It truly has been a helluva few days!!!
All day Saturday was simply mad. I dared take three of the four cubs into one of the busiest shopping centres around, right smack bang in the middle of the day. Let’s just say, it wasn’t the best of ideas!? Apart from the fact that it was insanely crowded, hard to get through the shops with a double buggy and I’m not a shopper at the best of times… sentences such as, ‘Cub 2, stop rolling around and get off that shop floor NOW‘; or, ‘Cub 2, I swear if you hide in the middle of the clothes racks one more time I will leave you there‘; and indeed, ‘Cub 4, stop eating the clothes off the hangers!‘, were heard all day. Much to the amusement of other shoppers. I failed to see what was so funny about it. I hadn’t had nearly enough coffee for that trip.
But, much to my – and the cubs’ – amazement, we all survived that trip and the cubs have some much needed new clothes to show for it.
However, the trip took a lot longer than anticipated, so by the time we were home and all the cubs in bed, I was so wiped, I couldn’t do another trial run of the vegan, gluten free apple pie I was going to bake for Sunday’s apple pie contest.
Fast forward to Sunday morning:
The current husband took the four cubs out to the seafront where the school had a sponsored walk for all the kids to raise funds for new maths equipment. Mind, during the night I was convinced it wasn’t going to happen, as we’ve had a thunderstorm with downpours of epic proportions. Alas, the weather had changed and even the sun was out! Happy days! They were out in the fresh air and I had peace and quiet to bake my contest entries!
But of course, nothing’s ever straight forward when it comes to me. Be boring anyway, right? Right!?
Problem number 1: my last attempt at the gluten free, vegan pastry hadn’t really worked as it lost its form, and had a funny aftertaste when eaten by itself.
Problem number 2: I couldn’t decide which dish to bake. After all, I have a tried and tested Cinnamon Apple Recipe. Well, when I say I have one – I mean, I bought it. It’s the cookbook that has it, really. Brilliant book though ‘La Dolce Vegan!’ by Sarah Kramer. Look it up guys, it’s absolutely full to the brim with fabulous recipes and then some!
How did resolve the problems? Well…
In order to have some sort of chance, I decided to forego the experimental pastry and simply make the pastry that was on the recipe, which was neither vegan, nor gluten free: it was simply vegetarian. I could live with that though, time was of the essence after all: It was 11am and the entries had to be at the venue before 2pm. Really not the time for more experiments.
Result Number 1:
Sarah’s fabulous Vegan Cinnamon Apple Muffins
(I’m not sure on the copyright of the recipe – can you tell I’m new to this? – so I will possibly share this recipe at a later stage when I found out!)
I knew I had all the ingredients at hand. I had baked them several times before, and also knew they were quick and fool-proof.
Until I needed the egg replacer. My go-to egg replacer is ground flaxseed and water. I always have ground flaxseed in the house. Except Sunday. I still don’t know what happened to it, because I don’t remember finishing it!!!! No matter, there are other ways to replace an egg. I had bananas, but I didn’t want to put an overpowering banana taste into an apple-centered contest! Apple sauce then. Again, the cupboard came up emtpy!
Man, that clock ticked loudly in my ears!!!
Not one to give up easily, I quickly peeled and de-seeded one of the cooking apples and, with a touch of vanilla and water, made my own apple sauce which turned out delicious if I do say so myself!
The oven door wasn’t quite shut on the muffins when I immediately jumped to the apple pies. You see, it was an apple pie contest, but I couldn’t bring myself to just make a traditional apple pie. I wanted to stand out of the crowd and have people go, ‘Oh wow, look at that!‘
And what did I do? I did what every person would do these days: I asked Google to give me ideas. And boy did I find one, right here: Apple Pie (in the apple) <- and hers look truly stunning, pity I don’t have such pretty flower cutters!
Which brings us to result 2:
Apple Pie (in the apple)
I used the recipe given on her blog for her ‘sweet pie dough’ exactly as described (well, besides the fact that I had no baking powder left! Honestly, no idea what is going on with me! So I substituted it with 1/2 and 1/2 of Cream of Tartar and Bicarbonate of Soda!):
Ingredients for the pie crust:
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup corn starch
100g butter, cold
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
Put all ingredients in the jar of a food processor and mix only until it forms a ball. If necessary, add a few drops of cold water. Don’t over mix. If you want do do it manually, mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. Add the butter and rub the mixture with your hands until you have a crumbled texture. Add the egg and mix until it comes together into a ball. If necessary, add a few drops of water. Do not over mix.
(This recipe does indeed make enough for 8 lids on small apples, or 5 lids on large apples. I kept the remaining pastry refrigerated, wrapped in cling film, to do mini quiches for school lunches!)
The apples themselves, however I changed a bit to suit my own tastes. Here’s what it looked like in my kitchen:
INGREDIENTS for filling:
insides of two Cooking Apples
1 tablespoon raisins
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla sugar
1/2ish teaspoon carob syrup (or treacle!)
I cut a thin lid off two big cooking apples and used a spoon to take the flesh and core out, careful not to get break the sides. I then discarded the core, chopped the apple flesh into small chunks and mixed those with a tablespoon of raisins. I then added a teaspoon each of cinnamon and vanilla sugar and just enough carob syrup to coat the lot before spooning it back into the apples.
Pastry lid on top and off into the oven! I baked the apples at 170C (fan assisted oven) for 25-ish minutes. The recipe says 40 minutes but by that time, my apples would’ve fallen apart. I needed them to keep their shape and for my apples, that time was just right, the pastry was just right and all looked well.
In other words, keep an eye on your apples! If the pastry looks done, poke your apples carefully to see if they’re soft to avoid overcooking them.
And here they are, my creations, at their destination: The Happy Pear!
The creations being judged… the crowds had gathered! And take note of the most rare phenomenon: sunshine 🙂 Who’d have thunk it after the Monsoon the night before!
To wrap it all up – I didn’t win. Quite happy with the judges’ comments though, they were all-round happy with the baked apples and one told me afterwards that he’s not quite sure why I hadn’t won. Heh. They were all fantastic though, I didn’t envy them their job to chose winners at all.
Best part of it? Besides the fun to enter and having a good time there, we were let loose on the creations after judging and got to taste them all. It was the most delicious Sunday in a long time. I’ll be back next year – and hopefully with a perfect vegan, gluten free pastry!