I love pastry.  Making it even more than eating it, if that is believable!  It is one of my earliest memories making sweet short crust for apple or black currant pies and later, plain short crust for minced meat and onion pies.  All made on vintage pie plates I really do miss.  The feel of cool flour with its buttery rubble as you bring the dough together is a cathartic experience for me and I feel rather at home with it.  I’ve got my eye on Richard Bertinet’s Pastry as I feel having learnt from the Bero book and had a real tendency to fiddle, 2015 will be the year I go back to basics and revisit pastry purism as I’d like to polish up my skills.  Meanwhile, I’m still playing the lotto with the hope me and Hungry Hubby can open our own cafe and live happy ever after… Ah, what a lovely day dream.

This recipe was created as I was pottering about the kitchen making my squash, celeriac and caramelised onion lasagne from my last post. A bowl full of apples just about to shrivel which wouldn’t have been pleasant to eat in the raw were giving me evils, demanding to be baked into something Hungry Hubby would love – yes that’s right, we’re back in apple pie territory. I whipped up a simple sweet short crust dough (basically half fat to flour with a couple of spoonfuls of sugar in to convince you it is sweet and add with browning of the baked pastry) and prepared my apples. The last of the Christmas clementines were also feeling unloved and so in went the zest and juice of three of them. A whisper of cinnamon acted as seasoning more than an obvious flavour bomb. My jar of oats was almost empty and the muscavado sugar conveniently had exactly the right amount left in it’s packet to create a caramel sauce around the apples, bolstered with the addition of tart and tangy Bramley cooking ones as well as the red eating variety, Gala. The latter was unpeeled as I love those red tiger stripes but Bramley skin is tough and not pleasant to eat so off that came. Like a pecan pie, a couple of eggs were added to set all the juices from the fruits and caramel rather than leaving it runny and risk the dreaded soggy bottom.

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With such a wet mix, a blind bake is mandatory. The aim of the game is to cook the pastry without any colour and to especially ensure the base has not one iota of rawness to it. Now Mary Berry would not approve but I rather do like a short crust which is 5-6 mm thick when cooked, rather than wafer thin and crisp as a cracker. As (alas) Mary isn’t likely to be popping around to the Apple Chapel any time soon for pud, I left mine on the thicker side. You need to get to know your oven – I managed to get away with not needing to cover the sides of the pastry case with foil as it cooked but if yours has hot spots or runs hot (then get an oven thermometer!) then you may wish to to ensure it doesn’t over bake. You’ll think the filling is far too much for your pie dish but have faith – the apples are cooked a little before baking so slump in the pan and this is a deep filled pie. Or is it a tart? I suspect so as it does not have a pastry lid – there’s yet another justification for buying that pastry book I mentioned, mwuahahaha! I’m sure the answer will be in it 😉
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The clementines are a prominent flavour here followed by the oats. There is something I can’t put my finger on with oats, something so… scented, sweet yet organic and wholesome that I can’t get enough of. I may take a sniff of my oats jar when I pass it, as often as I’ll inhale my vanilla stash! They give their unique flavour and also help to absorb some of the juices as the tart bakes. They toast a little on top which is always a joyous thing. Served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, you can’t lose. Hubby Hubby was very pleased with this one and I feel it is exactly the sort of thing you want to come home to on on a clear but cold January afternoon.

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Clementine Apple Tart
Serves 8
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For the pastry
  1. 200g plain flour
  2. 100g firm butter
  3. 2 tbsp caster sugar
  4. Ice water
For the filling
  1. Zest and juice of three clementines
  2. 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  3. 1 sweet eating apple, cored and sliced 2-3mm thick
  4. 2 very large Bramley apples, peeled, cored and sliced 2-3mm thick
  5. 75g butter
  6. 100g light brown muscavado sugar
  7. 2 medium eggs
  8. 50g rolled oats (not instant/quick cook)
Instructions
  1. Make the pastry by pulsing the flour, sugar and butter in a food processor until resembles porridge oats texture then slowly, slowly dribble in just enough cold water to bind. Around 2 tbsp should do it but all flours absorb different amounts of liquid.
  2. Continue to pulse, pulse, pulse until the dough comes together in a ball – it takes about 60 seconds but it really works. Wrap in cling, pat out to a fat disk and chill for upto 3 days before moving to the next stage. You can of course do this by hand the traditional way by rubbing the fat into the flour then stirring in the sugar dribbling in the water as above.
  3. Roll out to about 3mm thick between two sheets of cling film. Remove one piece of cling and transfer to a 10 inch (26cm) deep pie dish. It won’t tear if you leave the backing of the cling on until you’ve gently pressed it into place. Trim away the excess pastry but be generous in what you leave behind – pastry which has water in tends to shrink a little on baking. Crimp the edges if liked. Chill until needed – at least one hour. You can roll the scraps out again and use to cut out shapes to decorate the pie with – I like using my dinky apple shaped cutter but autumnal leaves would also look beautiful.
  4. Blind bake the pastry. Preheat the oven to 180°C and remove the pastry from the fridge and the cling from the pastry. Lightly oil or butter a piece of foil and place this side down onto the raw pastry case then pour in dried pulses, beans or rice to weigh it down (I don’t like the ceramic baking beans as they are too heavy).
  5. Bake for 25 minutes then remove from the oven and remove the foil and pulses. Return to the oven and bake for another 5-6 minutes until any rawness in the pastry case has gone and it feels dry to the touch. It should not be browned but it should be cooked. Cover the edges with foil if they do threaten to brown too fast.
  6. Make the filling. Place the zest and juice of the clementines in a very large bowl with the cinnamon. As you prepare the apples drop them in and stir well as you go to prevent then oxidising and turning brown.
  7. Melt the butter in a large pan over medium-high heat and when foaming, tip in all the apples and juices which have collected. Turn well in the butter and cook until starting to soften a little. Add in the sugar and turn the heat down a little. Cook for another 10 minutes until the apples have softened and are starting to go a little translucent around the edges and the buttery, sugary juices are bubbling up and thickening slightly. There will be a lot of juice – don’t panic! Take off the heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
  8. In the bowl you had prepared the apples, whisk the two eggs together. Dip a pastry brush in to coat it well and leave to stand in a ramekin until needed – you will glaze the pastry shapes you cut out with this in just a minute.
  9. When cooled, tip the apples and all that juice into the bowl with the whisked eggs and add in the oats. Mix very well then fill your blind baked pastry case with the apples – they will have cooked down and will slump further on baking so pile them high. Pour in any juice remain so long as it doesn’t cause an overflow situation – I can get it all in my tart. Wipe away any spillages over the edge of the pastry case so you don’t end up with the pie welded to the dish!
  10. Smooth the top then place on the pastry shapes you have cut out and brush lightly with the reserved egg wash.
  11. Pop back in the oven at 180°C and bake for 30-40 minutes until the filling is set and the pastry shapes have turned nice and brown. Try and be patient and wait at least 15 minutes before digging in to allow the filling to set up. Serve with generous scoops of vanilla ice cream!
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