Shortcrust, choux, puff, hot water crust, rough puff – pastry is marvellous in all of its many beautiful forms. It’s amazing filled with everything from meat and potato to apples and cinnamon and steak and kidney (that’s two separate pie fillings – we don’t recommend apples and kidney together), and it’s the perfect winter comfort food. What’s not to love?
Pastry is famously regarded as difficult to make. Even the Queen of Baking Mary Berry admits to using shop-bought, ready-rolled dough. But what does she know?! We don’t think you should let that put you off.
Here’s our guide to making your own pastry and a few tasty suggestions for what to fill it with. Enjoy!
You’ll want a different type of pastry if you’re making a meat pie rather than a dessert; lemon meringue pie wouldn’t quite be the same with a hot water crust pastry, while you wouldn’t want a sweet shortcrust with your chicken and mushroom – or maybe you would, what do we know?!
Shortcrust pastry (desserts, quiches)
Shortcrust pastry can be either sweet or savoury – to make it sweet, all you have to do is add sugar. Simple. For basic shortcrust, you’ll need butter, plain flour and water, which need to be rubbed together with your fingers to form crumbs that you then combine into a dough, before rolling it out.
Puff pastry (pie lids, sausage rolls)
Puff pastry uses the same ingredients as shortcrust, but this time, you need to get to grips with layers (or ‘lairs’, if you’re that Mary we mentioned earlier). You’ll need to make up the dough in a similar fashion, before pressing chunks of butter into it, folding the pastry over and repeating the process a few more times. When they heat up in the oven, those buttery chunks will become your ‘puffs’.
Hot water crust pastry (pork pies, hand-raised pies)
Hot water crust pastry is a key component of hand-raised pies. These aren’t pies that you cradle from birth, teaching them the ways of the world, before packing them off to school each day. Instead, they’re pies that you mould with your hands – the modelling clay of the pastry world.
This type of pastry is made with flour and water, but also melted lard, which gives it a tougher consistency than other kinds, making it more suitable for being moulded by your hands. With this type of pastry, you can tell people that you literally made the pie with your bare hands. They’ll be impressed (as long as you washed them first).
Choux pastry (eclairs, profiteroles)
Pronounced like ‘shoe’, but nothing to do with feet, choux pastry is made by combining butter and flour together in a hot pan – liquid pastry, if you like.
You can pipe choux pastry like it’s icing, so get creative making personalised birthday choux buns or messages out of eclairs – we’re thinking more along the lines of ‘I love you’ than ‘put bins out pls’.
What is blind baking?
Blind baking is not about closing your eyes and putting things in the oven – please don’t do that. No, blind baking is the term for giving pastry a quick bake before you fill it with anything else to prevent that much-feared soggy bottom.
And on that slightly damp note, it’s time for fillings!
What do you usually do with meal leftovers? Freeze them? Take them to work for lunch the next day? Put them in the bin? Give them to the dog? Well, why not use them as a pie filling?
Bolognese, curry, chilli con carne, stew – all of these will taste like a completely different meal with a puff pastry lid on top. You could even use the leftover ingredients from homemade pizza – tomato sauce, veg, meat – to make a pizza-inspired pie filling, or just blend together whatever veggies you’ve got rattling around in your fridge door together to make a unique concoction.
The perfect autumnal pie
If you want to create a filling especially for a pie, we’re not sure you could find anything more autumnal than Lavender and Lovage’s recipe for chilli con carne with pumpkin and chocolate. Make up the dish as directed and top with homemade puff pastry – divine.
You could just make your usual curry recipe and top it with pastry, but you could also make one that’s been tried and tested in a pie already, such as this chicken and lentil curry pie filling from The Crazy Kitchen. It’s meaty, spicy AND cheesy – what more could you ever possibly want?!
And for dessert? Salted caramel apple pie
Apple pie: ‘why fix what ain’t broke?’, we hear you say. Well, we say there’s always room for improvement, and there’s certainly always room for salted caramel.
From the Larder has a gorgeous recipe for salted caramel apple pie which is sweet, sugary, flaky, crumbly and fruity all at the same time.
These recipes are just the tip of the pastry nozzle. There are endless possibilities with pastry and it doesn’t have to be a faff. Don’t listen to Mary Berry – it’s as easy as pie.