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"This is a traditional tart eaten in Naples at Easter," says Ingram. "The legend goes that a mermaid called Parthenope in the Gulf of Napoli would sing to celebrate the arrival of spring each year. One year, to say thank you, the Neapolitans offered her gifts of ricotta, flour, eggs, wheat, perfumed orange flowers and spices. She took them to her kingdom under the sea, where the gods made them into a cake. I love to add nibs of chocolate to Parthenope cake because I think it marries nicely with the candied orange and sultanas, but, really, do you need an excuse to add chocolate to anything?" Start this recipe a day ahead to prepare the pastry and soak the sultanas.
The mix of candied apple and dried apple combined with a sticky cinnamon glaze provides a new twist on an old favourite. These buns are equally good served warm on the day of baking, or several days later, toasted, with lashings of butter.
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The charm of a baked Charlotte, that quintessentially British hot pudding, lies in the thrifty trick of transforming lemons into lemonade. Take day-old white bread, mould slices of it into a round casing, cemented with lashings of butter, fill it with fruit and bake it until the bread is golden and the centre explosively pulpy. Traditionally filled with apple, variations include almost any fruit, from bananas and berries to pears or pineapples, but why muck around with British pud lore?
It’s a lore that extends back to the late 18th century when the Charlotte made its first appearance in literature, not as a recipe, as one would expect, but in Joel Barlow’s aptly titled 1796 ode The Hasty Pudding: “The Charlotte brown, within whose crusty sides a belly soft the pulpy apple hides”. Nearly a decade later, the first recipe for an apple Charlotte appeared in Maria Eliza Rundell’s A New System of Domestic Cookery. And it’s a recipe that has remained unchanged since.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that this so-called pud was named in honour of Queen Charlotte, whose reign coincided with the emergence of the sweet treat. She was reputed to possess quite a hankering for a good, crisp apple and to ensure a paradise’s supply of the fruit, the keen amateur botanist fashioned herself as the foremost patron of apple growers.
Cox’s orange pippins are, indubitably, the British apple of choice, requiring less additional sugar to attain syrupy stewed sweetness, but for us anitpodeans, the reliable golden delicious will have to suffice. No matter which apple you choose, this pud is tip top (and we don’t mean the bread).