Baked Bramley Apples and Custard

A curious thing happened at our dining table yesterday evening…

We had eaten and we were all feeling pretty full by the time I pulled these baked apples out of the oven. We very rarely have any kind of dessert, none of us has a particularly sweet tooth; I only cooked this because it looked interesting and, for a dessert, it’s low-calorie (around 270 kCal per serving).

I didn’t much fancy it, thinking I would have a couple of bites to test it. Another at the table was extremely dubious about the entire concept, and the third flat-out refused to eat it as he hates mushy things.

Anyway, there we were, chatting away, politely nibbling away from our bowls. Some little time later I realised that my bowl was empty. It wasn’t only mine, so were the other two. That tells you all you need to know about this incredibly simple, incredibly moreish winter dessert.

The original recipe is by Tom Kerridge. Sir, I salute you.


RECIPE serves 4 

75g sachet of low-fat instant custard

400ml skimmed milk

4 medium Bramley apples

40g amaretti biscuits, crushed

the zest of an orange

30g raisins

1 tsp ground allspice

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp ground cardamom seeds

1tbsp soft light brown sugar

a scattering of flaked almonds


Heat the oven to 180C/ 160C fan/ gas3.

Pour the custard powder into a large heatproof jug. Heat the milk on the stove-top until it reaches scalding point (just below the boil) then pour it , while whisking continuously, onto the custard powder. When it is smooth and free of any lumps, set it aside for now.

Remove the cores from the apples, leaving a good-sized hole so you can fit the filling into it.

In a small bowl, mix together the crushed amaretti biscuits, orange zest, raisins and spices.

Pour the custard into a small roasting tin, then place the apples on top of the custard. Spoon the filling into the core-holes. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove from the oven and sprinkle with the brown sugar and scatter over the flaked almonds. Bake for a further 15-20 minutes until the apples are soft all the way through.

Serve each baked apple with a portion of the hot custard.


Apploffi Pie

I have had a yearning to make banoffee pie for weeks, but browsing through my books recently I spotted this apple version by Kate McCully which is an interesting twist on the idea. It is delicious, but very sweet and indulgent. I can’t eat very much of it, but I love every bite.



400g tin of condensed milk

1 large Bramley apple, peeled, cored and sliced

2 eating apples, peeled, cored and sliced

50ml orange juice

50g light muscovado sugar

425ml double cream

25g caster sugar

½tsp ground cinnamon

Freshly grated nutmeg

For the pastry:

250g plain flour, plus extra for dusting

25g icing sugar

65g cold butter, cubed

65g cold Trex, cubed

1 egg, plus 1 egg yolk


Pre-heat the oven to 140°C/275°F/Gas Mark 1.

Put the unopened can of condensed milk into an ovenproof casserole (it’s worth doing as many cans as will fit to save energy and then storing them to use at a later date). Cover the cans with water and bring to the boil on the hob. Cover with a lid and transfer to the oven for 3½ hrs. Remove the can (or cans) from the water and set aside to cool.

To make the pastry, put the flour and sugar into a bowl, add the butter and Trex and rub together until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Work in the whole egg and egg yolk to form a dough, then wrap in cling film and chill for 30 mins.

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the pastry to the thickness of a £1 coin and use to line a 23cm loose-bottomed flan tin. Prick the base with a fork, then line the pastry case with crumpled greaseproof paper. Fill with ceramic baking beans, dried pulses or rice and bake for 15-20 mins.

Remove the paper and beans, then return the pastry case to the oven for a further 5 mins, until it is evenly golden. Set aside to cool.

To make the filling, put the apples, orange juice and muscovado sugar in a saucepan and heat gently until the fruit is pulpy and quite dry. Set aside until completely cold.

To assemble the pie, open the tin of condensed milk and empty the toffee into the pastry case, spreading it out evenly. Spread the apple on top of this. Whip the cream with the caster sugar and cinnamon until it forms soft peaks, then spread this over the apple. Sprinkle a little nutmeg over the cream and serve.

Apple and Sweet Chestnut Crifle

Sweet chestnuts are everywhere at this time of year. Walk in any park, anywhere in England, and you are likely to find yourself amid a carpet of spiky green chestnut cases. Crack them open (with your foot – it’s impossible to open them with your hands without getting spiked) and you will find… well, not exactly a bounty. The vast majority of sweet chestnuts that grow wild here just aren’t big enough to bother with. By the time you have roasted them, peeled them and removed the inner husk you are left with a few grams of nothing much.

