‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away’ – Old English Proverb
From its grand entrance into records as the original forbidden fruit to the more pedestrian prescription as a daily dose of vitamins and minerals, the apple has held an important place in history. It’s the fabled fruit that fell in front of Newton, supposedly helping him to form his theory of gravity, the present that children traditionally take in for teachers and the iconic logo for a brand that irreversibly changed the course of technology. The apple of one’s eye is a most cherished possession and this simple fruit has been the subject of numerous phrases and sayings across the ages.
Apples also have a certain significance in the littleloaf family; my Dad grew up on an apple farm, and my Mum is allergic to them. Legend has it that when my dad first divulged this fearsome fact about his new girlfriend to my apple-loving granny, she declared straight away that this woman would be the one he married. Because of this allergy, we didn’t eat an inordinate amount of apples growing up, but were absolutely instilled with the importance of eating British grown varieties when we did.
Despite the millions of pounds worth of apples we eat in Britain every day, only a small percentage are actually grown on these Isles. From early-falling Discovery to beautiful British Braeburns, Cox’s Orange Pippins to russet-skinned Egremonts, Britain produces some incredible specimens of this fruit. Sadly they can often be overlooked in supermarket aisles where small print on excess packaging makes it hard for customers to distinguish native varieties from their overseas competitors.
We’re currently enjoying the best of the late season crop, and this Bonfire Night just gone people around the country will have indulged in a sticky toffee apple, coated in crunchy sugar and speared on a stick. I have to admit I’ve never been a massive fan; the caramel covering often seems to be an excuse to use up less than perfect apples, and there’s nothing worse than biting through a crunchy crust to a powdery apple beneath. Parents may think they’re a good way of getting kids to eat their five-a-day, but I can clearly remember biting my way around the sugary shell before discarding the inner apple and heading on to the next sweet treat . . .
The recipe below makes no such healthy pretensions. It’s a pure, unadulterated hit of sugar; dense, fudgey, almost brownie-like in texture, bound with cream then cloaked in a sugar shell or chocolate layer. It doesn’t even contain any apple. Like a cupcake, the cake pop is a confection designed as much to feed your eyes as your stomach. Available in infinite flavour and colour combinations, I find this flirty food has style over the substance of a beautifully baked brownie, cake or cookie, but it’s fun and still tastes pretty good.
Sometimes all you want is a sweet, sugary hit, and for those times, this is the perfect recipe. It may not be the best thing for you, but it’s guaranteed to put a smile on your face. And if you’re feeling guilty, you can always eat an apple afterwards.
Did you celebrate Bonfire Night with any special foods this year? Do you like to eat local produce? And what do you think of cake pops?
For the toffee cake (adapted from Fiona Cairns’ The Birthday Cake Book)
100g dates, pitted & chopped
90ml boiling water
90g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
40g unsalted butter, softened
70g golden caster sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 large free range egg, beaten
50ml full fat milk
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Grease and line a 20cm round cake tin. Put the dates in a heatproof bowl, cover with the boiling water and leave to stand for 20mins.
Sift together the flour and bicarbonate of soda. Cream the butter, sugar and vanilla extract for around five minutes until light and fluffy.
Beat in the egg, a little at a time, adding a spoon or two of the flour mix if necessary to stop the mixture curdling. Beat until fully incorporated.
Mash the dates until smooth with a fork. Fold the milk and dates into the batter then pour into your prepared tin.
Bake for 20-25 mins, or until a skewer comes out clean. Remove from the oven and, once cooled slightly, remove from the tin and leave to cool fully on a cooling rack.
For the cake pops
1 x quantity of cake (as above or you could use shop-bought if you’re feeling lazy)
Double cream OR Cream cheese frosting
Dark, milk or white chocolate or coloured candy melts
Lolly sticks or skewers
Leaves and stalks made from modelling chocolate or coloured icing
Gold dust (optional)
The queen of cake pops is the amazing American Angie Dudley, otherwise known as Bakerella. For a step-by-step guide to making these cute confections (and with much more expertise than I currently have) watch this video. Otherwise follow these simple steps below.
Crumble your cake into a big bowl. The next step is to bind it together to make your balls. Most recipes call for a quantity of cream cheese frosting or buttercream, but I found both a little too sweet (before you call me up on this, we’re talking relative scales here; the cake pops I made were still seriously sweet, but incorporating a sugary frosting takes them to a whole new level). Instead I used thick double cream – it makes the pops smooth, rich and creamy without being too cloying. Add a little at a time until the cake mixture forms easily into balls. You won’t need a lot if using the cake recipe above – it’s already pretty fudgey.
Take teaspoons of the mixture and roll into balls. If you’re making apples, try to make them a little fatter in the middle and flat at the top and bottom. Set your balls on a plate and pop in the freezer for fifteen minutes, then remove to the fridge to continue to chill.
Melt your chocolate or candy melts and allow to cool slightly. Dip a skewer in the liquid, then into a ball of cake mixture. Dunk the ball back into the liquid and roll until completely coated, letting the excess drip off. Stick the skewer in a piece of styrofoam or just rest in a tall glass – as long as the ball isn’t touching any surface, you can improvise.
Once cooled and hardened, poke a small hole in the top of your ‘apple’. Secure a leaf to the edge with a little edible glue, then poke a stalk into the hole. Dust your apples with a little gold dust (my current obsession), then serve.