Baking for Bonfire Night

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One of my favourite things about Autumn is its abundance of free apples. Bagfuls of windfalls arrive from generous friends with trees in their gardens, boxes of apples labelled 'help yourself' appear on garden walls and, in the hedgerows, apple boughs hang heavy, eventually dropping their bounty to the ground below.

Cooking Apples

This week, I had two bowlfuls of apples in my kitchen. Some rosy red cooking apples which were blown from my mother-in-law's tree by the recent storm, and a handful of small green windfalls which were free for taking in a basket on the pavement of appropriately-named Orchard Street. A bowlful of apples cheers the kitchen up no end, its contents softly scented and ripe with possibility.

I love the idea of apple pie, but very rarely make them. For pudding, I tend towards apple crumbles (perhaps with a handful or two of frozen blackberries thrown in) or, if we have company, a tarte tatin. Large cooking apples might find themselves stuffed with butter, brown sugar and raisins and then baked. Dessert apples may be steamed, puréed and frozen for the baby to enjoy.

A batch of apple and oat cookies always goes down well as an after-school snack, but without fail, a good proportion of that bowlful of apples will end up in an apple cake.

Apple crumble cake

I think that I may have discovered the perfect apple cake recipe for Bonfire Night. A couple of those rosy cookers found their way into an Apple Crumble Cake.  This cake is made with brown sugar, which gives it a lovely rich flavour. Being a fan of apple crumble, I love its crumble topping and, best of all, the top is drizzled with a rich, fudgy sauce, which sets into a kind of toffee icing. The recipe tells you to split it and fill it with whipped cream, but I found it to be perfect just as it stood. We served it with cups of tea and, in honour of Bonfire Night, a little bit of sparkle.

Apple crumble cake topped with a sparkler

Toffee really is the perfect accompaniment to apples. Before I had children, I used to make a batch of my Granny's treacle toffee, to take to the fireworks display in small paper bags. Nowadays, I try to placate the dentist by combining the stickiness of the toffee with the juiciness of an apple. I use Sarah's recipe for toffee apples and this year, the small windfalls were absolutely perfect.

Toffee Apples

The apples were dipped in the toffee in the morning, left to harden through the day, and carried to the local bonfire celebrations, clutched eagerly in gloved fingers. In a cold, woodsmoke-scented field, nothing tastes more sweetly Autumnal than the caramel crunch of toffee followed by the freshness of a bite of windfall apple.

Toffee apples for bonfire night

Thanks for reading!

Find out Sarah's top 10 apple varieties to grow in your garden...

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