Sunday, 8 December 2019

Apple Jelly

Have you ever made anything so delicious with just two ingredients?   For my holiday let (Sappington Granary, listed on Airbnb as "Charming Romantic Hideaway just outside Canterbury", just in case you were wondering), I do a range of home made breakfasts, which always includes my own home-pressed apple juice.   Having some wonderful friends who grow apples commercially, I am allowed to wander among the orchard after the pickers have been through to collect all the apples my car boot can hold.   A lot of pressing and hard work later and... ta dah!!!!   Beautiful apple juice.  You must try it, although be prepared for a lot of work resulting in not a lot of juice.

This year, in the quest for a Stour Festival pudding I hadn't tried, I thought I'd use my beautiful juice to make a jelly.   Result?   A very, very delicately apple flavoured jelly, which was enthusiastically hoovered up by the singers, musicians and helpers (particularly the latter - singers prefer heartier food).    You must try it, if you try nothing else.   Commercial apple juice will work just as well.

Apple Jelly

Apple Jelly
6 gelatine leaves (enough to lightly set 1.5 pints liquid)
1.5 pints/775ml strong apple juice

Heat 4 fl oz/100ml of apple juice until it is steaming.   Soak the gelatine sheets in cold water until they are flexible, then squeeze off the water before dropping the soggy leaves into the hot apple juice and stirring to dissolve the leaves entirely.   

Pour this mixture into a jug and add the rest of the juice.  Stir well to combine it all – you don’t want a layered effect with a thicker jelly at the bottom.   Pour the jelly into a pretty bowl and leave it to set in the fridge for at least four hours.  Decorate just before serving with flowers. 

This has quite a delicate flavour, so if you wanted to add sharpness, you could try adding the strained juice of half a lemon.  

Cinnamon shortbread stars

Isn't cinnamon the most wonderfully versatile spice?   It appears in so many guises, but mostly at Christmas, when its subtle warmth and evocative smell brings cheer to the dark and dismal days of rain-washed England in December.  And we've certainly been rain-washed this year! 

My local church has a Christmas Tree Festival, and there are always baked goodies for sale on the Open Day.   These little cinnamon stars were one of my contributions, and where I had the ultimate accolade from young Joseph (perfectly name for a Christmas visitor) who liked them so much, he not only wanted to take the rest home, but also have the recipe.    So, Joseph, here you are, with very best wishes for a happy Christmas. 

Cinnamon Shortbread Stars

Cinnamon Shortbread Stars

5oz/150g plain flour (works very well with just rice flour)
3 level tbsps rice flour – if no rice flour, just use more plain flour
2oz/50g caster sugar
4oz/100g butter at just above room temperature
½ tsp of mixed spice and cinnamon

1tsp cinnamon
1tsp icing sugar mixed together 
gold powder

Preheat oven to 170deg C/325 deg F.    Grease a large baking sheet.   Mix together the flours, spices and the sugar.    Add the butter and work it into the dry ingredients.   It will form a dryish dough, which you knead a little before rolling (this stretches the gluten and makes the biscuit stick together better).  

Roll out the dough between two pieces of greaseproof parchment, about .5cm thick.   Cut stars, about 2-3”, 50-75mm, and transfer using a fish slice to the baking sheet.  When you gather up the leftovers and roll them out again, try not to over-knead it, as the final result isn’t as good (what Mary Berry would described as “overworked” – you know the feeling!)

Bake until firm and golden – the butter in the mixture will brown while your back is turned, so check it frequently after 10 minutes or so.      When they are done, dredge them with the cinnamon/sugar mixture, using a small sieve, then add a little gold powder for festive sparkle.  

This quantity of ingredients made about 24 or so biscuits.  Joseph suggests putting a hole in each one before baking, so you could hang them on the Christmas tree.