At the end of last year I waxed lyrically in Truly Scrumptious about the joy of dehydrated fruits and fruit leathers. I wrote how tempted I was to buy myself a food dehydrator to make the very best of such delicious morsels, and this I did (an impulsive and extravagant buy). The plan was to spend my summer practising and then let you know how it may be done. Well, motivated by a glut of currants, strawberries, gooseberries, blueberries and rhubarb, I have done so. Fruit leathers do not sound attractive, bit like jerky which I wouldn’t touch, but imagine a sheet of jewel coloured fruit, translucent, shiny and made from pureed fruit, thick and smooth, sometimes with the juice of a lemon or lime, usually uncooked and unsweetened (unless with honey) and then spread on to silicone sheets to dry. They should be flexible and strong so you can cut them, roll them or fold them to take to school, or on long journeys or walks. ‘Pam the Jam’ (River Cottages’ jam expert Pam Corbin) suggests snipping off pieces to dissolve gently into fruit salads, or even hang them on the Christmas tree (a bizarre suggestion as surely they would dissolve into a sticky blobby bauble as they rehydrate, I’m not recommending it)!
With self-interest and that of course of those Truly Scrumptious followers, I have tried lots of different mixtures, gooseberry and blackcurrant, strawberry and rhubarb, currant mixes and pure 100% blitzed home-grown raspberries. Some were quite successful, others not so – the raspberry leather was like eating course sandpaper as I didn’t sieve out the pips, but the strawberry with a little rhubarb for sharpness was delicious. My favourite remains the blackcurrant leather. I managed to over-dry one batch and they were rather crispy, shattering all over the worktop and floor – I still find little sticky slivers of it stuck to the kitchen cupboards. I plan this week to make a blackberry and apple leather, following ‘Pam the Jam’s’ recipe where she cooks the apple and uses honey as a sweetener. It looks wonderful in her book Preserves (River Cottage Handbook No. 2 – available at Ludwell Stores); and with blackberries at their best now and apples dripping from the trees, it should be perfect.
My sister (photographer extraordinaire) sent me an artistic photo of one of my leathers, fascinated by its colours and texture. That gave me a fleeting boost, before she tasted one and declared through a screwed up face “it’s rather sour”. Family can be so cruel.
As we go into autumn, I like the thought of inspiring readers to indulge in the autumn apple bounty and make a delicious Apple Frangipane Tart. The tart can be topped with raspberries, pears, apricots, blueberries – anything really – however the second recipe I am giving you this month, goes especially well with apples. Salted Caramel Sauce is wonderful served with almost anything. I gave jars of this wonderful sauce to friends at Christmas last year. They tell me it’s excellent, especially spooned over vanilla ice-cream, pancakes or just on its own by the tablespoon, stolen from the fridge whilst no-one else is around. It could last about a month in the fridge if you don’t tell anyone it’s there.
Anyone who has spent the summer eating fruit leathers and has a superior opinion of their natural diet deserve now to indulge in this sugar-laden tart with accompanying sauce. Now to the sauce, which can be rustled up in a matter of moments, please take care with the sea salt. Start with half a teaspoon and add more to the finished sauce as needed, bearing in mind that the colder this is served, the more the flavours will be muted and therefore need bolstering…. We’ve had a great summer – here’s to a great autumn.
Apple and Frangipane Tart with Salted Caramel Sauce
Approx. £6.50 for the tart and approx. £3.50 for the sauce when all ingredients bought at Ludwell Stores.
For the Apple and Frangipane Tart
200g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
200g soft butter, plus extra for greasing
100g caster sugar, plus 1 tbs
2 large eggs
100g ground almonds
1 tbs finely chopped lemon zest
4 eating apples
1 tbs jam (apricot is best but not essential – could use redcurrant jelly equally well)
For the Salted Caramel Sauce
75g unsalted butter
50g soft light brown sugar
50g caster sugar
50g golden syrup
125 ml double cream
1 tsp sea salt (the very best you can find)
Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4 (AGA roasting oven, middle shelf with cooling shelf above)
Save yourself time & mess, buy ready-made shortcrust pastry and skip to No. 4
1. For the purists – Sift the flour into a bowl, dicing 100g of butter into it. Add the salt and rub together until it resembles breadcrumbs.
2. Stir in 1–3 tbs cold water until the dough seems to want to cling together.
3. Knead lightly to make a ball, dusting with flour if wet. Wrap and chill for 30 minutes.
4. Generously butter a 24 cm flan tin with a loose base and dust with flour.
5. Roll out the pastry and line the tin, trimming the edges.
6. Line the case with foil, fill with baking beans and bake blind for 10 minutes.
7. Remove foil and beans and bake again for 5 minutes until golden.
8. Meanwhile, beat 100g butter and 100g sugar together until light and fluffy.
9. Beat in one egg at a time, then fold in the ground almonds and lemon zest, then tip the mix into the cooled pastry case.
10. Halve and peel the apples, carefully cutting out the cores. Placing the flat side down on your board, slice thinly across the width – making a sort of fan.
11. Place the apples artistically in the tart, spreading out the slices slightly and brush over the remaining butter, melted. Don’t worry about this, just get the apples in the mix.
12. Bake for 40–45 minutes until the frangipane is puffy and golden and apples just cooked. On removal from the oven, brush with warm apricot jam. Make the Caramel Sauce
13. Melt butter, sugars and syrup in small heavy-based pan – simmer for 3 minutes swirling occasionally.
14. Add cream and ½ tsp sea salt and swirl again. Stir with wooden spoon and with caution…. taste for saltiness, bearing in mind that salt dissolves the hotter the sauce.
15. Serve (or jar as you would jam in sterilized jars) Spoon over whatever you fancy…..it’s that simple
A truly, truly scrumptious duo of recipes for any occasion, season or private binge!
These musings and recipes are gleaned from The Donhead Digest with the permission of AIF, their author.