APPLE AND LAVENDER SANDWICH TARTS

INGREDIENTS - MAKES 10 

  • 500g shop- bought all-butter puff pastry 

For the poached ‘applettes’

  • 6 large eating apples (Cox or Braeburn are perfect)
  • 1 lemon
  • 500g golden caster sugar
  • 500g water
  • 1 tbsp dried lavender flowers
  • 2 tbsp calvados

For the apple purée

  • Leftover apple from above (see step 3)
  • 50g golden caster sugar

For the cream filling

  • 225ml double cream
  • 130g full-fat crème fraiche
  • 1 tbsp vanilla bean paste or extract
  • 1 tbsp calvados
  • 4 tbsp icing sugar

To finish

  • 10 lavender flowers
  • Icing sugar, to dust 

Essential equipment

  • 2 baking sheets lined with baking paper 
  • Melon baller 
  • 7cm/2.5-inch circle cookie cutter
  • Deep-sided frying pan 
  • Disposable piping bag fitted with 10mm nozzle

METHOD

Preheat the oven to 210°C/190°C fan/Gas 7.

Roll out half the pastry until it is just smaller than the baking sheet and about 4mm thick. Prick it all over with a fork, then place it on to a lined baking sheet. Top with the second piece of baking paper and then another baking sheet. This is to stop the pastry puffing up too much – we want the flakiness but we don’t want volume. Bake for 25–30 minutes, or until a deep golden colour. As soon as the pastry comes out of the oven, cut out 10 discs with the cookie cutter. Allow these to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining half of pastry. (If you are generously supplied with baking sheets, you can do this all in a single batch.)

Peel the apples. Using the melon baller scoop out at least 50 balls of apple. Put these straight into a mixing bowl with the juice of the lemon to prevent them from going brown and horrible. Don’t throw away the used bits of apple; put them into a separate bowl with water and lemon juice.

To make a poaching liquid, put the sugar, water and lavender flowers into a deep-sided frying pan or large saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce to a heavy simmer and add the apple balls. Simmer for 5 minutes until a sharp knife goes into an apple ball without any resistance. Remove from the heat and drain the apples, though do reserve the poaching syrup. Pour the calvados over the apple balls and leave in a small bowl until needed.

To make the apple purée, roughly chop the remaining chunks of apple – removing core and calyxes – and put into a small saucepan with the sugar and 6 tablespoons of the poaching liquid. Bring to the boil then reduce to a heavy simmer and allow the apples to cook down until mushy. Allow to cool.

To make the cream filling, simply whip the double cream to peaks that are just a little firmer than soft and floppy. Fold in the crème fraiche, vanilla, calvados and icing sugar and refrigerate until needed.

To assemble, take 10 of the pastry discs and place on a flat serving plate or tray. Fill the piping bag with the cream filling, then pipe a circle of filling on to each of the 10 pastry discs, just a few millimetres from the edge. Inside this circle of filling, dot 5 balls of poached apple, evenly spaced. In the centre of the apples, place a scant teaspoon of the apple purée. Squeeze some of the cream over the apple purée so that it sneaks in between the apples and joins the first circle of filling. Top with another disc of puff pastry. You should have 10 perfect tarts. Top each one with a small sprig of lavender flowers, and a heavy dusting of icing sugar.