here in Devon and once again, it seemed fitting to turn to the fruit in our baking at home. And so today, M and I made Apple Custard Cupcakes from a recipe that (sshhh … I copied out of a book before sending it to my sister a couple of days ago as a birthday present) … hrmmmm *clears throat noisily.*

If I wasn’t staring at the dwindling possible hours of sleep left to me tonight, I’d post the recipe right now. If my children hadn’t woken me several times every night for this last month, then possibly I’d welcome the thought of staying up beyond their bedtime to write out the recipe. As it is, I’m wimping out and going to bed, leaving you (for now!) with only a photo of our latest baking adventure.

Buttercupcakes

I’ve hinted in previous posts and comments about how busy I’ve been recently, hoping that I may be forgiven for my comparative neglect of A Merrier World. One of the many things that has been occupying me (and one which I so far haven’t mentioned) is my tentative first steps into the world of web design. A couple of months ago, a happy coincidence resulted in my offering to create a website for a friend’s new business … which just happened to be in baking and selling cupcakes.

What a wonderful opportunity, to practise on a subject so in tune with my own interests! I’m in awe of the imagination and perfection of my friend’s cupcakes. This is baking artistry in miniature – heaven and earth in one container.

So … to see my own latest (inedible) creation or, better still, to order a box of my friend’s delicious cupcakes, visit Buttercupcakes.

Jam-Making Day

We returned from holiday with a bag of damsons from my mother-in-law. Carrying these into the kitchen on Sunday morning, O announced that it was the day for his annual jam-making. This year we would be having damson and bramble jelly.

Blackberries and Damsons

He disappeared to ring the church bells for the morning service and returned with a second bag, full this time with blackberries he’d collected from the hedgerows. I was dispatched to buy some jam-sugar and the kitchen was soon filled with the glorious smells of gently boiling fruits.

So far, so good …

The first casualty was a pair of oven gloves that somehow managed to catch fire on a hot ring (I wasn’t around at the time, but apparently they subsequently smouldered for some time in the bin before being doused with cold water). Never mind … at least the children had a realistic demonstration of kitchen safety!

The boiled fruits were then strung up in a muslin bag over a pan set in the building site attached to the front of our house (it’s actually an extension, but it seems to have settled into being around in our lives in a permanent state of incompletion).

Fruit Hanging

It was at this point that the flash on my camera decided to stop working, so I was unable to take a photo of the deep blood-red stains that dripped onto the concrete floor when the bag was being taken down. I wonder what the builders will think … when they reappear.

Children can be very distracting when you’re in the kitchen. They often appear to be at their hungriest and thirstiest at the exact moment that a sauce needs continuous attention or your hands are covered in sticky dough. Or they surround themselves with their toys on the kitchen floor and play around your legs. Or they drag chairs across the room and stand on them so that they can ‘help’. Apparently, my husband experienced several of these distractions while the jelly mixture was boiling rapidly … which is why the mixture was suddenly reduced by at least half a pint as it escaped from the pan and why the kitchen floor was cleaned that afternoon.

My husband has made jam once a year for some time now. I can remember eating his bramble jelly at least 5 years ago, if not longer. The only batch that didn’t set was his first … and the batch he made this Sunday. What to do with nine jars of fruit compote? On Monday morning, I tipped the whole lot back into the pan and re-boiled it. 106 degrees later, it flaked off the spoon and wrinkled across the saucer. Bingo – jam!

Cream Tea

Damson and Bramble Jelly

1.8 kg/4 lb mixture of damsons and blackberries
juice of 2 lemons
450ml/ 3/4 pint water
sugar (see method)

Put the damsons, blackberries and lemon juice in a large pan. Bring to the boil and simmer gently until the fruit is soft (about an hour). Stir occasionally.

Using either a jelly bag or a large muslin square, hang the fruity pulp over a large bowl and leave for up to 12 hours so that the juices drip through.

Discard the remaining pulp and measure the juices. Return these to the preserving pan and add 350g/12 oz of sugar for each 600ml/ 1 pint of juice extract.

Heat and stir gently until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and boil rapidly until setting point is reached – about 105 degrees C, when the mixture will run off a wooden spoon in flakes and hang from it in triangular gloops.

Remove any scum then pot and cover.

Scones

225g/8 oz plain or all-purpose flour
15ml/ 1 rounded tablespoon baking powder
2.5 ml/ 1/2 teaspoon salt
55g/2 oz chilled butter
150ml/ 1/4 pint milk

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C/425 degrees F and set a shelf in the upper third.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. Cut the butter into small pieces and rub gently into the flour mixture. Work as quickly and as lightly as possible and stop as soon as the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.

Make a well in the mixture and pour in the milk. Use a palette knife to stir the mixture into a soft dough. Do not over-stir.

Turn the dough onto a floured surface. Knead very lightly and quickly until it is smooth, then pat into a flat shape no less than 1 inch thick. Use a fluted cutter to stamp rounds. Make sure that you don’t twist the dough as you lift the scones. This recipe makes about 6 or 7 scones.

Place on a floured baking tray and sprinkle the tops with a little extra flour. Bake at the top of the hot oven for about 7 minutes. The scones should be well-risen and brown (but don’t be tempted to open the oven door too soon to check their progress).

Leave to cool or eat hot from the oven with cream and jam.