Our farm photographer (farmtographer?) Simone has kindly shared her families festive apple loaf recipe with me. This is a delicious German cake, full of fruit, nuts and spices. It’s just the thing, thickly sliced and spread with butter on a chilly afternoon with a big mug of tea. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. It tastes very Christmassy and I’ll definitely be making it again. If you have lots of apples to use up, then this recipe will certainly help! And the recipe just happens to be egg, dairy and fat free (that is, until you spread your slice with butter of course!)
500g peeled and grated apple
6 dried apricots, chopped
70g almonds, chopped
1 heaped tsp cocoa powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
a pinch of salt
40ml rum (or fruit juice)
250g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
Mix the apple and sugar in a large mixing bowl and allow it to sit in the fridge overnight or for an hour or so at room temperature.
Pre-heat the oven to 175C. Line a loaf tin with baking parchment.
Add the rest of the ingredients to the apple and sugar mixture (which should now be very wet) and mix to evenly combine the ingredients into a thick, spoonable batter.
Spread the batter into the lined loaf tin and bake the cake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or so until it is risen and set. It should still be moist but when you insert a skewer it should come out mostly dry with a few damp crumbs.
Allow the cake to cool in the tin then remove and slice it thickly. This cake stays fresh for a week in the fridge if tightly wrapped.
How is it the Easter holidays already? The kids have only just been back at school for a few moments! Well here we are and what is Easter without toasted sticky, spiced, fruity buns slathered in lots of butter? Here’s my plant based recipe. Sure it takes a while to make, but most of that time is just waiting for the dough to rise. These will keep you and the kids busy for a least one day over the Easter holidays anyway. Liz x
Ingredients (makes 12 buns)
2 tsp mixed spice
2 tsp cinnamon
300ml milk (I use oat milk)
50g butter (I use a dairy free butter)
500g strong white bread flour (plus about 60g extra for making the paste for the crosses)
70g caster sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp brown sugar mixed into a syrup with a little water (or maple syrup) for glazing
Measure out the sultanas and spices into a small bowl. Add the zest and juice of the orange. If your orange is very large, just use half the juice. Mix well and allow the sultanas to soak up the orange juice and spices.
Measure the milk and butter into a small pan and gently heat it to melt the butter. Allow it to cool to a touchable temperature while you measure out the flour, sugar, salt and yeast into a large mixing bowl. Mix the dry ingredients well then pour in the warm milk and butter and mix with your hand into a rough, sticky dough.
Tip the dough onto a clean work surface then knead well for about 5 minutes until you have a smooth, stretchy ball of dough. Don’t be tempted to add more flour, just keep kneading until it all comes together. Then pop the dough back in the mixing bowl, cover it with a clean tea towel and allow it to rise and double in size. This should take about an hour in a warm place.
When the dough has doubled in size, stretch it out onto a clean work surface and spread over all of the juicy, spicy sultana mixture. Then roll it up and give the dough an extra knead to incorporate the ingredients. Put the dough back in the bowl to rise again for another hour or so in a warm spot.
Once the dough has doubled in size again, take it out and divide it in 12 equal pieces. Roll the pieces into neat balls and put them on a lined baking sheets. I space mine out onto two sheets because my oven doesn’t bake evenly so I like to give them room for the hot air to circulate. If your oven is good you can place them together on one large baking sheet, just leave a couple of cm between each one to allow them space to rise. Cover them with the tea towel and allow them to rise for about 45 minutes.
Once the buns have risen, mix about 60g of flour with just enough water to make a paste (aim for the texture of toothpaste). Then spoon the paste into a piping bag and pipe crosses over the buns. You could do other designs too if you like? Signs of spring like eggs, flowers, bunnies or lambs… Then put the buns into a preheated oven at 200C (fan) for 15 to 20 minutes until the buns are golden brown.
*If the buns are looking a bit dry, spray them with a little water just before they go in the oven. Most of the rise will happen in the oven now so you don’t want them to form a crust before having a chance to rise and get fluffy inside.
