I’ve been meaning to contribute to Sarah’s “Forever Nigella” monthly round-up for ages. I’m a Nigella devotee. Somehow I even seem to have a copy of “Summer Bites” and that book did too, to be honest. More notes space than recipes in there.
This month’s challenge is “Halloween Horrors” with the instructions to take a Nigella recipes and ‘halloween it up’, basically. So let me introduce to you… the Tiny Teeny Halloweeny Pies.
Tiny Teeny Halloweeny Pies
These are a variation on the Star-Topped Mince Pies from Nigella Christmas. I added a healthy helping of chopped stem ginger in syrup to make these a bit more tangy than your average apple pie and put a little powdered ginger into the pastry.
This just about makes 24 Tiny Pies with their scary faces. It also meant I could use the set of miniature Aspic Cutters I bought about ten years ago in Dean & Deluca. On a cost per use basis – well they were still kind of expensive, but still!
- 2 x 12-cup mini pie baking tins
- 1 x 4 or 5 cm round biscuit cutter
- Aspic cutters or a sharp knife and lots of patience
- rolling pin (this is v handy)
- 160g plain flour
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- 40g of Trex (vegetable shortening)
- 40ml of orange juice (without bits!)
- pinch of salt
- 2 cooking apples, to yield about 3oog once peeled and cored
- 2 tbsp of soft brown sugar
- 35g of stem ginger, finely chopped
- Sieve the flour and powdered ginger into a shallow bowl. Add the shortening in small lumps and the diced cold butter, toss gently and put it into the freezer for 20 minutes. At the same time, add the salt to the orange juice and chill that in the fridge. Prep the fruit for later.
- Blitz the flour mixture in the food processor until the breadcrumb stage. Add as much of the orange juice as you need to make it almost come together (you might have surplus juice which is fine; if you run out use iced water to finish up).
- On your work surface, work the mixture into a soft dough. Divide into two batches, roughly one third and two thirds of the mix, and wrap in clingfilm to chill for another 20 minutes while you preheat the oven to 220c or Gas Mark 7.
- While the dough is chilling, make your filling. Put the apple, ginger and sugar in a pan with 1tbsp of water and cook down slowly (chop up the apples smaller that I did!) Leave to cool a little while you make the faces and prep the dough cases.
- Use the larger piece of dough for the cases. When rolling out the dough, go as thin as possible – 2mm was what I aimed for. You can patch it up, this dough is pretty forgiving. If you re-roll the scraps enough you will have plenty of dough for 24 mini pies.
- Cut out the cases with the round cutter and lay into the tin holes.
- For the ‘faces’ I had an egg shaped cutter but using a round one, then pulling the face out of shape would be fine. The egg shape worked better sideways too. Use aspic cutters or a knife for the features. Then the leftover triangles you remove can double up as pumpkin stalks.
- Put a half tsp of filling in each one – they bubble over quite a bit.
- Put in the oven and check after 8 minutes. Mine were almost done then – and two more minutes meant they were on the rather well-done side, dammit.
- Decorate with suitable jelly sweets – like the Natural Confectionary Company’s worms, as above.
In hindsight putting some green colouring into the filling would have worked too…if you’re making them for kids you might want to tone down the ginger or add either a dusting of icing sugar or some icing on top.
Looking forward to seeing the rest of the Horrors in the round up! For a slightly healthier treat – well, it does involve more fruit but probably also more sugar – what about Caramel Apples?
PS I notice that Lakeland have something similar to aspic cutters in their Christmas range – Tree Trinket Cutters with mini inserts to stamp out shapes in the interior of the cookie. Melt some boiled sweets in there and you’ve got stained glass cookies!
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a newly-married woman in possession of a good kitchen must be in want of a KitchenAid.
Actually the newly married has nothing to do with it but we finally moved to a house where appliances don’t have to prove their worth by multi-tasking to earn valuable counter space (therefore hello enormo coffee grinder…) and my mother in law brilliantly ordered this for us.
This immediately made me want to make ridiculous things, preferably involving hot sugar. I’m trying to not eat the entire world after being on a hardcore pre-wedding diet, but [serious case of “justification” coming] I’ve had this particular recipe in mind for ages and Halloween was coming…
I worked from the recipe in Matt Lewis and Rene Poliafito‘s Baked book, after seeing them float Titanic-capsizing chunks of fresh vanilla marshmallow into the hot chocolate they serve at their Red Hook bakery last year and being unable to forget them!
Make sure to be particularly pernickety about your mise-en-place for this. Even attempting to be rigorous, I had a few things that I needed to dash and find. Line the tin generously with parchment and clingfilm as you’ll need to grasp it to lever the glorious slab out when it’s set.
