I am a die hard Great British Bake Off fan. The truth of the matter is that I have some creepy connection with this cooking show that I just don't have with any other. Weird? Yes. Does that bother me? No. I think it has to do with the fact that the whole show is just so, me! From the bunting, to the polka dot ramekins, colorful KitchenAid mixers, and mountains upon mountains of cakes, tarts and breads. I absolutely adore it all and every year I find myself counting down the days/hours/minutes/seconds until the new series starts. For a total of 16 weeks each year, Tuesday's become my Friday. My happy day. My time of solitude and baking glory. Like that Christmas morning that I unwrapped my very first Easy Bake Oven all over again. Pure bliss (to see it yourself, scroll to the 'P.S.' where I've provided the link to the online episodes).
On Tuesday's from August until December, I impatiently wait for the hour hand on the clock to lazily tick over the 8 as I know that's when the goodness starts. The legendary bakers Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood (along with my fav presenters Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc) are always punctual for our foodie rendezvous and never ever judge me for snuggling on the couch with a piping hot cup of tea in baggy blue striped PJ's. True friends. For an hour I sit with my eyes glued to the television, savoring the fact that BBC has no commercials, and salivating like a puppy dog begging for a bone. In my mind dances an imaginary pen making critical baking notes I mustn't forget, plans for my next food adventure unfold as I mentally raid my cupboards, and a tiny twinge of sadness sets in as the baker in me desperately wishes that I too, could some day be a contestant on this show. My favorite show. And I know deep down in my heart that if Carl and I weren't moving back to America, I'd apply. I'd dream big while crossing my fingers and toes. I'd practice kneading bread until the wee hours of the morning, I'd pipe buttercream until the cramps in my hands were sharp like knives, and I'd quite happily spend hours with my nose pressed tightly to the glass window of the oven door. I'd be in my element - the kitchen; the only other place in the world where I feel as comfortable as I do inside a classroom. And if I were ever blessed enough to be one of the chosen bakers, I'd cry big fat crocodile tears, fill every single one of my dishes with love and compassion, and savor every single minute of the time I got to live a dream. My dream.
But we are going, and so my dream of being a contestant on The Great British Bake Off remains just that, a dream. And that's okay - because in some silly way that dream is satisfied every single time I leaf through any one of my million cook books, tie my pink polka dot apron around my waist and whip up a sweet and decadent morsel for my friends and family to enjoy. I'm the winner of my own Great British Bake Off and I share the winning prize with the ones I love most every time I cut them a slice of a salted caramel chocolate fudge cake, or key lime pie, or (as in last nights case) a Spiced Apple Croustade.
I'm a bit of a dork in that my idea of meeting someone 'famous and totally awesome' doesn't include shaking hands with Rihanna, or David Beckham or stupid ass Justin Bieber. Of course I'd be a bit nervous (except for if it were Justin Bieber, then I'd just be revolted) because the truth of the matter is that no one wants to burp, or trip, or fart in the presence of someone who has an army of paparazzi forever at their footsteps. But given the choice between meeting any A-list actors/artists or some of my cooking idols - I'd chose the chefs ANY day. If I ever got the opportunity to sit in the same room as the one and only Mary Berry or Paul Hollywood I'd be like some clone of Mary Katherine Gallagher from Superstar and ramble something along the lines of "Sometimes, when I get nervous, I stick my hands under my armpits and I...smell them like this." Bit graphic? I know, but am I painting this picture vividly, guys? Are you grasping the full scale of my Great British Bake Off obsession and the monumental chefs associated with it? Ok, good. So, then it should come to no surprise that yesterday I screamed like a little school girl who'd just been gifted a Lisa Frank Stationary Kit when Mama Lynne came up to me and said 'I got you a present today!' and handed me this...
GAAAAHHH!!!!! It's the newest Great British Bake Off cookbook (click here for the Amazon link) with all of the Technical Challenge and Signature Bake recipes by MARY BERRY and PAUL HOLLYWOOD! I nearly DIED with excitement! A couple of Christmas's ago Carl got me another one of Mary Berry's cook books (which is amazing) but I hadn't yet bought any of the official Great British Bake Off cookbooks (you know, I'm trying to cut down and behave myself. Mostly because cookbooks weigh more than a toddler and heavy bags+8 hour Atlantic flights=$$$). Anyway, I'm forever sitting watching the show saying "Holy shit! I HAVE to make that!" and end up composing a list 30 deep of fantastic recipes I'm dying to make. But in the end I just never get around to finding them all online and then I sulk like a spanked child. Well, not anymore folks. NOT ANYMORE!
