Wednesday, 19 October 2011

I heart pies

I love pies with all my heart.  Pies make me happy.  There is no casserole or stew in the world that couldn't be improved with a lid of some sort.  I love crumbles, cobblers and crunchy breadcrumb toppings to pies, but a proper pie has a pastry top.  I think my love of pies might really be a love of pastry.

Most of the time I end up making two pies at once because I always make more pastry than I need for the main event.  I find it easier to have plenty of pastry and deal with leftovers than work with a parsimonious amount of pastry.

This morning I made C the giant mince pie he requested for his twelfth birthday tomorrow.  I used the orange-scented pastry that Nigella makes for mince pies in her Feast book - it has a very subtle orange flavour and is not too rich, but flakes beautifully.  I added a peeled and diced bramley apple to the giant jar of mincemeat I had (leftover from last Christmas - mincemeat keeps wonderfully, tucked away at the back of a dark shelf).  C loves apples, and a chopped apple stirred in made the mincemeat go further - you need a great deal of filling for a pie this big.

I decided not to go with a proper lid.  When I make small ones at Christmas I always top them with a star, and I thought stars would look rather nice on a birthday pie too.  I cut out the letters for C's name and added them to the stars to make it extra celebratory.

Cam's birthday mince pie
C's giant mince pie, for his 12th birthday

Because the stars on the top didn't use much pastry I had plenty left over.  Often I turn small amounts of leftover pastry into jam tarts (for sweet pastry) or cheese straws (for savoury pastry) but there was enough left today for a whole other pie.  I chopped up another couple of bramleys, tossed the pieces with brown sugar and allspice, and made an apple pie which we can have for tea tonight.  The apple pie was topped with a hedgehog just because I have a sweet hedgehog cutter from Ikea that I like using.

Apple pie with gratuitous hedgehog motif
Apple pie, with gratuitous hedgehog motif

So the birthday boy gets pie on birthday eve and pie on his birthday.  He likes pie too.

Pie notes
  • I always brush the top of my pies with milk, not beaten egg.  This is because I can always think of better things to do with an egg than use it to glaze a pie (and have half a floury beaten egg left over - what a waste!).  Milk ends up giving a very similar burnished result, although admitedly a slightly less shiny one.
  • Get a silicone pastry brush.  For years I used a bristle one that looked lovely but left bristles over the tops of my pies.  Not a good look.
  • Mostly I use shortcrust pastry for pies, and I make it in my mixer.  I mix two parts strong white bread flour to one part fat (which is usually 50:50 butter and trex) then add liquid once the flour and fat look like breadcrumbs.  Liquid is usually water, but can be milk or egg.  For C's mince pie the liquid was orange juice.
  • Life's too short to get really het up over how neat a pie looks.  If it is patched and slightly raggedy it will still taste great.
  • If I'm making pasties rather than pies or tarts I use rough-puff pastry.  The best instructions I've found for rough-puff are in Hugh F-W's River Cottage Every Day book.
  • If you use metal pie and tart tins you never have to blind bake the pastry.
  • I am hoping that somebody who loves me might buy me this t-shirt for Christmas.
  • I currently have the Pieminister cookbook out of the library.  It is a glorious book with pies arranged according to season.  I've tried their curried chicken and squash pie recipe which was stunning. 
  • This Hairy Bikers' Perfect Pies book was out last week and is also on my reserve list at the library.  I have great hopes for it, as the pie recipes in their Mums Know Best books are already real favourites in our family.

    Two pies for the birthday boy


    1. Ah pies. Pies. How I love them too. Thanks so much for the links and useful tips.

      Love the gratuitous hedgehog.

    2. Delicious looking, and do tell C happy birthday for us!

    3. Lucky C and happy birthday for tomorrow. I've a little bit of pastry left in the fridge at the moment - why did I put in the fridge I should have topped the chicken pie with a hedgehog!

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    5. Oh I need a hedgehog cookie cutter too!

      K x

    6. Happy Birthday Cam. Florence did pretend eating on each and every pie on the screen. Sure they'll taste good, must try the orange pastry, is it just orange juice that makes it orangey or zest as well?

    7. Lovely pies Nancy. I'm with you on the milk rather than egg thing -such a waste of an egg. In fact I'm with you on all pie matters. I recently bought The Pieminister book. Very inspiring indeed, as are your pies.

    8. Wow, I love the giant mince pie, it's amazing! Hope C has a great birthday.

    9. I love pies too! Lucky Birthday boy! I am glad the hedgehog pastry motif is not an indication of what is inside the pie!!!

    10. Happy, happy birthday to C! I cannot believe he's already 12. You make lovely pies. I have never tried a mincemeat one, but I'm thinking I'd love it. The hedgehog decoration is adorable! :)


    11. Beautiful looking pies. I confess I am a pie-aholic too, and my love of pastry probably has a lot to do with the size of my bum. Isn't life short though? Isn't everything improved with a bit of shortcrust.

      PS - like the idea of using rough puff for pasties

    12. Not a pie related comment but have you seen your mittens have been faved on the Mollie Makes blog? You're famous!!! Lucy x

    13. I really want pie when I see these, but have never made one. Perhaps one day... Thanks for the tips anyway and your pies looks delicious.

    14. We love pies too. This week I made the Hairy Biker's Corned Beef and Potato Pie which is highly recommended! My next pie is going to be an apple one. I'm glad you said that about brushing pies with milk, I also think it is a waste to use egg. I recently started to use a silicone pastry brush too and wonder why I didn't do it ages ago. Good tip about the metal pie tins, I hadn't thought of that.


    Even though I often do not have the time to reply to everybody, I really appreciate all your comments so much - thank you for taking the time to read my blog and share your thoughts on what I've written.