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.
- 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.
- The use of baking beads slows down blind baking. You really need to take them out part-way through the process.
- Definitely always egg-wash.
- 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.
- 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.
- You need more Roquefort than you think.