When the buns are cooked, removed them from the oven and brush them with syrup while they are still hot. I simply mix a couple of tbsps of brown sugar with enough boiling water to make a syrup. You could use maple syrup or warmed, sieved apricot jam instead. Then allow them to cool before eating. They are fantastic still warm and fresh from the oven or if you are eating them the next day they are great toasted. Happy Easter!
Mince pies are one of those divisive, love them or hate them foods. Which side are you on? I absolutely love them, but to be completely honest, I do find shop bought filling a little too sickly sweet. Dried fruit is already super-sweet, so I think it’s much nicer to make your own filling using the filling recipe from my ‘Raw Mince Pies’ recipe in my book which simply soaks the chopped, dried fruit in orange juice and spices, no added sugar is needed at all. It’s not as big of a faff as you might think. The only slightly tedious part is chopping up the dried fruit. I’ve switched the raw almond pastry in this recipe for a vegan shortcrust pastry which is very simple to make too.
I think there’s nothing more delicious than a slightly wonky, homemade mince pie and big mug of spiced chai tea for a Wintery mid-morning pick me up, or with a warm glass of mulled wine in the evening!
Did you make this recipe? Let us know how it went in the comments, tag us in pictures on Instagram or pop them on our lovely facebook group (we LOVE to see our recipes leave the screen), and please don’t forget to share it with your friends and family. Liz x
Shortcrust Pastry Ingredients (makes about 16 mince pies)
Shortcrust pastry is very easy to make if you have a food processor with a blade attachment. (And by the way this recipe makes a brilliant pumpkin pie, apple pie or cherry pie crust too!) Just blend up the flour, butter, salt and sugar until it resembles wet beach sand. Then add a couple of tablespoons of very cold water and briefly blend again and it will magically form into a neat ball of dough!
If you don’t have a food processor you can just use your hands. Use the tips of your fingers to work the butter into the flour, salt and sugar until it reaches wet sand consistency, then add the water and gently bring it together into a ball of dough. The trick to a really short, melt in the mouth shortcrust pastry is not overworking the dough and getting it too warm. Then wrap it in a slightly damp tea towel and let it rest in the fridge while you make the filling.
350g chopped mixed dried fruit (I especially like dried figs, also apricots, cranberries, raisins…)
Chop up a mixture of dried fruit of your choice and put them in a mixing bowl.
Add the spices and the zest of the oranges and stir well to coat all the dried fruit in the lovely, Christmassy flavours.
Then squeeze the oranges and add all the juice (if they are very large oranges just add the juice of two to start off with and see how you go). Stir well, then squish the mixture down and cover it and allow the fruit to soak up all the orange juice and spices.
Assemble & Bake
Pre-heat your oven to 175C.
Roll out 2/3rds of the chilled pastry on a clean work surface dusted with flour. I like to roll my pastry to around 4mm thick.
Use a large round cookie cutter (or a mug or glass) to cut out 12 rounds. They should be about a cm or two wider the the muffin pan you will bake them in.
Then ease the circles into the muffin pan and gently press them into place. Fill each pastry case with a tbsp or so or of the filling.
Roll out the remaining 3rd of the pastry and use a star shaped cookie cutter to cut out 12 star lids for your pies. Or you could cut 12 smaller circles if you like and completely close up your pies.
Pop the lids on the pies ( you will probably have enough pastry and filling left over for a few more pies) – if you are using round lids, poke a little hole in the top of each pie. If you want to add a little sweet crunch to the lids, sprinkle over a tiny bit of caster sugar before baking.
Bake the mince pies in the oven until the pastry is just starting to take on some colour. Around 15 minutes or so – keep an eye on them.
Then allow the pies to cool and set a little in the muffin tin before carefully taking them out to completely cool on a plate.
Dust them with snowy icing sugar or leave them plain. Once they are completely cold you can store them in an airtight container and they should stay fresh for about 4 days.