Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas 6. Line two baking trays with greaseproof paper.
Strip the bay leaf off its stalk and bash it up with a pestle and mortar to break it down and release the oils.
Finely grate in the lemon and orange zest, as well as about half the nutmeg, and add the mixed spice and the demerara sugar. Muddle everything around a few times, then put aside.
Pop the dried fruit into a bowl, finely chopping the apricots (if using), then finely chop the stem ginger and add to the bowl along with 1 teaspoon of stem ginger syrup and the flavoured sugar.
Core and cut the apple into 1cm chunks, then add to the bowl of dried fruit, quickly mix to combine and put aside.
Dust a clean surface and a rolling pin with flour and roll the puff pastry out to about 3mm thick, dusting with more flour as you go.
Cut out rounds with a 10cm cookie cutter – just pull any leftover pastry into a ball and roll that out too; it might rise slightly differently, but that’s all right – you should end up with 16 rounds in total.
Put 1 tablespoon of fruit filling into the middle of each pastry circle, then stretch the pastry up and over the filling, bringing it together on top and sealing it in the middle.
Arrange the Eccles cakes on the baking trays, with the sealed side facing down, then use a knife to make three little slits in the top. Some of the juices from the filling might spill out a bit as the cakes cook, but that’s only going to create sticky golden caramelized bits later, so it’s not a bad thing.
Beat the egg, then quickly egg wash each cake. Dust a little icing sugar over each one and sprinkle with a pinch of demerara sugar.
Bake in the oven for 15 to 18 minutes, or until they’re golden, puffy and beautiful, then leave to cool and serve as part of a picnic spread, or with a nice cup of tea.