- deep 32.5 x 23-centimeter baking pan – I used a roasting tray
- clingfilm and parchment for lining it
- Either spray oil or oil plus a pastry brush – which I used instead of the suggested vegetable shortening in the original recipe
- a medium heatproof bowl for the gelatin, which fits on Saucepan B as below
- 1st small saucepan to melt the sugars mixture – Saucepan A
- 2nd small saucepan to act as a bain marie – Saucepan B
- measuring cups (two sets might be useful)
- stand mixer with whisk attachment fitted
- heatproof spatulas – I like these as they fit in small size measuring cups
- sugar thermometer
- offset spatula
- sieve or sifter
- sharp knife, or for ghosts –
- shaped cookie cutters, toothpicks, black food colouring
- 8 sheets of gelatin
- 2 cups of granulated sugar
- 2 x ½ cups of light corn syrup (which I got in Selfridges but you could use Golden Syrup)
- ½ cup water
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
- icing sugar and cornflour mixed together 2:1 for dusting
- Generously line the tin with clingfilm, followed by parchment and either use spray oil to grease, or brush the parchment with oil using a pastry brush.
- Leave the gelatin in a bowl of cold water to soften (make sure the bowl you use will fit snugly on top of Saucepan B in double-boiler fashion for later).
- In Saucepan A, stir together ½ cup of corn syrup, ½ cup of water and all the sugar. Don’t splash it up the sides and make the pan is deep enough to accommodate your sugar thermometer’s bulb! (I had to change pans).
- Put the other ½ cup of corn syrup in the stand mixer.
- When Saucepan B’s water is boiling: get the bowl and drain and wring out the gelatin sheets, then put them back in the bowl and place it on top of Saucepan B. Stir with the spatula til completely melted (it looks quite odd and just when you think it will never melt…)
- Pour that gelatin into the stand mixer with the corn syrup and start whisking on low.
- Skip promptly back to Saucepan A and take it off the heat at “Soft Ball” stage, about 235F. Bring to the mixer, turn the speed to medium then very carefully pour the contents of Saucepan A into the mixer bowl. Then turn the speed to medium/high for five minutes until you see it majestically fluff and expand.
- Quickly add the vanilla and salt, then give it another minute on high.
- Make sure your pan is ready beside you and pour the marshmallow in and spread out. Use the spatula if you must but gently tilting the tin works too.
- Sprinkle the top with sugar. Leave for at least six hours or overnight before attempting to cut it.
- Lift it out of the tin by grabbing the parchment. Flip it over using another board so you can also sugar the bottom. Either cut into large squares or use cookie cutters to cut specific shapes if you like. Toss them in the sugar and cornflour mix to coat them and minimize sticky fingers!
- If using ghost cutters, Draw on their expressions using a toothpick dipped in black food colouring. Then chop the remaining marshmallow into small mini pieces to use as a baking ingredient or scatter over icecream. Store in an airtight tin, good for a week. Or get the hot chocolate ready…
I would say that while it’s not complex to make marshmallows, a stand mixer does make it easier and you have a lot of steps to get through at once, around the critical sugar-boiling stage. Also – hell of a lot of washing up, of sticky gloopy things. But I do think it’s worth it.
Caramel. Just about my favourite thing in the world. I’d even say that if it came down to a fight, chocolate would get battered by the butter/sugar/cream combo. For some reason I thought that these Caramel Apples from the first Matt Lewis and Rene Poliafito book would be glass-shatter crack style toffee – um, like those neon commercial ones. Instead they were fudgy-sticky.
They were still good. The caramel coats the fruit like a thin veneer and you get a mixture of buttery sweetness and the sharp apple taste in each mouthful. I used Cox apples but they could have been more crisp, by the time I got around to making them, a couple of days later than planned. It was also a bit late to add lollipop sticks to the long order of baking supplies that I put in last week so I found kebab skewers in the local pound shop (they’ve got to be food safe, right?) and used three in each apple which worked a treat.
I used a mixture of vanilla essence (not seeds infused into cream as they suggest) and a little maple in the caramel which gave a heady smell, and added cinnamon sugar. Lots of flavours but they all blended beautifully. As you can see, there was plenty left over afterwards to scoop off the parchment too.
- 10 medium apples, preferably a tart variety
- 1 cup double cream
- ½ tsp pure maple syrup
- 1 tsp good quality vanilla extract
- ½ cup caster sugar
- ½ light brown cinnamon sugar
- ¼ cup light corn syrup
- 1 ½ tbsp unsalted butter
- Wash and dry the apples, and insert skewers, and prepare a large bowl of iced water
- Place all ingredients in a small heavy saucepan, stir and allow the sugar and butter to melt
- Monitoring it with a sugar thermometer, bring the temperature to 245F, without stirring the mixture, and keep it at that level for 1 minute
- Remove the pot from the heat and put in the ice water for 30 seconds to halt the cooking process
- Tilt the pan, and dip your skewered apples quickly, then place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment
- Put them in the fridge for at least 10 mins to set
- Wrap in parchment for transportation to scary film night.