(sufficient to make pies for 6-8 )
Pies are perfect for luncheons or informal dinners. Since they consist of meat, vegetables and pastry, they are a meal in themselves and require no side dishes. I also adore the lovely combination of tender crispy puff pastry and a creamy hearty filling, especially in cold weather. In this recipe, I’ll describe how to bake a generic pie, compatible with savoury fillings of different types.
- Puff Pastry Sheets (4)
- Egg (1)
- Pie Filling
For the pie filling, please refer to my Chicken Pie recipe, which is fully compatible with this recipe in terms of quantitiy.
Making pies is not as difficult as you might imagine, as long as you use the pre-made puff pastry sheets easily found in every supermarket. These come in frozen stacks of 9.5×9.5 inch (24cm) squares. Before I go on to the pies proper, let me discuss briefly how the pastry sheets should be handled. Keep in mind the following points.
- The pastry can only be manipulated successfully within a narrow temperature range, when it feels cool to the touch. If it is too cold, it is brittle and cracks, and if it is too warm, it becomes too soft.
- Have a wooden board (or table surface) lightly dusted with flour to work the pastry on.
- Thaw only one sheet at a time, the one you are working on. The way to do this is to remove one sheet from the stack (they are seperated by cellophane) and warm it up with your hands on the working surface. Keep the remainder stacked to maintain their low temperature until it is their turn.
Traditional Pie Method
- To avoid the troublesome task of reshaping the pastry, procure square pie trays which are slightly smaller than the pastry sheets (as per the photo). I’d get those where the bottom comes off when you push from below, unless you intend to always serve your pies straight from the tray. For this recipe you will need 2 of these pie trays.
- Paint the inside of the pie trays with butter. If your tray is designed for open faced pies, the edges of the tray may be quite sharp and the weight of the pastry itself might cause it to be cut by the edges once the pastry warms. In this situation, cover the edges with thin strips of foil as a solution.
- When the pastry sheet has thawed enough, place it over the tray and allow it to sag into the tray. As it warms, nudge and stretch the pastry till it touches the entire interior surface of the tray. Leave a 3/4 inch margin of pastry over each side.
- Spoon your filling into the pie, making sure not to touch the margins. Place a second pastry sheet over the pie and allow it warm a bit as well. As this piece is left flat, it will be ‘bigger’ than the first sheet. Trim off the excess pastry with a pair of scissors such that the two pieces have the same edge.
- Press the edges together and then roll them inwards till the roll is just inside the pie tray. At the corners there will be surplus pastry, twist and cut these bits off. Use a pair of scissors and crimp the outer half of the rolled edges at quarter inch intervals to seal the pie properly and also as a form of decoration.
- Repeat to make the second pie.
- Preheat the oven to 180oC (350oF). This is essential as the oven needs to be very hot the moment the pie goes in or the pastry will not puff.
- Paint the pies with egg yolk to give it a nice finish when it is baked. Poke 4 evenly spaced holes in the pastry with a toothpick to prevent ballooning when the filling starts to boil.
- When the oven is ready, place your pies in. Baking should take roughly half an hour, but it varies with each oven. When you can see that the pastry has risen but before it begins to brownrisen (roughly at After the 15 minutes) reduce the oven temperature to 160oC (320oF) to give the covered part of the pastry more time to cook. Inspect every few minutes after 25 minutes and decide when the pies done visually, they should be a dark golden brown.
Strudle Type Alternative
- Lets say you don’t have pie trays and are not inclined to buy any. You can still bake your pies on ordinary baking trays by folding them into rectangular strudle-like pies. This is the easiest method for beginners.
- Place your filling in the fridge till it thickens into a gelatin. This is crucial as warm filling will immediately deform your parcel, before you can seal it. Also, you wouldn’t want the filling to flow since the pastry edges won’t stick together properly if they get wet.
- Butter a baking tray and preheat the oven.
- Lay the pastry on a flour dusted surface.
- Spoon your filling into centre of the pastry in the shape of a rectangle.
- Lift the top and bottom edges of the pastry and join them by rolling the edges up, forming a ‘tube’ with the filling inside.
- Next, seal up the two ends in the same way. Using a pair of scissors, crimp the rolled edges to secure them.
- Place the pastry on the baking tray and gently press down to ensure the contents are distributed evenly.x
- Bake as per above – don’t forget to paint with yolk and to poke a hole to relieve pressure.
Triangular Parcel Alternative
- The triangular parcel method is more elegant and you can make smaller pies sized in individual portions. It is however more difficult and you shouldn’t attempt it till you are comfortable with the strudle method.
- Do everything in steps 2-4 above.
- Cut a pastry sheet diagonally into two equal triangles. Cut wax paper (or foil) into similar sized triangles.
- Position the wax paper over the pastry as shown and fold the pastry over on itself to form a smaller triangle. The wax paper will keep the inside of the pastry triangle seperate until you add the filling.
- Roll up and seal the free edge by rolling and crimping with scissors. Then while holding the triangle like a cone, spoon your filling in. When the parcel is semi-full, pull out the wax paper and then seal the remaining openning the same way as before. Place this on a buttered baking tray.
- Repeat another seven times. Bake as per above
- If you really want to cheat, you can make pot-pies. Just put filling in ramekins and top off with puff pastry. Make sure no pressure is applied to the pastry at the rim of ramekins, by pressing some extra pastry into the outside of the ramekin. Also, remember that the ratio of pastry to filling is very low for this shortcut and adjust accordingly.