Yesterday Mama Lynne and I spent a good 20 minutes thumbing through the book occasionally screaming "OOOH! Remember that one!" until (after much deliberation) we settled on one that tickled our fancy. With Fall creeping closer and closer (yay!) I've been craving anything pumpkin, spiced or apple, and when I spotted the recipe for the above mentioned Spiced Apple Croustade I nearly peed my pants with excitement. It was something I'd never made, it looked DELICIOUS and (after entering all of the recipe onto Weight Watchers recipe builder) we discovered that it was 8 ProPoints per serving - totally diet doable. With the decision made I quickly got to work and the mad frenzy of apple peeling and filo pastry stacking began. And after an hour this little bowl of utter deliciousness appeared at the end of a rainbow.
In all honesty I found the recipe to be very simple and straightforward, it's definitely not one that requires you're a master baker. So please, none of you need shy away as you mutter 'I'm not good in the kitchen. I burn boiling water." (which, by the way, is totally impossible). The aroma of sweet caramelized apples, cinnamon and fresh vanilla bean (I tweaked the recipe a bit in that I added an entire vanilla pods worth of beans to our apples) wafted around the house and immediately I was reminded of the smell of Mom's homemade pies on Thanksgiving day. I drooled the entire 30 minutes it was in the oven and continued to until that very first spoonful of crisp, sweet, butteriness touched my tongue. And when it did, I'm damn sure violins played and a choir of angels sang. It was absolutely DELICIOUS, hands down one of the best apple desserts I've ever eaten, and the dessert I'll be making this Thanksgiving for all of my friends and family back in Vermont. My mother-in-law summed it up perfectly as she scraped her bowl clean, licked her lips said 'that was absolutely gorgeous. You never want it to end.' It was a little bowl of Fall Heaven, and I'd be greedy if I didn't share the recipe with all of you now. May you create this yumminess to indulge in with your family too.
Spiced Apple Croustade
360g Filo Pastry (8 sheets of 25.5 x 48cm or 10 x 18inch) thawed if frozen.
100 g salted butter, melted
Icing sugar for dusting
For the Filling
4 extra large Bramley Apples (or any other tart apple you can find)
50g unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 vanilla pod, seeded (this is my own addition which really made the dessert lovely, but you don't have to add if you don't want)
2 tablespoons of honey
100 grams of damerara sugar (or light brown sugar)
- Peel, core and thickly slice the apples. Melt the butter in a large heavy pan, add the apples and cook gently, shaking the pan from time to time (rather than stirring), until tender. Add the cinnamon, honey, vanilla bean, and half the demerara sugar, and gently stir in - try to keep a few larger pieces of apple. Turn up the heat and cook, stirring as little as possible, until the mixture is soft, thick and starting to caramelize. Remove the pan from the heat and leave to cool.
- When ready to assemble the pie, preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/gas 5. Unwrap filo, but keep it covered with clingfilm to prevent it from drying out.
- You will need 6 sheets of filo for the base: brush the tin of your pan with melted butter. Brush one sheet with butter, then arrange in the tin so it covers the base and drapes over one side. Sprinkle with a little of the remaining demerara sugar. Brush another sheet with butter and arrange at a right angle to the first sheet. Sprinkle with demerara sugar. Continue in this way with 4 more sheets until there is a base of Filo and plenty overhanging the sides. When you have finished you should have a base consisting of 6 pastry layers and the sides of the tin should be completely covered with overhanging pastry.
- Spoon the cooled apple filling into the pastry case. Fold over the overhanging flaps of pastry, brushing them with the butter (and sprinkling with any remaining sugar) as you go, to cover all of the filling. Trim off any thick, unsightly or dry edges with kitchen scissors. Brush the remaining 2 sheets of pastry with butter, the tear into strips. Crumple up each piece, rather like a chiffon scarf, and carefully arrange on top in a big pile to look like a frilly hat. Sprinkle and dab with any remaining butter, then set the tin on a baking sheet. Bake for 25-30 minutes until a good golden brown color and crisp.
- Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 10 minutes, then carefully remove from the tin. Dust the croustade with icing sugar before serving. Goes well with whipped cream of vanilla ice cream.
- This is best eaten the same day. Enjoy your hard work!
Eat good food and be happy.
Happy Friday, love bugs!
P.S. The Spiced Apple Croustade hasn't yet made it's appearance on this years show, so make sure to keep your eyes peeled for when it does! (I'm sure I'll rant and rave about it on here again, and when I do I'll provide the link to the episode) but in the meantime click HERE to watch the previous ones from this series! :)