November 19, 2020


This pie began with a visit to the local DIY shop.

Where we live in Derbyshire we are very lucky to have an old fashioned hardware shop in the town.  In the "olden days" you would have called it an irongmonger's.  To be fair, it is principally a DIY shop but it sells everything from pots of paint, tools and ladders to pots and pans.  It's a wonderful shop.  Well, for someone like me it is anyway.  I have rarely come out without what I went in for and on the few occasions that they didn't have what I wanted they got it for me from the wholesaler a few days later.  How good is that?

Since the lockdown in the spring it has remained open and served customers from the door.  It's a big shop but well crammed with so much stuff that social distancing is virtually impossible once inside.  Customers have queued good naturedly outside on the pavement come rain or shine while staff would search the shop for what they wanted and bring a selection to the door.  They have been busy all year.

So, imagine my joy when, the other weekend, I arrived at the door ready to request a replacement light bulb only to find that I was invited inside!  Woo hoo !!  For the first time in eight months I could browse the bin liners and buckets to my heart's content.  

That's when I set eyes on this Pyrex flan dish.  It's a giant, 28cm version of one I already have and used for my second attempt at the rhubarb and almond pie you can see here.  "Aha" thought I.  The recipe might actually work with a dish that big.  And for only £3.25 it was definitely worth a punt.  Did I mention that the prices are also very good in our local shop?

I now have this flan dish in three sizes, 21, 25 and 28cm.  As the smaller two came from charity shops for a pound or two each, I'm well set up to bake any size of flan/quiche/tart/pie for very little outlay on equipment.

And indeed, the big size worked perfectly.  I had to use brioche finger buns for the base as by the time I got to the supermarket after visiting the DIY shop there were no brioche loaves left.  They worked fine.  

I used apples as per Mary Berry's recipe in the book "Simple Comforts" but slightly less ground almonds and more flour, a combination that I prefer.

It was yummy.  I glazed it with apricot jam to give it that patisserie look and it looked a million dollars.  An excellent dessert for a large gathering - or for just the four of us with ample leftovers.  Delicious warm with cream or cold with custard.  Or for breakfast - 28cm is a large pie and will go a long way.


4-5 slices of a brioche loaf or 5-6 brioche finger rolls
175g spreadable butter (I used Lurpak spreadable)
175g caster sugar
1 tsp almond extract
150g ground almonds
3 eggs
50g plain flour
1 large or 2 small eating apples, cored but not peeled.
2 tblsp apricot jam for glazing the pie


Preheat the oven to 200° C / 180° fan / gas mk 6.  Butter a large, shallow baking dish about 28cm dia.

Press slices of brioche into the bottom of the dish, filling in gaps but not overlapping.  If using the rolls, slice off the top and bottom crusts then slice in half horizontally.

Slice the cored apples into thin wedges.  I find the easiest method is to halve the apples then use a melon baller to remove the central core, then slice each half into wedges.

Put the butter and sugar into a food processor and whizz until light and fluffy.  Add the extract, almonds eggs and flour and whizz again until nice and smooth.  Spread the mixture evenly over the brioche base and arrange the fruit on top.  

Bake for about 40 minutes until golden brown and the centre is firm.  Warm the jam in a small saucepan to make it runny then brush it all over the top of the pie to glaze.  Serve warm or at room temperature, with cream, ice cream or custard.

Cuts into 10-12 slices.


  1. That looks delicious! Small hardware stores are often a treasure trove of fair priced delights. I love Thorns in central Norwich. Here in Dorset we have "Harts of Stur" (Sturminster Newton) We both love visiting - great diy/tools, superb kitchenware, and now a small "country clothing" section. Even better,they have an online shop (useful in lockdown) and much of their stuff is cheaper than L***L**d!

    1. Angela, I have looked at the Harts of Stur website, they have Nordic Ware Bundt tins at sensible prices!

    2. I meant to add that my fascination for hardware began as a child in the 50's and 60's. We lived in a village served by numerous delivery vans. The butcher came twice a week, the baker every two days, the fishmonger once a week and - my favourites - on a Friday teatime the greengrocer who sold chocolates as well as fruit and veg, and the hardware man. His name was Sammy Tomlinson, or was it Tommy Samlinson, I can never remember! I loved rummaging among the boxes of soap powder and tins of polish when my mum sent me to the van for something. Weird, I know.

  2. Is there a purely aesthetic approach to baking? Envisaging what would appeal visually rather than depending on those depressing inner dialogues like: "I can't do X because I haven't got Y. That suggests Z but I did Z last week and I'd hate like hell to be accused of lacking imagination. And besides Z is a bit on the calorific side. The obvious option is A - which is mainly air surrounded by a thin periphery of baked cells - but A is so preachy, pushing people towards good health. As if I were the Cooking Curate."

    Might one start with a shape - say a spiral - and turn that into the onlie begetter? What ingredients lend themselves to spirals? Might they, and thus it, convey a religious message? Or a hymn aimed specifically at dentists?

    You may conclude that, with me, baking was the road not taken (quote).

    1. Roderick, this is not tricky to make. You don't need a food processor or other gadget, a bowl and a wooden spoon would do just fine if you beat it like hell for a few minutes. I guarantee it would impress! And it's worth the calories!

  3. I love this kind of pudding and it would make a very fine breakfast in my opinion. Funnily enough, it's very similar to a version of pain de chien that I remember eating in a restaurant several years ago somewhere near Montreuil-sur-Mer in the Pas-de-Calais. (Sorry for burbling on, I'm feeling nostalgic about trips to France and, in fact, to any restaurants at the moment).