the simple secret to perfect pies

pies-6 pies-2

I’m not afraid to admit it. You see I’ve been a pastry snob pretty much all my life. Not only that, I’ve been a pie snob as well.

I grew up in a house with my mum making her pastry from scratch. I’m sure the thought of using frozen pastry never crossed her mind. So without really thinking about it, I was determined to always be a home made pastry gal. Like my philosophy on packet cake mixes, I wasn’t going to ‘lower my standards’.

Some may see it as a little extreme but I’ve always believed that the perfect pie had a short crust base and puff pastry lid. And to be honest I’ve tended to avoid pot pies like, well something to avoid. I always felt that they were a cheats version that robbed everyone of the goodness of the crisp pastry base.

But the other day I found myself with a craving for pies, and no pie tins to bake them in. So rather than go pie-less, I opted for a ramekin-based pot pie. And to my surprise with my generous home made puff pastry topping, I was completely satisfied. And better still avoided that pastry-overdose feeling that usually accompanies a pie eating session.

Then a few weeks later, I decided to roll out my new favourite pot pies for a dinner with some mates. I found myself with enough home made puff pastry for 4 pies and 6 people to feed. Without the luxury of time, frozen pastry was the only option. But I decided to try something different and make a double layer of the frozen stuff, to see how it would stack up.

And the results?

While I could tell the difference, none of my guests passed comment. And the first person to compliment the pastry was one eating the supermarket pastry pie. Who would have thought?

So there you have it. The secret to perfect pies is to use two layers of store bought pastry, joined together with a little egg wash. The other secret, is to trim the edges so you get fresh pastry exposed which is more likely to puff up energetically.

And one more – I find that it’s better if you overcook the pastry a little to avoid any gummy under layers. So when you think the pies look done, leave them in for another 5 minutes or so.

The perfect accompaniment to last week’s cold oil potato chips.

pies-3

[5 ingredients]
eggplant (aubergine) & tomato pies

serves 6

These are a brilliant vegetarian pie, and I’m pretty sure they’d satisfy most hardened carnivores. But if you’re in the mood for meat, you could add some bacon, or chorizo or a hearty pork & fennel sausage. Or ditch the eggplant and replace it will some ground beef or lamb for a more traditional meat pie filling.

Actually any of your favourite stew or casserole recipes would make a good pie. So feel free to experiment.

2 medium eggplant (approx 1kg / 2lb), cut into cubes (2.5cm / 1in)
2 large brown onions, peeled & chopped
2 cans tomatoes (400g / 14oz)
3 sheets frozen puff pastry
1 egg

Preheat oven to 200C (400F). In a large baking tray, toss eggplant with a generous drizzle of olive oil and season. Bake for 1 -1 1/2 hours or until eggplant is very soft.

Meanwhile cook onions in a little oil in a large frying pan until very soft and slightly golden in colour. Add tomatoes and their juice and simmer for approx 20 minutes or until the sauce has reduced down to a nice pie consistency – like chutney.

Toss eggplant through the sauce and cook for another 10 minutes or so.

Increase oven temp to 200C (450F). Divide filling between 6 one cup capacity ramekins, tea cups or other little bowls.

Whisk egg with 1 tablespoon water. Cut each pastry sheet into 4 squares. Brush half the squares with the egg. Place an egg free square on top of an eggy square and repeat so you end up with 6 lids. Trim each square so there is fresh pastry exposed. Brush the tops with more egg wash and cut a little steam hole ‘X’ in the top of each pie.

Bake for 30 – 40 minutes until the pastry is a deep brown colour.

pies-4

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{ 20 comments }

Wei-Wei June 14, 2010 at 5:57 pm

Hm. Who would’ve thunk it? I don’t usually make pies, but for things like cheesecake I insist on making my own crust. I’m not a fan of pre-made anything, including boxed cake mix or pie crusts.

Wei-Wei

Mark @ Cafe Campana June 14, 2010 at 6:23 pm

Great looking pies. I had never thought of making them with a vegetable ragu but it looks delicious.

amber June 14, 2010 at 6:42 pm

I am pretty scared of making my own pastry. Especially puff pastry–anything with “laminated” in the name or process sounds so difficult. But I also hate store-bought pastry, particularly those that use canola oil instead of butter. So I often just avoid using pastry at all! Last night I made a beautiful pumpkin pie… which was ruined by the yucky store-bought shortcrust I used. It tasted like the cardboard packet it came in. I was so disappointed.

What are the best brands available in supermarkets? I am interested to try Careme (http://www.caremepastry.com/), which is now readily available even in Coles and Woolies. Has anybody used it?