To my delight, the other day we were walking the dog and happened upon a feast of good-sized sweet chestnuts. They were as fat as conkers so we filled our pockets – but what to do with them? Digging through the books I found a recipe for sweet chestnut and apple puree (thanks, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall) which was delicious, but needed something else alongside it to make a proper dessert. My solution was to stew some more apples, get some creme fraiche to cut through the sweetness, and a handful of ready-made granola to add some crunch and create a store-cupboard delight that I’m sure Nigella would be happy with. It’s not quite a trifle, not quite a fool, and a bit like a trifle, so Crifle it is. You will probably need to buy some cooked whole chestnuts, but they are easily obtainable from supermarkets.

We love it, it didn’t last long.


RECIPE – serves 8 as a dessert

For the chestnut and apple puree:

200g cooked chestnuts

300g eating apples, peeled, cored and sliced

25g unsalted butter

150ml apple juice

25g caster sugar

For the stewed apples:

3 medium eating apples, peeled, cored and sliced

1 cooking apple, peeled, cored and sliced

1 tbsp caster sugar

50ml apple juice

For the crifle:

200g creme fraiche

1 good handful of ready-made granola


If preparing your own chestnuts: heat the oven to 180C/ gas 4. Cut a cross in each chestnut (otherwise they will explode in the oven), place on a roasting tray and roast for 20 minutes. Upon removal from the oven, brace yourself and peel off the tough outer skins and lighter furry husks inside. Why do you have to brace yourself? Because it is impossible to peel them when they have cooled so you have to peel them hot, and it’s a bit painful! It is worth it though…

To make the chestnut and apple puree: put the chestnuts, apples, butter, apple juice and caster sugar into a saucepan, melt together and bring to a gentle simmer, stirring often, for about 20 minutes until the apples are soft. Allow to cool slightly then blitz to a puree using either a stick blender or a freestanding blender. Set aside to cool completely.

Now make the stewed apples: put all the apples, sugar and apple juice in a saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer for 15-20 minutes. The eating apples should be just soft, and the cooking apple should have reduced itself to a mush. Tip into the bottom of a glass trifle bowl, or similar, and allow to cool completely.

When the stewed apples and the puree are cool, spread the puree over the stewed apples in an even layer. Now spread the creme fraiche over the puree in another thin, even layer. Top with a good handful of granola, scattered all over the top.

Sour Cherries with Cream and Amaretti

We very rarely have desserts, if we are going to eat more than one course then both of us much prefer a good savoury starter and main course . Sometimes, though, when the evening is hot, the birds are singing and we are eating out in the garden, a light supper and a simple dessert is exactly what is required.

Yesterday was just such a day, but having been shopping in the morning with no thought of making a dessert I was forced to look in the pantry and see what I could put together from the ingredients to hand. The result was a spectacular success – sharp cherries with a hit of kirsch set against pillowy cream with crushed amaretti biscuits and toasted flaked almonds to give texture and crunch. Both of us said we wouldn’t be able to eat all of it, we both set our desserts aside long before we had finished – and we both had sneaky extra spoonfuls over the next half-hour until everything had been polished off.

I might make desserts a little more often if this is the result…



RECIPE – for 2 people

1 450g jar of sour cherries in syrup

1 tbsp cornflour

2 tbsp kirsch

250ml double cream

1 tsp vanilla extract

100g amaretti biscuits, lightly crushed

a small handful of flaked almonds, lightly toasted


Drain the cherries, reserving the syrup. Pour the syrup into a saucepan, bring to the boil and cook, boiling, for 5 minutes or so. Remove a couple of tablespoons of the syrup from the pan and blend with the cornflour until it is a smooth paste. Stir the cherries into the pan and bring back to the boil.

Turn off the heat, pour the cornflour paste into the pan and stir until thoroughly mixed. Return to the heat and bring back to the boil, stirring all the time. Add the kirsch, bring back to the boil again and cook for 2 minutes so all the alcohol evaporates. Remove from the heat, set aside and allow it to cool completely.

Lightly toast the flaked almonds in a saucepan (not a non-stick pan) until just brown, then tip out onto a plate to cool.

Whip the cream and vanilla together until soft peaks, then put a layer of cherries and syrup at the bottom of two large wine glasses. Now add a layer of cream, then a layer of crushed amaretti biscuits, followed by further layers of cherries and cream. Top with a thin layer of amaretti biscuits and a sprinkle of toasted flaked almonds.