As befits my name, I absolutely adore apples, and Bramleys are a particular favourite. Nothing else can beat a Bramley for cooking, and don't take any notice of those recipes which specify Golden Delicious, or vaguely suggest 'green apples' for cooking. They only betray their ignorance. So here are three recipes for you; why not go out and buy some Bramleys and help an English fruit farmer - they are a struggling, diminishing breed. And you can taste for yourself the wonder that is a Bramley apple.
The Bramley is a peculiarly English variety of apple, and the only possible choice for the most spectacular English apple pie. Ordinary shortcrust pastry is really not difficult to make - just rub room-temperature soft unsalted butter into plain flour plus a pinch of salt, until it has the texture of fine breadcrumbs. The ratio is 2 parts flour to 1 part butter. Then add cold water a little bit at a time to make a dough - not too wet, not too dry, and roll out flat to the shape of your dish (plus a little extra for trimming) on a lightly floured surface.
I don't bother with resting pastry in the fridge because I am usually in a hurry, and if you are new to pastry don't roll it out too thin because it makes the pastry difficult to handle. And if you are worried about quantities of water, at school I was taught that 4oz flour and 2oz butter needed 1tbs and 1 tsp of water. And twice those quantities make enough pastry for a family-sized pie dish about 25cm across, with a bit left over to make jam tarts (re-roll and cut out little circles with pastry cutters, put in a patty tin with a teaspoon of jam in each, and bake for 10-15 mins in a medium oven). Before you bake your pie, brush the pastry with milk and sprinkle with caster sugar. Bake in a medium oven for 20-30 mins until the pastry is golden, and the apple is just bubbling at the edge.
The nicest pies have a based of lightly stewed Bramley apples. And this is what I was doing yesterday - trying to fill my freezer with stewed Bramley apple to last through until next summer - for my greedy, Bramley-adoring children I should really freeze fifty bags of stewed apple, but at this time of year I can never keep up, and we always run out sometime in the spring! To freeze Bramleys, peel, quarter, remove the core and cut the quarters into quarters (or sixths if it is a very big apple). As you chop them put them straight into a lidded saucepan (to minimize oxidation which turns them brown, but makes no difference to the taste). When the saucepan is nearly full, add a slosh of water to prevent the apples from sticking, and golden granulated sugar to taste. I have a sweet tooth, so I put in a lot - at least a cupful. Stew very gently for quarter of an hour or so, until the biggest pieces beginning to soften. The apple will cook more in a pie or crumble, so you don't have to cook it down to a pulp: this is what makes Bramleys special - they will keep their shape when cooked. Cool and put into bags or tubs to freeze.
Apple crumble is even easier than apple pie - again the ratio is 2 parts flour (wholemeal is nicest) to 1 parts soft unsalted butter. Rub the butter into the flour, add 1 parts light muscovado or demerara sugar, mix together and spread over stewed Bramley apples. Bake for about half an hour in a medium oven until the apple is bubbling slightly at the edges, but before the top gets burnt! Once you are braver about not weighing the ingredients, which I never do now for crumble, you can add in porridge oats and/or medium oatmeal to the flour. Oatmeal for some reason needs much less butter than flour, so if you want to cut down the fat content, just measure enough oatmeal to cover the dish to the thickness required, and rub in butter a little at a time until you have a crumbly texture. You could cut down the sugar, too (if you can bear to, which I can't!).
Instead of a good old English pudding, the last recipe is for Bramley apple muffins, American-style, I suppose. These are most delicious warm, and can be breakfast, pudding or tea, or anything in between.
You need 2 large Bramley apples, 6oz/170g self-raising wholemeal flour, 4oz/110g fine oatmeal, 2 tsp baking powder, 3oz/75g golden granulated sugar, 3oz/75g melted unsalted butter, 2 eggs (beaten), 7floz/200ml milk. Mix together the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Peel, core and chop the apples and mix into the dry ingredients. Mix together the wet ingredients (milk, beaten eggs and melted butter) in a small bowl. Tip the wet into the dry ingredients and mix roughly together. Spoon into 12 muffin cases in a muffin pan. Bake for 15-20 mins at 200C.
If you want these for breakfast, and I promise you that if you do bake apple muffins for breakfast, then your domestic ratings will zoom sky-high, mix together the dry ingredients in a bowl before you go to bed, cover and leave ready for morning; also put the cases in the muffin pan. Measure out the milk into a jug in the fridge. Leave the eggs out ready next to the small bowl, and the butter measured out into a pan for melting. Also leave the apples out with a knife and chopping board ready. When you get up, before you do anything, finish off the preparation (it'll only take 10 mins) and put the muffins in the oven. Go and have a shower while the muffins are baking. And hey presto - muffins for breakfast with very little effort, but maximum effect!
A few thank yous are due today - thank you to Jennyflower for organizing a lovely bloggy picnic. It was great to meet Sequin Girlie and see her beautiful work with textiles and camera, and also to watch the Nifty Knitter creating one of her wonderful meerkats before our very eyes. Nifty indeed!
Thank you also to Suzie at Itch2stitch for her sweet fairy award - one of her own creations.
Now go and get baking! And tell me how you get on.