Six pies, and more lessons learned

It’s been a while since I did some experimental baking. This evening, the mood took me, and I made six small pies which made just about enough food for the four of us to have a light meal. Here’s the process.

First, I did a dumb. I started with a pack of ready-rolled puff pastry, which was completely the wrong pastry for these pies. I should have just made up some shortcrust. We’ll see the consequences of this in later photos. I started by cutting the pastry into 12 equal-sized squares, and rolled six of them. I fitted them into the cases. Since I was experimenting, I discarded the pastry outside the case in three of them, but retained it in the others:

Then I treated three pairs of pies differently (one trimmed and one untrimmed in each pair): the ones at the back I left as they were; the ones in the middle, I painted with an egg-wash; and the ones in front I lined with cling-film and filled with baking beads:

I gave them eight minutes in an oven that I’d preheated to 200˚C, then took them out to find wildly different results:

The ones that had had baking beads in were not fully cooked. The ones that had not had all blown up enormously — which I guess it what you’d expect from puff-pastry. And the untrimmed ones had bloated out and become a big comical. I egg-washed both the untreated pie cases and the ones that had had the baking beads, and gave all six of them another four minutes. They came out looking like this:

At this stage the trimmed ones look more reasonable — but, really, the use of puff pastry has made them all pretty silly in one way or another. I had to squash several of them down to make space for the fillings. Speaking of which, here they are, semi-prepared — along with the lids that I’d prepared by rolling out the other six sheets of pastry and cutting them out with a Chinese bowl:

And so the filling begins. Three different kinds of pie, each kind in a trimmed and an untrimmed version. Layer-one fillings: chopped mushroom, chopping spring onions and flattened figs:

Layer two: cooked chicken, raw egg (a single one split between the two pies) and walnuts:

Layer three fillings: Brie, Stilton and Roquefort:

Then the lids went on, and I eggwashed them. I also eggwashed the rims of the pie cases for attaching the lids — something which was much easier with the untrimmed pies than with the trimmed ones.

Annoyingly, I can’t now remember how long I gave the assembled pies in the oven — I think maybe it was either another eight or twelve minutes. Anyway, here’s how they looked when they came out:

I let them cool for fifteen minutes before removing them from their cases. Then I left them on a grid to cool for another fifteen minutes before cutting them in half:

As you can see most clearly at bottom right, the egg was not cooked through. Uh-oh. I gave those two pies 40 seconds in the microwave in the hope of firming up the egg, but it wasn’t enough. Neither was another 40 seconds. After a third burst, I judged that it was cooked enough, so I left those pies back on the grid for five more minutes so the microwave-induced sogginess could recede.

Finally, I arranged them to serve. In the left row: spring onion, egg and stilton; in the middle row, mushroom, chicken and Brie; and in the right row, figs, walnuts and Roquefort:

I’d judge all of these successful, but none of them a raging success. The egg one was maybe the best, but rather soggy. The chicken one was too dry: I’d hoped the Brie would melt into the chicken and mushroom, but it didn’t — maybe needing more time in the over on a higher temperature. Finally, the fig one was good, but to my surprise the Roquefort was rather shrinking: even though it’s a very powerfully flavoured cheese, it turned out that I needed more of it.

I’d say the first and third recipes are worth persisting with; the chicken one will need re-thinking.

Lessons learned

  1. The big one: don’t use puff pastry for this. Not only was it a mistake in itself, but it also prevented me from learning other useful lessons, like whether it’s better to trim the edges before cooking or to leave them.
  2. The use of baking beads slows down blind baking. You really need to take them out part-way through the process.
  3. Definitely always egg-wash.
  4. It’s difficult to judge how long raw egg will take to cook. I’ve had better results with egg in other pies in the past, but I don’t really know why.
  5. Melting Brie is also hard to predict; but even if I’d got that bit right, it might not have provided enough moisture for the chicken pie.
  6. You need more Roquefort than you think.



6 responses to “Six pies, and more lessons learned

  1. These look good! I’ve never heard of baking beads. Will have to research.

  2. I don’t know that you don’t want to use puff pastry in your pies, after all, it makes an excellent top crust to the pie. Though, I can see why it wouldn’t make the best bottom crust.

  3. @kurt I hadn’t come across baking beads, either, until I started watching The Great British Bake Off. It’s a very nice show, I recommend it. (Charles is a fan.)

    @Marty Exactly: puff is fine for top crusts, but useless for bottoms. And I really can’t be having with using two kinds of pastry in a single pie — which I think would be a bit odd even if I could be bothered. That’s why puff tends to be used for the kind of single-crusted pie that I would call “casserole with a lid”, which doesn’t really interest me much. It’s back to shortcrust for me!

  4. “You need more Roquefort than you think.” is a life lesson for sure.

    As for puff pastry, it works great… if you dispense with the mini pie pans entirely and just wrap it around the filling and bake on a sheet.

  5. Ah, interesting! You’re describing a pastie rather than a pie, but that might well be an experiment worth trying. Thank you!

  6. You can use rice or dried beans/lentils instead of baking beads, but they won’t conduct heat like the beads to – still, something to play with without a large investment. Another tip is to line the inside with parchment before putting the beads in so you can easily lift them out halfway through should you wish.

    You can trim shortcrust edges, but not too short as the pastry will shrink. A way to minimise the shrinkage is to cover the crust in cling film and put it in the fridge/freezer until ready to bake.

    For the chicken, yes, you’d probably want to have it in a sauce to make it more moist. I’d also recommend cutting the brie into small chunks and tucking it amidst the filling rather than layering on top.

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