Monday, 26 May 2014

Apple & Custard Puffs

Some of the dishes that I cook are created almost by accident, using ingredients from the back of the kitchen store cupboard or from leftovers. I love cooking like this, because there’s no specific recipe, just the germ of an idea which hopefully results in something tasty to eat. I have to admit that I am often surprised by how delicious some of these ad hoc ‘accidental’ creations can be. These pastries were absolutely delicious and could be easily adapted to include other fruits.

The following recipe is a perfect case in point. I had some leftover crème patisserie from another recipe that I was experimenting with. In the Western World, we are regularly given statistics about how much food we throw away and each year. I’m not going to get on my soap-box about this, except to say that I believe that there is something almost immoral about this considering how many millions of people in the world don’t have enough food to eat and face the horrors of real starvation every day. Consequently, I consider that there is an onus on us to respect the fact that most of us in Ireland have enough to eat and are fortunate enough to have a huge variety and choice of foods on offer. We can best do this by not immediately opening the rubbish bin every time we have some foods remaining or approaching their ‘use-by’ dates.

I had a few apples in the fruit bowl and decided to stew some to serve with custard, which would have been delicious in itself and a good way of trying to cajole the children into eating some fruit. I then remembered that I also had some puff pastry trimmings leftover from a tarte tatin that I had made the previous day, so I decided to use that up as well. Rather than bake my little apple puffs, I decided that I would deep-fry them…mainly because I wanted to see how the puff pastry would react when deep-fried.

I have to tell you these apple and custard puffs were a true revelation and reinforced many of my beliefs regarding leftovers. Previous generations were so adept at using everything they had to hand and created delicious meals to eat. In our consumer driven world with its throw-away mentality, we would do well to learn a few lessons from the past.


Crème Patisserie:
2 large egg yolks
30g caster sugar
7g plain flour
7g cornflour
175ml milk
½tsp vanilla paste
Apple Compote:
1 cooking apple, peeled, cored and cut into 2cm chunks
2 eating apples, peeled, cored and cut into 2cm chunks
1tblsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1tblsp caster sugar
To finish:
350g puff pastry
1 egg, lightly beaten
Caster sugar and ground cinnamon for sprinkling on finished pastries
Vegetable oil for frying


Crème Patisserie:
1. Place the egg yolks and sugar in a medium sized bowl and whisk until they are well mixed together. Add the flour and cornflour and mix again to fully incorporate. Set aside.
2. Separately, heat the milk and vanilla paste together in a medium saucepan over a moderate heat until just simmering. Remove the pan from the heat and slowly pour the milk on to the egg mixture. Pour this mixture back into the saucepan and place over a low to moderate heat. Stir continuously until the mixture starts to thicken and bubble. Allow to cook for one further minute and then remove from the heat. Transfer the contents into a clean bowl. Cover the surface of the custard directly with cling film and set aside to cool.
Apple Compote:
3. Put all the ingredients into a small saucepan over a moderate heat and bring to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally. Once the apples have broken down a little (after about 5 minutes), remove from the heat and transfer the apple compote into a clean bowl and set aside to cool.
To finish:
4. Roll out the puff pastry until it is about 3mm thick. Using a 12-15cm round cutter, stamp out rounds from the pastry. Put a teaspoon of crème patisserie and a teaspoon of apple compote side-by-side in the centre of each round. Brush around the edge of each circle with a little beaten egg and then fold one half of the pastry over to meet the other side, pressing down and crimping the edges to encase the filling.
5. Meanwhile heat some vegetable oil in a deep-fat fryer until it reaches 170C. Fry the filled pastries in batches of 3 or 4 for about 6 minutes, turning them around with a metal slotted spoon so that they colour evenly. The pastries are ready when they have puffed up and are a rich golden brown colour.
6. Carefully remove from the heat and gently roll in caster sugar in to which you have added a little ground cinnamon.
Makes 8-10.