Now bread and cakes I am quite confident at knocking up but it got me to thinking about the rest. I’ve already made a start on biscuit baking and have discovered it’s a fine art and a steep learning curve. I reckon the ‘perfect’ biscuit has about a 45 second window between undercooked and hard as nails and as someone with a three second memory it hasn’t been without incident. I am steadily making my way through Miranda Gore Browne’s (former contestant) aptly named ‘Biscuit’ book and I will report back from time to time. I do find her instructions a little vague at times and a few more pictures wouldn’t go amiss but it’s a lovely book and Mary Berry called her ‘the iced biscuit queen’ so it’s alright by me.
Pastry just isn’t something I’ve really ever made, in fact I’ve hardly ever bought it either. I’m not a huge fan of savoury pastry, I think due to an unfortunate incident as a child when The Oracle and my Pa forced me to eat a Cornish Pasty then took me on a long road journey, without my usual travel sickness pills. As for sweet pies and tarts, I remember enjoying them as a child, but more for the accompanying custard than the actual pastry surrounds.
So, new mission for 2013 is: become an expert in all things pie. The first thing I (of course) did was consult Nigella who said for her learning to make pastry was like “learning to love the bomb”, which didn’t fill me with delight, so I decided the best thing to do was enlist the help of The Oracle and I accordingly pitched up on her doorstep and demand she make shortcrust pastry with me.
I duly weighed out the ingredients:
· 120g fat (60g butter and 60g shortening or lard) – I only had butter so I went all out
· 240g white flour (I used 00 pasta flour as advised by Nigella)
· Iced water with a dash of lemon and a pinch of salt – exact quantities unknown
This should make enough to line a 23cm pie dish, with a pastry top as well.
Or at least that is what I meant to do. In reality The Oracle commented that it looked like there was an awful lot of butter in my flour before I realised I’d put double the amount in. The only sensible option was to chuck in twice as much flour and make an uber amount of pastry – a cunning tactic leading to 2x pie fun!
Basically you run the butter into the flour then just add bit of water by bit of water and swirl it all around with a flat bladed knife until it almost looks like it will come together, then you get your hands in and squish! Put the pastry in clingfilm to rest in the fridge for 20 mins and roll out in 2 bits to fill the pie dish. I made an apple and blackberry pie so I added 2 sliced Bramley apples and as many blackberries as would fill the gaps and lined the tin, trimming away the overhang with a knife, then I brushed the edges with water and bunged the lid on. Actually to do this I tried Nigella’s technique of folding the top in half, then half again, placing it on the pie with the point in the middle and then unfolding, which proved to be very effective. After than you cut off the over hang again then press down with your thumb all the way round to seal.
The next process The Oracle informs me with a straight face, involves ‘knocking up’ the pie. You kind of hit the edges of the pastry with a sharp knife to separate it into layers a bit and make it puff up. Then brush the top with milk to make it go brown and sprinkle with granulated sugar, finishing with a couple of holes in the top to let the steam out. After this it’s in the oven for 10 minutes at 220c then down to 190c for another 30 minutes, this was Delia’s advice and it seemed to work okay. Here’s the result, my very first (of many) totally homemade pies, what do you think?
Kitchen wisdom gained:
· My pie had a slightly soggy bottom due to the juicy blackberries. Next time I may make the pastry a tiny bit thicker and bake the tin on a pre-heated baking tray to spread more heat down there. Also you can add cornflour apparently to the fruit before baking but I need to investigate more.
· Making pastry for two pies is as easy as for one, why not double the recipe and freeze one batch for future pie joy?
· Arrange your fruit neatly and you won’t get such a lumpy pie!
Domestic goddess points:
Loads, but not nearly as many as the day I make my own puff pastry, then I will have ARRIVED on the pastry scene.
Question of the day:
From the GBBO application form and out of nosy interest – have you had any baking disasters? (The Oracle’s blue custard comes to mind)