JT @ areyouhungary June 14, 2010 at 7:01 pm

I’ve been making pies with relish over the past few weeks – loving the pot pie concept too! I’ll definitely try the double layer of puff…..

Jackie June 14, 2010 at 7:19 pm

I’ve been craving something exactly like this for a few weeks now – perfect! Thank you! Also, your photos are always so beautiful, uber jealous.

Jax x

Millys Mini Kitchen June 15, 2010 at 1:18 am

This looks impressive, I’m gonna give this a try for sure! The pastry looks so delicious. Thanks!

LauraSO June 15, 2010 at 6:13 am

This looks great! Is there an easy way to cut this down to 2 servings? Mostly, I’m wondering how many sheets of pastry I would neeed. Thanks!

Lisa (bakebikeblog) June 15, 2010 at 8:47 am

I have a great set of ramikins at home that have just been waiting for a dish like this! I love the idea of using eggplant – thankyou for sharing!!!!!

Sam | Work and Wok June 15, 2010 at 4:30 pm

Thanks for this! I have been faffing around with the idea of making pies…I have 4 kids and together, being a family of 6, one dish meals are VALUABLE! Pies are also the easiest to hide veggies and *drum roll* I probably don’t have to clean my kitchen as much as a stir fry meal or a standard chinese meal! My only problem is that I buy store bought (no way I have time to do it myself, but still not giving up yet!) pastry with the best intentions…and then they kinda die in their freezer grave in my refrigerator. I have to be better at using them up.

Cristina June 16, 2010 at 2:29 am

These pies look delicious, I like the idea of a vegetarian pie – for a change! I hate store-bought stuff, too – always disappointing. I know an easy recipe to make a “fake” puff pastry using ricotta cheese or cream cheese (Philadelphia), flour, butter and salt. It’s much easier and quicker than making real puff pastry, and it tastes quite good, too. I have the link for the recipe but it’s from an Italian blog… let me know if you are interested, I’ll give you the link and I can translate the recipe for you :)

Julia Janzen June 16, 2010 at 9:08 am

I am SO hungry now! So are you going to share your pastry recipe next?

Sam June 16, 2010 at 7:15 pm

Thanks – these look amazing and I love the idea to double up on the pastry. Always a fan of low fuss options! Would love to hear if you have a favourite recipe for puff pastry. :)

Erin S June 17, 2010 at 6:53 am

My mother made pies for restaurants to sell when I was young. Like your mother, she is a goddess of pie crust. Her theory is, you can make it at home faster than you can drive to the store and buy it.

I can make pie crust from scratch, but often buy the rolled up refrigerated type when in a hurry. I always bake the pastry part in pottery instead of metal pans. The color is so much nicer as the pottery distributes the heat better. Beautiful pies in this post. Thanks.

betty June 17, 2010 at 11:13 am

that crust looks amazing!

jules June 17, 2010 at 4:58 pm

erin
hadn’t ever thought that pottery has better heat distribution but my mum always used a ceramic pie dish – thanks for the connection

sam
I’ve been using the bourke street bakery recipe these days.

cristina
the ricotta pastry sounds interesting. if you get a chance would be interested in the link

lauraSo
you could easily cut down the recipe. if you cut one sheet pastry into 4 squares then make 2 pastry sandwiches you’ll have enough for 2 serves

amber
I know ‘laminated’ sounds scary – better to think of it as just layers. I haven’t cooked with careme but have heard great things about it and they use butter so it has to be better tasting than standard puff pastry. I actually know the couple who started careme and they’re lovely so am sure their products will be first class.

jules June 17, 2010 at 4:59 pm

oh and just to clarify – the pastry in the pictures was just regular store bought stuff from the supermarket. nothing fancy

Sofya June 18, 2010 at 11:06 pm

Why don’t you give a recipe for how to actually make homemade puff pastry? That you made? I think I got mine down, but I am always wanting to see how others do it and learn some more.

Zainab September 29, 2010 at 2:39 am

Aww it luks awsum im also a home made person bt my pastry always becomes gooey wen i bake it ny tips 4dat tanx

Sandra August 25, 2011 at 12:37 am

Could you put a print receipe on the page so that we don’t have to print everything on the page. Maybe it’s there and I don’t see it. Sandra

jules August 25, 2011 at 4:08 pm

Sandra
There’s a ‘print friendly’ icon at the bottom of each post – near the tweet this button… I’ve just made it larger so hopefully you’ll be able to find it now
:)

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