Winter makes me crave comfort foods.  So when I flipped through Michel Roux’s Pastry cookbook the other day – a huge favourite of mine – I stumbled across this warm, baked apple, stuffed with jasmine-infused dates & wrapped up in a delicate pastry cage.  Wow.. who could say no to something like that?  And so the journey began…  Now we did have this with a scoop of ice cream but what would perhaps have been even better is if the crisp apple cage were served in a generous pool of creme anglaise!

Ingredients
Pate brisee (double batch measurements)
(Yields 2lb (900g) in total)
3 1/2 cups (500 g) all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cup (300 g) butter, cut into small pieces and slightly softened
2 tsp (12 g) fine salt
2 pinches of superfine sugar
2 medium eggs
2 tbsp (30 mL) cold milk

Baked apples in a pastry cage
About 1 1/4 lb (550 g) pate brisee
8 dates, pitted & diced
1/4 cup (50 mL) very fragrant jasmine tea
4 medium crisp apples (preferably Cox’s), about 1 lb 9 oz (700 g)
2 tbsp (30 g) superfine sugar, to dust

Directions
Pate brisee
Heap the flour on a counter and make a well.  Put in the butter, salt, sugar, & egg.  Using your fingertips, mix and cream these ingredients together.

 

Little by little, draw in the flour, working the dough delicately until it has a grainy texture.

Add the milk and incorporate gently with your finger tips until the dough begins to hold together.

 

Using the palm of your hand, work the dough by pushing it away from you 4 or 5 times until smooth. Roll it into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill until ready to use.

Pate brisee will keep perfectly in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a week or up to 3 months in the freezer.

Baked apples in a pastry cage

Put the dates in a bowl, pour the tea over them, & let infuse for 10 minutes.  Prise out the core from each apple using an apple corer, and prick the skin in several places with the tip of a knife.  Fill the cavities with the dates.

 

Preheat the oven to 325°F/160°C.  Roll out a quarter of the dough to a 8 1/2-inch (22-cm) diameter disk, 1/16 inch (2 mm) thick.  Cut a 3/4-inch (2-cm) hole in the centre using a pastry cutter.  Starting 5/8 inch (1.5 cm) from the hole, use the tip of a small sharp knife to make a series of 1 1/2-inch (4-cm) long incisions in the dough, 1/2 inch (1 cm) apart, radiating out from the hole.  Now make short 5/8-inch (1.5-cm) cuts inwards from the outer edge at 5/8 inch (1.5 cm) intervals to make a serrated border.

 

Brush an apple with water, then immediately life the dough disk with a spatula and place it over the apple.  Brush a little water over the base of the apple, gather the edges of the dough underneath, and press together with your fingertips to seal it.  Put the “caged” apple on a baking sheet and prepare the others in the same way.  Bake in the oven for about 1 1/2 hours, checking with a knife tip that the apples are cooked; it should slide in with no resistance.

 

Remove the apples from the oven, dust with the sugar, and glaze with a cook’s blowtorch, or place under a very hot broiler until the sugar begins to melt on the pastry.  Serve the apples on individual plates, if not immediately, within half an hour.

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So there you have it – the most glorious baked apples I’ve ever beheld.  The pastry, in true Michel Roux-style, is impeccable – easy to make and work with, lovely and thin, and delightfully crispy.  The baked apple is tender and moist, lovely and comforting.  And the jasmine tea-infused dates give the apples an incredible aroma and caramelised element.  Really really special…

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