I heard these expressions the other day and it got me thinking.. They’re meant to imply something is very easy, but neither pie nor cake are all That easy to make. As you know, I’m not exactly a baker. Actually I try to avoid it. One of the reasons I love cooking is the ability to create whatever you want or feel like. There’s not really a ‘set’ outcome and I almost never measure.. Always going by taste instead. But baking is a completely different matter. You absolutely must measure and measure properly. That’s probably one of the reasons I avoid it! Not to mention the fact that anything baked is usually loaded with calories. I also don’t have a massive sweet tooth..
BUT – if there’s one thing I’ve learned to love about British food, it’s their love of pies. And not apple pies – savory pies full of meat, potatoes and more. While chicken pot pies are well known and fairly popular in the States, it’s always thought of as really heavy and creamy. But I’ve learned that chicken pot pies (or any savory pie) don’t always have to be cooked “Paula Deen” style (a Southern chef who LOVES butter and cream). Brits love their steak and kidney pie, pork pies, steak and ale, fish pies, cottage pie and so on. And they don’t always have a pastry lid (like with cottage pie or fish pie), although it’s my preferred way to eat a pie. So it occurred to me that while we had one day of Basic Cuisine at LCB on pastries, I’ve never attempted it at home. I usually cheat and buy ready made puff pastry at the store. But after watching several TV chefs make shortcrust pastry like it was nothing, I thought I really should give it a go.
My Mini Pies!
Recently I talked about slow roasting and using the oven and the satisfaction of putting something in the oven and waiting for it to be ready. It’s the waiting and anticipation that make it exciting for me. Will it cook properly? Will it taste good? So you can only imagine my delight when these bad boys came out golden and flaky. Of course, as with doing anything for the first time, I learned a few things..
- Roll out the dough pretty thin (if it’s too thick, it’s too starchy and dry)
- I did a lard/butter combo the second time around.. Makes it flakier
- Be careful what vegetables you put in.. For example broccoli has too much water content!
- Season your filling very well.
- Mashed potatoes versus chopped/boiled potatoes make the filling creamy and more moist.
There are several recipes out there, but I just grabbed a recipe I saw in the Daily Mail paper last Saturday. Here it is:
- 350g (12oz) plain flour – and extra to dust your surface
- 175g (6oz) unsalted butter, cold and diced
- 4-5 tbsp cold water
In a food processor, add the flour and butter. Blitz until it’s like sand. Then while it’s going, pour in a tablespoon at a time of cold water until the dough comes together. Take out, shape roughly and wrap in plastic wrap (cling film). Refrigerate for about 30 minutes. When ready, dust a clean surface with flour and roll out to a couple millimeters thickness. I used both a muffin tin and a Yorkshire pudding tin, and both came out very well. Cut out a circle larger than the radius of each hole. Be careful to not poke any holes when lining the pans. I found that as you line it you’ll have a bit of excess as it folds. Simply pinch these pieces out and gently push the dough together to seal (against the edges of the tray). Be sure to have some sticking up, so that after you fill them it’ll be easy to seal the lid on. If there are any holes, your filling might bubble out!
No one ever said baking was a clean process..
For my first go at the pies, I used up some leftovers. So Pie No.1 included: Leftover roast beef, broccoli and a Gorgonzola white sauce. After making a test pie of this, I realized quickly that the broccoli has too much water content and made the pastry soggy very quickly! So I added a bit of mashed potato afterwards. Pie No.2 consisted of: Leftover slow-roasted pulled pork, mashed potatoes and chunks of English mature cheddar. I had some leftover vegetables too, but only enough for one pie. So Pie No.3 had Roasted sweet potato, roasted red onion and goat cheese.This one turned out to be my favorite I think! It was really creamy because of the goat cheese, and the sweet potato and onion had great flavor because they were roasted with balsamic, olive oil and salt and pepper.
First tester pies!
Veggie Pie : Roasted sweet potato and red onion with goat cheese
Because this was so easy, I thought it’d be a great idea as a half-term activity with my 4-year old nephew and nearly 3-year old niece. We had a baking day with savory mini pies and an apple cake that their mum (my sister-in-law Tae) helped them with. The kids were great and they really love to cook. It definitely gets messy, but it was exciting for them!
Baking with the Kids!
We made two different types of pies : (1) bakes beans, sausages and cheddar and (2) beef meatballs in marinara with cheddar. The finished pie in this photo was made in the Yorkshire pudding tin which I think is actually easier to assemble and to eat! I’m so embarrassed to admit, but I know my brother and sister-in-law will tease me endlessly if I don’t fess up to it… But I was horrified when I was taking the mini pies out of the oven and the oven gloves slipped and I dropped them! Eek! Thank goodness there was the Yorkshire pudding tray which is much easier to handle After pies, they got to making a delicious apple cake (very in season). This was one of Tae’s friends’ recipes, so I don’t have it. But here’s a BBC Good Food Recipe that’s very similar. It’s a great autumn cake too – with flavors like cinnamon and nutmeg.
Delicious and moist apple cake
Enjoying my cake with a cup of tea! California girl being very English!
So as you can see.. baking really can be as easy as pie OR cake! If my toddler niece and nephew can do it, you can too!
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