Spring(form) Has Sprung

Happy Spring Southern-Hemisphere Dwellers! Spring sprung a sneaky cold-front on us in Jozi at the weekend – four degrees when I left the house in the morning! I soldiered resolutely on though, because I was on a Mission: to purchase my first ever Springform Pan *cue culinary angel song*.

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Why a springform pan you ask? And I answer: I have the world’s smallest kitchen with the barest minimum of storage space, and is quite literally bursting at the seams. I would love to own such things as fluted tart tins, dariole moulds, avocado slicers and cucumber glasses (they’re not what you think they are) but space is at a premium, and where possible I opt to have dual-purpose gadgets (did you know that a melon-baller is a fantastic apple-corer too? Now you do). The springform pan is going to be cake tin as well as tart tin, as well as deep-dish pizza support-mechanism – awesome!

springform has sprung

The reason that the need for a springform pan suddenly became so pressing was due to superfluous apples; I buy fresh fruit weekly but demand wasn’t quite keeping up with supply, and an apple tart was called for. While searching for recipes online, I came across a fantastically-named one – Affy Tapple Pie. Of course, this meant that I wanted to make it so that I could call the blog post “Mucking Afazing Affy Tapple Pie” – but the recipe required actual toffee apples, which would have rendered my little stockpile in the fridge useless. Also, my end of deepest darkest Africa doesn’t seem to have carnivals, which is the natural habitat of toffee apples. I also tried individual salted caramel apple tarts – beautiful, but the caramel took three tries. That means three pots of oily burnt sugary gunk.

{burnt sugar is not}

{burnt sugar is not}

Then, a solution came in the form of a Jamie Oliver recipe. His recipe’s are always optimistically short and sweet, no fuss. But this time I was a bit worried about the lack of fuss – especially since here in South Africa we get Caramel Treat in a tin, and don’t have to boil up condensed milk for three hours while praying that they do not explode all over the kitchen. And I think that’s the reason the tart wasn’t THAT amazing – caramel isn’t exactly an exotic treat here (shame, you poor sad caramel-less first worlders *giggle-snort* – go find your nearest South African shop – that’s the one with Mrs Ball’s Chutney and Ouma’s Rusks – or ask your local friendly South African, we’re all over the place these days).

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In mildly modifying the recipe, I’m in no way dissing Mr Oliver – I’ve just fine-tuned it to suit my tastebuds a little better. I’ve increased the proportion of apple to caramel quite drastically. I was concerned that the caramel would form sticky toffee which would be a danger to dentures, but it didn’t change at all – weird. Generally I prefer things to be serving-sized (cupcake obsession) but for this kind of dessert it’s best to let everyone decide just how big their serving will be – it is SWEET.

3mm. STAT.

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pour some shooga on me

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My lovely new heavy-duty springform pan did a beautiful job, and I can’t wait to put it through it’s paces again. Next up – savoury cheesecake!

For a lusciously large toffee apple tart:

About 450g sweet shortcrust pastry – buy it if you’re lazy, but homemade is significantly superior – recipe coming soon

1 can of Nestle Caramel Treat. Go ask your local Saffa. We’re the ones who will shout “EINA!” if you kick our shins.

4 medium-sized apples – I used Fuji and Golden Delicious; Granny Smith would have been a good addition.

2 heaped tablespoons of icing sugar

Roll the pastry out – 2 or 3mm maybe? I don’t know. I always get this wrong, and one end will be 3cm and the other will be completely transparently thin. I know those clever people at Wilton say to use skewers of the correct diameter on either side of the pastry while you roll, so that you can’t possibly roll it any thinner. But I’m the kind of person who believes life is too short to try to work out the diameter of a kebab stick. Jamie says to slice off slivers of pastry and squash them together in the tin, but I have a marvellous marble rolling pin that needs to earn it’s keep.

Anyway, line your 23cm tart tin (or springform) and trim the edges; you will need under a centimetre of border-height, just enough to keep the caramel at bay. I forgot to do this, hence an ugly crust. Oh well. Stick the tin into the freezer for an hour.

Next, preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius; prepare your pastry case for blind-baking by putting a sheet of baking paper into it, and throwing dried beans or those fancy glass baking beans (coins will work too I’m told, but I never have enough money) into it. Bake blind for 10 minutes. Jamie said 15 but the edges were browning too much. After turfing the beans and paper, I poked a few holes in the base and stuck it back in the oven for a few minutes, as it still looked seriously undercooked.

Next is the fun part. Grab a spoon. Open up the tin of caramel. Taste it carefully, to make sure it’s right. Yes. It is, isn’t it? Using a tablespoon, blob some into the crust and spread it out. Do not spread it to the same depth as what is shown in Jamie’s picture. Less is more – it’s like hot English mustard in a ham sandwich. But better, since you can clean out the tin (carefully, with a spoon) after. 2mm MAX.

Peel and quarter the apples, one at a time (because I prepared way too many upfront, and had to throw quite a lot out – rather do them ad hoc). Carefully cut out the part with the core/pips. Slice each quarter into 4 or 5 slices – mine were sliced way too thinly and the caramel overwhelmed it. It is an apple tart after all, not a caramel tart with an apple garnish. Mix them up with the icing sugar. Lay them out in a pretty pattern on the caramel. I fully meant to do the rose-petal type pattern, but I’d been looking at My South African Cookbook earlier that day and accidentally did the spiral pattern they have on the French apple tart gracing the cover. Dang nabbit. Do whatever you like, fling them on with gay abandon, making sure that the apple covers the caramel. Pour over any juices that may have happened.

Pop the tart into the oven for 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and marvel at your handiwork if you did the spiral or petal pattern. If you did not, then marvel at the lovely homey smell instead, with your eyes shut. Serve warm, with great big blobs of sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice-cream – yum! Pretend that it’s one of your five-a-day and have lots and lots – it may result in a trip to the dentist but I’m pretty sure it’ll keep the doctor away. All in the name of kicking off Spring on top Form (see what I did there? *snort*).

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PS: Have you been to Call It Spring yet? Go! Go!! It’s shoes, by the way.

PPS: Admission – I do not eat actual toffee apples. They are always too big, and the sour apple and tough apple-skin is a let-down after that lovely tooth-destroying toffee. I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone this before.

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