Slow cooker apples + apple sponge
When life hands you apples, it’s time to make stewed apples, and apple-glazed pork ribs, and – most importantly – apple sponge.
The girls and I went for a walk down the fields on a cold day during the last long weekend, leaving the man-flu-infected Kiwi chilling at the cottage. We gathered baskets of horse chestnuts (initially precious to smallies, they dry nicely into kindling for the woodfired stove) and arrived home, muddy and red cheeked, to be brought up short by the sight of a whole box of cooking apples on the kitchen table. “A fruit fairy delivery,” said the Kiwi, amidst sneezing fits; a neighbour, blessed / cursed with a fabulous apple harvest had been doing the rounds and distributing her largess.
The following morning, I peeled and chopped until my large slow cooker (this particular one is a 6.5 litre monster from Aldi) was full, added a half cup of water, a few spoonfuls of demerara sugar, a cinnamon stick, couple of star anise and three cloves. I let the apples cook on the low setting for the day until they started sweetly disintegrating, infusing the house with warm spices as they did so.
Later that afternoon, by special request from the Small Girl, we had apple sponge. And there’s enough stewed apples to keep her in apple sponge for a lot of the winter. Along with those apple-glazed pork ribs and my favourite Sunday lunch special, slow cooked beef with Irish cider. Worth waiting for the next fruit fairy to happen along.
If you don’t have ready-stewed apples, peel and core 450g apples – cooking Bramleys are good or use whatever eating apples are sitting in your fruit bowl – and stew them gently with a couple of tablespoons of water and your choice of spices in a saucepan over a medium heat. Allow to cool before continuing with the recipe. Serves 4-6.
450g stewed apples, spiced and sweetened to taste.
225g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
125g butter, melted, plus a little for buttering the baking dish
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon demerara sugar
Preheat your oven to 180C. Butter the base and sides of an ovenproof baking dish – I use a rectangular 28 cm x 20 cm x 5 cm pyrex dish to maximise the amount of surface area. Spread the stewed apples over the base of the baking dish.
Sift the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder into a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, whisk the milk, eggs, melted butter and vanilla together. Tip that mixture into the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Spread this mixture evenly over the apples. Sprinkle with demerara sugar.
Bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes or until a sharp knife inserted in the centre of the sponge comes out clean, without any raw batter attached. Serve, with natural yoghurt or whipped cream, to children who have had their appetites sharpened by outdoor cold weather activity.