Food is my favourite way to experience other countries and cultures, so when travel is restricted, I send my taste buds on holiday through the dishes I cook.
Sometimes I use my kitchen to transport me to somewhere exotic that I haven’t yet made it to, like Oaxaca in Mexico or China’s Sichuan Province. Other times, I use recipes as souvenirs to remind me of cherished trips from the past. This croustade aux pommes instantly transports me back to the beautiful medieval town of Mirepoix in the south of France, where no boulangerie window would be complete without it. Crisp, flaky, sugar-crusted pastry encloses caramelised apples and a thick layer of luxurious vanilla custard. Bon appetite!
- 300 ml whole milk
- 1 vanilla pod, split lengthways
- 2 large eggs, separated
- 50 g caster sugar
- 20 g plain flour, plus extra for rolling the pastry
- 20 g cornflour
- 3 Bramley apples
- 2 tbsp butter
- 3 tbsp muscovado sugar
- 500 g block all-butter puff pastry 3 tbsp granulated sugar
- To make the custard layer, heat the milk with the vanilla pod in a saucepan until almost boiling, then turn off the heat and leave to infuse for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, line a 20 cm round cake tin with clingfilm.
- Whisk the egg yolks with the caster sugar, plain flour and cornflour until well blended. Discard the vanilla pod, then gradually whisk in the infused milk before transferring the mixture back into the milk pan. Stir the custard over a medium heat until it starts to boil, then beat vigorously to eliminate any lumps. Scrape the custard into the clingfilm-lined tin, then cover the top with a second sheet of clingfilm. Leave to cool, then chill in the fridge.
- For the apple layer, peel and core the Bramleys, then cut them into eighths and thinly slice. Melt the butter and muscovado sugar in a sauté pan, then add the apples. Cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until most of the juice has been released. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the apples to a sieve, then leave to cool completely.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C (180 fan) / gas 6. Cut the block of pastry in half. Roll out one piece and cut out a 30 cm circle, using a bowl or cake tin as a guide. Transfer the pastry circle to a non-stick baking tray and brush round the edge with beaten egg white.
- Remove the top piece of clingfilm from the set custard and invert it onto the pastry. Remove the tin and the other sheet of clingfilm. Arrange the cooled apple slices on top in an even layer.
- Roll out the other half of the pastry and carefully lay it over the top. Gently mould it down the sides and press around the edge to seal. Use the 30 cm tin or bowl as a guide to trim the edges. Brush the top of the pastry with beaten egg white and sprinkle generously with granulated sugar.
- Bake the croustade for 35 minutes or until golden brown on top and cooked through underneath. Leave to cool a little before serving warm or at room temperature.
Bramley apples and apple trees – Blackmoor Estate
Selborne, 01420 476003
Whole milk – Hiltonbury Jerseys
Winchester, 07977 933470
Eggs – Claytons Eggs
Romsey, 01794 513242