Jonathan Swift used the phrase ‘life’s too short’ all the way back in 1711. Then Shirley Conran coined the phrase, ‘life’s too short to stuff a mushroom’ in her 1975 book Superwoman, aimed at busy women; it was a transforming book that liberated women and made it OK to take shortcuts and not feel they had to be some kind of goddess in the home. In 2008, Janet Street-Porter wrote LIfe’s Too F****** Short: A guide to getting what YOU want out of life, without wasting time, effort or money. I love this book; it struck a chord with me. As I get older I’m less concerned with impressing – for example, friends and family know I can cook well so I don’t have to always aim for the Michelin star meal; I know now a simple meal can still be really good if made with best-quality ingredients – and a lot of love. I don’t want to keep putting effort into things and even relationships that don’t work well for me; I like to adopt a Taoist approach to life – don’t give up at the first hurdle, but if you, metaphorically speaking, keep ‘knocking on the door’ and don’t get the answer or result you hope for, then accept it’s not going to work. Walk away. And don’t beat yourself up about it. I relate to Janet’s view about positive thinking. And that means putting one’s effort, time, emotions and energy into positive things. I’ve always believed that you should put the most effort into the people and things that are most important to you. Some people believe a good relationship looks after itself and you shouldn’t have to work at it. But I don’t agree. If someone is really important to you – keep telling them; make loving, thoughtful gestures … cook them Sunday lunch.
Personally, I don’t agree that ‘life’s too short’ to stuff a mushroom because a mushroom stuffed with duxelles, showered in freshly grated Parmesan and browned under the grill, is a truly wonderful thing. But sometimes life is just too busy. Or, you’re really pleased the family are coming round for Sunday lunch but making flaky pastry from scratch for the apple tartlets is a step too far today. I do genuinely love cooking, even just for myself, but today was going to be a shortcut day. I wrote about making my own flaky pastry for apple tartlets last year (click here) and it is fun to do, immensely satisfying and, I think, the result a little better. But then while I was wandering the aisles of Waitrose gathering ingredients for lunch today, buying ready-made and rolled all-butter puff pastry for the apple tartlets seemed a good idea and the easy route far too tempting to resist.
Instead of spending more than an hour making and chilling and rolling the pastry, you can make the whole dessert, from start to finish, in about half an hour. Apart from being so easy, it’s also something that can be rustled up last-minute.
Quick Apple Tartlets – Makes 6
- 1 x 320g pack of all-butter puff pastry
- 3 eating apples
- a little butter for greasing baking tray
- 1 egg, beaten
- icing sugar
I wasn’t sure how many pastry circles I’d get from the pack and only wanted 4 tartlets, so I cut the roll in half, thinking I’d freeze the second half. However, I could only get 3 from each long half, so I decided to cut the extra 2 circles and layer them with greaseproof paper and freeze them for another time. You couldn’t, of course, do this is you bought frozen pastry but mine was from a cold shelf so OK to freeze.
Use either a pastry cutter or mug to cut out 6 circles of 10cm (4 inches) diameter. Place them on a baking sheet that you’ve first greased with a little butter. Now use a sharp knife to mark a circle about 1cm from the edge. Don’t cut right through. This is just to allow the edge to puff up a bit more as it cooks.
Peel the apples, core and cut in two. Now cut into slices keeping the shape of the apple half as much as you can. My apples were quite big and I decided I didn’t need the entire half (so I ate the ends instead!).
Carefully lay the apple slices on top of the pastry, fanning out to separate the slices a bit, and leaving the edge uncovered. Brush beaten egg round the edge so the pastry will brown nicely.
Put the tartlets into a preheated 220C/200 Fan/Gas 7 oven for 20 minutes. The edges should puff up and the tartlets be a nice golden brown. Using a fine sieve, shower some icing sugar generously over the top of the cooked tartlets.
Put the tray under a hot grill to melt the sugar and caramelise the tartlets. This only takes a couple of minutes. Watch carefully so they don’t burn.
And now you have your ultra quick, homemade apple tartlets! Yes I know I said I didn’t need to impress … but, honestly, who isn’t going to be impressed by these!
I made these in advance but they’d be nice served warm too.
If you’re in French mode you’d eat these just as they are. But don’t feel you have to deny yourself a little extra in the form of some cream or ice cream or maybe a dollop of thick Greek yoghurt. We didn’t!