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