Apples tend to be heavily sprayed and covered in wax to maintain appearance. Organic apples aren’t sprayed to the same degree, or with synthetic chemicals, and nor are they soaked in fungicides and wax, which is clearly better for us and the planet, but it can also shorten their shelf life. Apples with just a blemish or two are still fine to eat raw, but as they age and wither, it’s probably best to cook them.
Plain apple sauce is the simplest option, and makes a sweet, fibrous, gut-healing breakfast. Crumbles, cobblers and bettys are all good ways to convert a tired apple into more than the sum of its parts. However, topping my current list of favourite puddings is the charlotte, which is like a warm winter version of summer pudding.
Mini apple and chocolate charlottes
As the author, farmer and activist Wendell Berry says, when we eat, we are “farming by proxy”, because we can eat only if land is farmed on our behalf. This empowering idea makes clear our responsibility to buy well-farmed food. The quintessential English apple is a good example of how different food production can help or hinder our hinterland. Apple orchards are man-made carbon sinks that sequester carbon and promote biodiversity, or at least they are until they are sprayed heavily with pesticides and fungicides to protect the cosmetic standard of a conventionally grown apple.
When you have a glut of apples, no matter what condition they are in – bruised, shrivelled or just floury – these mini charlottes, which also use up old bread, will make the most of them, and in the process transform what might otherwise be wasted into a real treat. I especially love the way the chocolate soaks into the bread and goes a little caramelised and crunchy. They’re also easy to make, keep well in the fridge for several days and work as well for breakfast, warmed through and served with yoghurt, as for pudding. They’re also handy for other fruit that needs using up, such as brown bananas, chopped pineapple and berries.
Prep 5 min
Cook 45 min
5 apples, cored (use those to make apple cider vinegar)
100g dark brown unrefined sugar (brown is better for colour and flavour)
60g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
60g butter, softened
6-7 thin slices stale bread, brown or white
Creme fraiche or yoghurt, to serve
Heat the oven to 220C (200C fan)/425F/gas 7. Roughly dice the apples, then put them in a small saucepan with half the sugar and two tablespoons of water. Turn the heat to medium, cover the pan and leave to cook for five minutes. Remove the lid and carry on cooking until the apples are soft and most of the excess liquid hasevaporated. Turn off the heat, leave to cool and stir in the chocolate pieces.
Mix the butter with the remaining sugar, then spread over one side of the bread slices. Cut the bread into pieces of a size that will line the walls of eight muffin moulds, laying them in buttered side down so they stick to the moulds; overlap the bread slightly and press together to seal. Cut out tops from the leftover bread.
Fill each bread mould tightly with the apple and chocolate mixture, leaving space firmly to press on a bread lid. Bake at 220C (200C fan)/425F/gas 7 for about 20 minutes, until slightly crisp on top and bubbling. Leave to cool, then store in the fridge, or serve warm with creme fraiche or yoghurt.