The grape es­cape

Amer­i­can bak­ing is de­fined by pies such as this. Sand­wiched be­tween two great slabs of pas­try, the sea­son’s best grapes be­come a homely, wel­com­ing treat like no other. Whip the rest into a grape jelly for a time­less part­ner to peanut but­ter

The Guardian - Cook - - Baking - Claire Ptak

Ihave been mak­ing a lot of fruit pies re­cently. I’m on a trip back to the US, and reac­quaint­ing my­self with my Amer­i­can roots – I can’t seem to stop my­self from cook­ing in bulk, and invit­ing lots of peo­ple over to share what I’ve made. One bake that ac­com­mo­dates this is a slab pie. Baked in a sheet pan, the fill­ing isn’t as thick as a typ­i­cal fruit pie, so it’s per­fect for pas­try lovers. The rec­tan­gu­lar shape means even por­tions for all, it’s free of em­bel­lish­ment, and it’s homely and wel­com­ing, as a good pie should be.

And it is fi­nally grape sea­son. I look for­ward to it all year. It presents the per­fect ex­cuse to make a grape pie. You will prob­a­bly make this just once a year, as the sea­son is rel­a­tively short and the effort is con­sid­er­able – but it re­ally is well worth the time. Seek out the best grape va­ri­eties for this: in mar­kets, delis or even on­line. Nor­mal ta­ble grapes are not the same. Amer­i­can con­cord and is­abella grapes have cap­tured my culi­nary imag­i­na­tion for decades. The flavour is so strik­ing, it’s border­line artificial – a taste like the juice and bub­ble gum of child­hood. Mus­cat grapes are an­other favourite of mine – the mag­i­cally per­fumed pale pur­ple or soft celadon green grapes used in mus­cat wine mak­ing. Both of these are won­der­ful eat­ing grapes, but are not as pop­u­lar – I as­sume be­cause of their bit­ter seeds. But why forego flavour be­cause of a few an­noy­ing seeds?

You can make grape ic­ings for cakes and cup­cakes, which pro­vides a beau­ti­ful, rich, pur­ple buttercream colour that’s to­tally nat­u­ral. An­other way to make the most of this glo­ri­ous fruit is to make a jelly. Not the pud­ding kind, but the kind you spread on white sand­wich bread with peanut but­ter, like a jam. You could also serve the jelly along­side a ched­dar toastie for dip­ping. Salty-sweet per­fec­tion.

1 Whisk to­gether the flour and salt. Add half the but­ter. Com­bine well us­ing a cut­ting mo­tion. Add the sec­ond half of the but­ter and rub in un­til your mix forms roughly pea-sized pieces.

2 Sprin­kle over the iced water (hold­ing back the ice) and toss it through the mix as you go. The dough should start to be­come raggedy and even­tu­ally, when all the water is added, it will come to­gether into a ball. Di­vide the ball in half, wrap­ping each piece in cling­film. Flat­ten them into squares and rest in the fridge for at least 20 min­utes or up to 24 hours – any longer than this, put it in the freezer.

3 To make the fill­ing, stem the grapes, then sep­a­rate the skins from the pulp by pinch­ing each grape to squeeze out the pulp. Set aside the skins. Heat the pulp along with the scraped vanilla bean and seeds, plus the lemon zest, in a heavy saucepan un­til it is soft and be­gin­ning to sep­a­rate from the grape seeds (about 10 min­utes). Pour the pulp through a mesh sieve placed over a bowl. Press through with a plas­tic pas­try scraper or the back of a wooden spoon un­til all the pulp is in the bowl. Dis­card the grape seeds. Rinse and dry out the vanilla bean for an­other pur­pose. Add the lemon juice to the pulp.

4 In an­other large bowl, whisk to­gether the sug­ars, corn­flour, salt and nut­meg. Slowly whisk the strained grape mix into the sugar mix­ture and add the

grape skins back in. Peel, core and chop the apples and add to the grape mix.

4 Pre­heat the oven to 210C/410F/gas mark 6½. But­ter and flour a bak­ing sheet that mea­sures 23 x 33cm and 3-4cm deep—a nice heavy bak­ing sheet you might use for cook­ies.

5 Roll out one square of pas­try on a lightly floured sur­face to roughly 28 x 38cm. Press the pas­try down into the pre­pared sheet, then chill in the fridge while you roll out the other piece. The sec­ond pas­try sheet (which will form the top of the pie) can be rolled out to 23 x 33cm. Re­move the chilled pas­try and care­fully fill it with the grape mix­ture. It can come right up to about 2mm shy of the top but don’t let it over­flow. Roll the top layer of pas­try over the pie. Brush the pas­try with milk. Fold or roll over the ex­cess pas­try and pinch to seal. Use a knife to pierce the top of the pie a few times. Put in your freezer or fridge for 20 min­utes.

6 Brush the edge of the pie with the milk or cream and sprin­kle with caster ▲ Cook’s tip sugar. Line the bot­tom of your oven In­ter­est­ing but with foil to catch the drips, and bake con­cise tip to go for about 25 min­utes. Re­duce the heat in here and here to 180C/350F/gas mark 4 for an­other 35-45 min­utes or un­til golden and the bub­bles of fill­ing com­ing through are thick. Cool for 3 hours be­fore slic­ing.

1 Heat the grapes in a large stain­less steel or cop­per pot un­til they burst open and start bub­bling. Crush the grapes with the back of a wooden spoon, then let them bub­ble away for 20 min­utes. Line a strainer with muslin, put over a large bowl and pour the grapes into it. Re­sist the temp­ta­tion to press the mix­ture through, as it can make your jelly cloudy. Tie the cloth up and leave overnight to drain.

2 In a clean pot, com­bine the juice, jam sugar and the lemon juice. Warm over a medium heat un­til the sugar has dis­solved. Turn the heat up to high and boil for 15 min­utes. Pour into ster­ilised jars and seal as pre­ferred.

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