Halfway through, I realised that my thumbs were at serious risk of becoming detached from my body. It's cool, I thought, I didn't really need them anyway...
So far we've had the good, the bad and the ugly forgotten recipes. But seldom have we had recipes that leave the maker in serious risk of losing body parts.
This week, I turned my hand to another of the puddings - apple balls. My perception of apple balls were limited to the things hung on trees for birds and coated in peanut butter, which to be honest sound pretty delicious too (even if it's the kind of snack Homer Simpson might go for - no bad role model in my eyes).
In fact, apple balls are pretty simple. Just take an apple, core it, fill the centre with sugar, wrap in short crust pastry and bake.
Everyone has one of those apple corers you pick up for a couple of quid, but the problem is that they tend to cut the apple into slices as well as core it. I wanted to keep my apple in one piece but remove the core. So, with a paring knife, I attempted to do it by hand. Is there a simpler way of doing this? Answers on a postcard please, because I nearly lost at least two of my fingers giving it a go.
Eventually though I was left with two apples, peeled and cored. I made my short crust pastry and rolled into squares, laying each apple in the centre and pouring sugar in the hole where the core was up to the top. Wrapping my pastry carefully up and ensuring there were no holes was an important part of the task because as the sugar melted in the oven, it leaks out of even the most minute gaps in the pastry and bubbles alarmingly, burning as it does. If you don't want your house to be filled with the acrid smell of burnt sugar, I suggest you mind the gaps very diligently.
The problem with apple balls, I feel, is mistaken identity. Part toffee, part baked good, but not really either. They taste very pleasant, the hardened sugar cracking satisfyingly when bitten into, but eating an entire apple encased in pastry is no mean feat. It's the kind of snack you need to set out time in your day for. Again, that's no bad thing - I've been known to take two hour naps after a particularly heavy-going sandwich - but I'm not quite sure that apple balls are worth it.
Here's how I made them.
1 ½ - 2 oz short crust pastry
1. Make the short crust pastry
2. Core and peel the apples
3. Divide the pastry
4. Place an apple on each piece and work the pastry round
5. Fill up the hole in the apple with sugar and one clove, if liked
6. Join the edges of the pastry over the apple - there must be no cracks
7. Place on a greased tray
8. Bake for ½ - ¾ hour according to size of apples at 425 F
9. To test for readiness insert a skewer through middle of apple