You don't have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces - just good food from fresh ingredients.
- Julia Child
We believe that the best food can be made from simple ingredients that are chosen and treated with great care, and we work to support the people in our communities who uphold these ideals. For Vanessa Kimbell of the Sourdough School, making sourdough bread isn’t just about achieving the perfect rise or an open, chewy crumb. ‘It’s about the connections. The things that draw us closer to each other. The grain you mill, the farmer you support, the people you feed, be it your family or as a professional baker, your community.’ It is this holistic attitude towards our food industry that brought together Vanessa and Neal’s Yard Dairy’s Jason Hinds in July of this year to discuss our ‘Buy British Cheese’ initiative, where they explored the simple changes that we can make to help, not just the farmers, but to support good agricultural practices.
Vanessa’s latest book “The Sourdough School: Sweet Baking: Nourishing the Gut & the Mind” is a celebration of the mindful treatment of ingredients in sweet sourdough baking, from the choice of flours, handmade starters, and a variety of fillings. As the choice of really good milk that has been treated well will shine through in a finished cheese, choosing products made with great care for the foundation of your bakes can give your sweet treats that extra special touch.
Join Vanessa and Jason in live conversation again on November 12th at 3pm on the Sourdough School Instagram (@sourdoughschool), where they will be discussing the difference that the careful selection of foundational ingredients like eggs, butter, and cream can make to your baking.
Below, Vanessa shares her recipe for “Four-Apple Pie,” where layers of apples are tossed with sugar and warm spices then baked into a sourdough crust for a unique take on this seasonal favourite. While more time-consuming than your typical apple pie recipe, this could be a wonderful opportunity to take your recently acquired (or well-honed) sourdough skills into the realm of sweets.
As Vanessa details in her book, every variety of apple has a different fibre structure, so try to use a mixture of apple varieties in this pie to capitalise on their nutrients. We sell an ever-changing selection of apples in our shops each autumn from Brogdale Farm in Kent and more recently from Townsend Farm.
Our shops in London remain open and selling cheese, fresh dairy products, and other essentials. To support other small producers making beautiful products with the greatest of care, try Cacklebean eggs and Berkeley Farm unsalted butter in this recipe, and finish it off with a dollop of Neal’s Yard Creamery crème fraiche or Ivy House Farm double cream, both available in our shops. Ordering from home? A wedge of buttery, tangy Lancashire cheese would also sit very nicely next to a warm piece of this pie. Any way you slice it, it’s the perfect end to an autumn meal.
For the pastry
400g Botanical blend no.7 (page 57) or stoneground wholegrain flour
50g bubbly, lively starter (sweet or sour) or discard
5g sea salt
50g coconut sugar
220g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
3 egg yolks, at room temperature
1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon of milk or watered down kefir, to glaze.
For the filling
30g unsalted butter
900g (total) 4 different varieties of apple, including small sweet dessert apples, cored and sliced into 2-mm (1/16-inch) slices, skins left on, plus 1 extra apple, peeled, cored and grated
25g muscovado sugar
1½ teaspoons (total) mixed ground spices (e.g. cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, black pepper, allspice, cardamom)
50g ground almonds
DDT 23°C (73°F)
9pm Refresh starter (first build)
8am Refresh starter (second build)
8pm Mix dough and return the starter to the fridge (unless you are proceeding to a third build). Divide the dough. Roll out the smaller piece and chill for 30 minutes. Prepare your Cultured cream and leave it to ferment overnight
8:45pm Slice the chilled smaller piece of dough into strips. Leave the larger ball of dough and the dough strips to prove overnight
8am Sauté the apples and assemble the pie
To make the pastry, put the flour, starter, salt, sugar and butter in a mixing bowl and mix until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the egg yolks and 3–4 tablespoons of very cold water and mix to form a dough. You may need to add another tablespoon of water.
Divide the dough into two, one piece larger than the other: about 3/5 and 2/5. Roll out the smaller piece to a thickness of about 6mm (¼ inch) and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. Cut into 2cm (¾-inch) strips and lay the strips on a piece of greaseproof paper. Lay another piece of greaseproof paper on top and cover with a slightly damp tea towel. Leave on the worksurface overnight. Leave the larger piece of dough in a bowl, covered, on the worksurface overnight to ferment too.
In the morning, lightly grease a 24cm (9½-inch), 6cm (2½-inch) deep pie dish. Use your fingers to push the larger piece of pastry into the tin to form an even base. Put the base in the fridge but leave the pastry strips on the worksurface. Melt the butter in a large pan over a low heat and gently sauté the apple slices. Add the grated apple along with the sugar and spices and cook for 5 minutes until the grated apple is mushy but the slices are not quite cooked. Taste and add more sugar if required. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.
Strain any excess liquid off the apples and set them to aside to cool. Take the base out of the fridge and put a layer of apples in the base, then sprinkle with ground almonds. Once the pie dish is full, arrange the pastry strips over the top in a lattice pattern. Brush with the egg wash and bake for 30 minutes or until golden. Leave to cool, then serve with cultured cream.
By Vanessa Kimbell
Available at www.octopusbooks.co.uk
Photography: Nassima Rothacker