Sunday, October 29, 2006

The best cooking apple in the WORLD!

This has been a great year for apples. Trees everywhere are laden with them and they litter the sides of the road in great golden heaps. I can never understand why the British just leave them there to rot – anywhere else in Europe this bounty would be snatched up and turned into something delicious.

Common Ground is a charity working to encourage people to value and enjoy their own familiar surroundings. As part of the Local Distinctiveness Campaign, Common Ground publishes books and leaflets about apples and co-ordinates National Apple Day in October.

It was great to see the enthusiasm with which people turned up at local orchards, bringing old varieties for identification, and admiring the number of apple varieties still being grown commercially in Somerset.

The tree in my garden has been producing huge fruits, with a rosy blush and red striations, which turned out to be a Bramley clone. Novice that I am, I thought Bramleys were always green and I got what can only be described as an old-fashioned look from the apple expert at the orchard.

The food lover’s romance with Bramley apples seems to be an on-off affair. There are times when nothing but an eating apple will do because it retains its shape when cooked, and there are times, and now seems to be one of them, when the frothy, foaming, explosive qualities of the Bramley are suddenly the flavour of the month.

The UK is the only country that grows apples especially for cooking. More than 140,000 tonnes (£78M) of Bramley apples are sold annually, with the fresh market (65%) still dominating supplies to the consumer.They contain high levels of malic acid and so remain tart and "appley" in flavour when cooked, unlike eating apples which tend to lose their natural flavour during cooking. This type of apple also contains more vitamin C than other varieties.

The history of Malus domestica - ‘Bramley's Seedling’ – is documented in a pub called The Bramley Apple in Southwell, Nottinghamshire.

In the garden of a nearby cottage in the year 1805, the lady of the house sat eating an apple. She enjoyed it so much that she set two or three pips in a plant pot. One seedling flourished and was planted in the garden. So began the life of an apple tree of great historical interest.

By the time Matthew Bramley purchased the cottage, in 1846, the tree was bearing a good crop of apples. One day, Henry Merryweather met a gardener carrying a basket of these apples. Asked where he had got them the gardener replied, “It is the Bramley’s apple; and a very fine one too.” Henry went to see Matthew who said that he had named the apple Bramley’s Seedling and agreed that Henry might take what grafts he liked.

The apple first appeared to have been exhibited in 1876 at the Royal Horticultural Society’s Fruit Committee, where it was highly commended. While it may have been possible to count the apples that grew on that first tree, nobody knows the number of trees that have originated from the apple a lady of Southwell ate in the year of Trafalgar.”

So the Bramley is two hundred years old, and still the mainstay of apple pies throughout the country. In Somerset we use them to make a cake, Somerset Apple Cake. Of all the various recipes I think this one is the best:


For the cake:
225g/8oz Bramley apples, peeled, cored and diced
½ tsp ground cinnamon
25g/1oz demerara sugar
350g/12oz self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
150g/5oz butter or margarine
150-170g/5-6oz caster sugar
2 eggs
120ml/8 tbsp milk

For the topping:
25g/1oz demerara sugar
pinch ground cinnamon


1. Preheat oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.

2. Line 20cm/8in cake tin with baking parchment or greased greaseproof paper.

3. Blend cinnamon and demerara sugar and coat diced apple with mixture.

4. Sift flour and baking powder into mixing bowl.

5. Rub in butter or margarine, add caster sugar, beaten eggs, milk and apples.

6. Blend thoroughly then beat with a wooden spoon.

7. Spoon into a cake tin, spread flat on top and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon.

8. Bake for approximately 1¼hours/75 minutes, or until firm to touch.

9. If the cake is becoming too brown on top, reduce heat to 160C/325F/Gas 3 after 1 hour.


ChrisB said...

June I really enjoyed this post. You inspired me to make this cake today and it was delicious Thank you

that English girl said...

What a yummy-looking cake! Think I might even have ago at making it myself and serve it to my unsuspecting flatmates. Mainly as I simply cannot another Polveron - small nutty sugary lardy things in amaretti biscuit style wrappers Catalans stuff you with this time of year. Bring back good old English fayre!

Foodie's Hope said...

Looks deliciously moist, June! Love it!! First time in ur blog.

We used to live in UK for my husband's medical residency,were there for 5 yrs and were in Bath for a while for a locum job in the local Hospital!
I miss England,specially the spring and summers.
Happy Halloween!

Foodie's Hope said...

Oh, I forgot to tell you that I made Cornish Pasties for dinner today! YUM!!:))

lindy said...

I am always on the lookout for another apple cake. This one looks like a goodie. No Bramleys locally, so I will have to use some of our more local cooking apples-Northern Spys are my favorites for cakes and pies-if I can find some.

June said...

To ChrisB
Very glad you like the cake - a good way to get your RDA I think!
To That English Girl
Is there a story behind the Polverons? And can you set the wrappers on fire and watch them float to the ceiling!
To Foodie's Hope
Welcome! Somerset is a bit damp at the moment, but soon will come the Bath Christmas Market and a whole lot of twinkling will be going on.
And huge respect for making Cornish Pasties - that takes talent!
To Lindy
Wish I could ship you the apple mountain currently blocking the hallway. Wish I was the bottling type!

Beccy said...

This cake looks yummy. Saw it on my Mum's sight (chrisb) and my five year old asked me to make it so stopped by for recipe. I love Bramley apples but sadly rarely get given a homegrown bag so have to but them from the supermarket. Even though Ireland is so close to the UK some simple foodstuffs are quite different, especially bread and potatoes and don't get me started on their idea of fish and chips (they should know better being an island country)!

June said...

Hi Beccy
Hope your five year old likes the cake! Sorry about the fish and chips, but you do get great sausages, soda farls, dairy products and Guinness!

Jeanne said...

You are so right about people not appreciating what they have here. In the garden of the house 3 doors down from us, there is a big old apple tree, a pear tree and what looks from a distance like a peach tree. All three of these flower and fruit enthusiastically every year... but I don't think I have ever seen anybody bother to pick or eat the fruit - it really depresses me!

We were in Connecticut last month and I had one of the local apples that apprently has a very short season - Macouns. What a fabulous little apple! Thin skin, crisp, sweet amd juice, with a lovely red blush. I really need to find the UK equivalent!

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