Pies are a great invention.
Hiding stuff inside pastry is the oldest trick in the book, and few people can resist the smell of freshly cooked golden pastry, and then biting through to a redolent savoury filling inside.
This is one of life’s great pleasures. To this day I still remember being at Tamaki Primary School in New Zealand and being transported by the smell of the pies arriving for school lunch, the aroma wafting down the hall and cutting through our attention spans like an oxy-acetylene torch applied to a block of butter.
When I was a lad we had a limited number of options when it came to pies, but they were delicious options.
We had a choice of mince pies, steak pies, pepper pies, potato top pies, the wildly exotic “curry pie” and then a great innovation, the tomato and onion pie, where strips of superheated onion burned across one’s lip like an angry box jellyfish.
On the weekends, if we were lucky, the bacon and egg pie would make an appearance, and this was one of the best of the lot.
I put it on our breakfast buffet a few weeks ago and it’s a popular addition.
These days we are spoilt for choice, and the savoury filling inside your pie is limited only by your imagination.
Some great ones include cauliflower and cheese, broccoli mornay, green curry chicken, massaman beef, beef and red wine gravy, mushroom pies, chicken mushroom white wine, goulash, smoked fish in white parsley sauce and pretty much anything from your favourite cuisine that can be bound in gravy and encased in pastry!
The perfect pie requires a denser pie dough base, a delicious filling, and a flaky pastry lid.
Puff pastry can be used for the lid, although this has a tendency to live up to it’s name and puff skywards like a top hat.
Better is a flaky pastry, or a ‘rough puff’ which is faster and easier to make.
Here’s a recipe for the lid
Rough Puff / flaky pastry
1 tsp salt
- Sift flour and mix the salt through it
- Rub half of the lard through the flour and rub it with fingertips until it looks like breadcrumbs.
- Add in enough iced water to make a soft dough.
- Mix the butter with the remaining lard
- Roll the doughh into a rectangle.
- Take 1/3 of the butter lard mix and put teaspoon sized chunks across 2/3 of the pastry on the left.
- Fold the empty right hand side 1/3 of pastry over half of the pastry with butter knobs to the left. Fold to the left again.
- There are now three layers. Seal the open sides of the pastry by pressing lightly. Turn 90 degrees and roll into a rectangle again.
- Chill pastry in the fridge for 15 minutes
- repeat last step with half of the remaining butter lard mix
- Chill again in fridge for 15 minutes
- Repeat again with remaining butter lard mix. Roll, fold back into a square and then chill for 30 minutes before using.
What does this achieve?
The chunks of butter/lard become flat discs when rolled out, and become spread through three the three folded layers of pastry.
each time you roll and fold and repeat, the butter & lard becomes spread evenly into overlapping layers of pastry and fat, just like a puff pastry but with a few more gaps, and less finesse.
The result is a crisp, flaky, layered pastry that is perfect for topping pies.
Next we need the pastry to make the pie bases.
Pie base pastry (raised pie dough)
1000 g Flour
40 g Salt
400 g Butter (or pork lard)
10 each Egg yolks
250g / 240g Iced Water (250g water if using butter, or 220g water if using lard)
Method 1: (Traditional, by hand)
1. Mix salt through the flour
2. Pour flour onto table and make a well (a thick ring with a hole in the middle)
3. Mix the butter or lard into the flour, and rub with the fingertips until it looks like coarse breadcrumbs
4. Form a well with the flour & butter mix. Pour the water and egg yolks into the well.
5. Pull the flour butter mix into the liquid and mix with the fingertips until just mixed.
6. Push together with the hands, turn over and push back into shape. Three times
7. Form into two balls, clingwrap and rest in chiller for one hour
8. Must be handled cold, but not too cold. If in the chiller overnight, remove one hour before rolling.
*This dough is used for the BASE ONLY for pies and quiche.
Method 2 (By food processor)
1. Mix flour and salt and put into food processor
2. Add cold, hard, diced butter into robot coupe and blend by pulsing until it looks like coarse bread crumbs
3. Add water and egg yolks.
4. Pulse 2 or three times more for a second or two only, until it starts to form a ball DO NOT OVER MIX
5. Wrap in cling film / plastic wrap and cool before rolling.
Making the bacon and egg pies.
We need a filling, which in this case is a simple bacon and egg mix.
Sauteed bacon pieces, soft and not crispy.
For the mini bite sized pies I’m using quail eggs as they look great cracked whole inside each mini pie.
For regular individual pies, use one chicken egg per pie.
Bacon & egg pies makes 50 mini pies
350g Pie base pastry 7g each x 7.5cm diameter
200g Rough Puff pastry 4g each x 4.5cm diameter
300g Bacon, diced 1cm square.
50 ea. Quail egg, one each per pie
Salt & pepper to taste
1 ea Chicken egg (for egg wash – for brushing puff pastry pie lid)
40g Milk (for egg wash – for brushing puff pastry pie lid)
1. Pan fry or grill the bacon. It must be cooked & coloured, but NOT crispy.
2. Cool the cooked bacon before using as a filling.
3. Beat the chicken eggs for a minute until well mixed – but not frothy.
4. Press the 7.5cm pie base pastry into the pie moulds
5. Put cold cooked bacon in the bottom
6. Add teaspoon of beaten chicken egg (3.5ml or 4ml) into each pie
7. Crack quail eggs one by one into each pie. Make sure there is no shell in the pies.
One quail egg per pie
8. Top each pie with a 4.5cm rough puff pastry pie lid
9. Bake at 190C until pastry is fully cooked (15 – 20 minutes)