This week was a disaster. The pictures below look pretty, but making this pie was a nightmare. It was a bake made out of obligation, that I had to make twice out of obligation to this project (not because it tasted good).
The hot water crust is why I had to make it twice. If you'll remember, I was introduced to hot water crusts back in season 2, with the pork pie, which was a delightful project that introduced me to quail eggs. The hot water crust was a novelty then, and it was baked in a muffin tin. The hot water crust here was not quite as quaint. And it does not get baked in a muffin tin.
The hand-raised pie is special because it is not baked in a baking tin of any sort, but a free-standing container of dough that holds a filling, both of which are baked simultaneously. if you haven't ever worked with crust dough, particularly a very fatty dough such as a hot water crust, let me warn you that it is slippery and wet, and does not generally like to stand on its own.
Thus, I had to make it twice. The first time, perhaps I had too much water, or too much lard (is there such a thing?), but it would just sag when I tried to release it from the glass I was molding it around. The key is to chill the dough thoroughly, and let the fats harden until you can more or less mold the dough into whatever shape you like.
So, the dough was difficult to work with, but thanks to the pork pies, I knew it would be a halfway decent tasting dough. But in preparing the filling, here's where things turn sour. Chicken? Cool. Bacon? Sweet. Thyme? Herbaceous.
Enter the dried apricot. First of all, does anybody actually like dried apricot? Second of all, do they like it in a savory, meaty dish? I was dubious, and unlike when I've been dubious in the past, I was actually correct this time.
Dried apricot did nothing to help this dish. It added this odd sweetness that infiltrated the filling, making the chicken and bacon lose their meaty quality and take on a pungent sour flavor. I could tell the potential was there wish the savory, meaty filling, but it was masked by this cloud of dried fruit.
Despite this failure in flavor, and now that I look back on the baking experience two days later, I am glad to have stuck it out and finished. I mean, even on GBBO, sometimes contestant have to start over from scratch, and that's nothing to be ashamed of. And sometimes their flavors suck, and that's nothing to be ashamed of (though I suppose I expected more in terms of flavor profile from a Paul Hollywood recipe). Making a hand-raised pie was a true challenge, and I can't imagine the bakers on GBBO having to do this without a full recipe and YouTube tutorials handy--if someone can find the episode online for me, I'd love to watch it.
Things I would do differently next time? Leave out the apricot, for godssakes!! But additionally, don't be afraid to rest the dough in the fridge for as long as you like. I left it to chill 20 minutes before sculpting, and I wish I had let it hang out another 10. And I would have chilled the filled pastries in the fridge as well, so that they might have kept the crimped edge I was so proud of (and so the pie in the back wouldn't have sagged so badly).
But overall, a dish well worth knowing how to make. As I mentioned in the pork pie post, savory pies made with hot water crusts are meant to be durable and last, easily made in advance to take with you to the coal mine (er... cubicle farm). These are the technical bakes, which means the point is to stretch your technical prowess and learn new techniques. The filling is truly secondary to learning how to make a free-standing, hand-raised pie crust. And that skill I could see coming in handy, should I ever become a coal miner. Or a contestant on The Great British Bake Off (or The Great American Baking Show -- Mary, call me?)
makes 2 individual pies
240 grams (8 1/2 ounces) ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR
50 grams (1 3/4 ounces) (3 1/2 tablespoons) BUTTER
1/2 cup (130 milliliters) (4 1/4 fluid ounces) WATER
1 teaspoon SALT
60 grams (2 1/4 ounces) LARD
1 large EGG, for egg wash
300 grams (10 1/2 ounces) CHICKEN, cut into chunks
300 grams (10 1/2 ounces) BACON, cut into chunks
2 sprigs THYME
240 grams (8 1/2 ounces) DRIED APRICOTS, chopped
SALT and PEPPER
1. In a large bowl, combine the FLOUR and BUTTER and rub together with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs
2. Mix together the WATER, SALT, and LARD in a small saucepan and heat until the lard melts
3. Pour the lard mixture on top of the flour mixture, stirring with a spoon until everything comes together
4. Pour the dough out onto a floured surface and bring it together into a ball, then divide into two equal pieces and chill in the fridge about 20 minutes, until firm
5. Prep your area--take two drinking glasses or jars, and flour the outside of them, and flour your work surface and a rolling pin
6. Take one of your chilled doughs and reserve 1/4, then place the remainder on the work surface, then take the drinking glass or jar and press it down into the dough until the bottom is about 1/4" in thickness.
7. Use your hands to gently press the dough up the sides of the glass, rotating the glass and applying pressure to keep the dough from falling--if you notice it not holding its shape, chill the dough more so it becomes stiffer
8. Roll out the reserved 1/4 of the dough into a circle with a diameter slightly larger than the drinking glass and poke a hole in the center
9. Repeat the process with the other half of the dough, and chill in the fridge about 20 minutes
10. Preheat the oven to 400F
11. Keeping the proteins separate, season the CHICKEN and BACON with SALT, PEPPER, and THYME
12. Dealing with one crust at a time, remove the drinking glass or jar by lightly rubbing your finger between the dough and the glass and lifting the glass out
13. Pack the filling into the pie with a layer of bacon, a layer of chicken, and a layer of APRICOTS, and repeating until the crust is full
14. Place the lid on the crust, seal the edges, and crimp with two fingers and a thumb
15. Brush the lids and sides of the crust with the EGG WASH, place on a baking tray, and cook for 50-60 minutes, until the pastry is browned and crisp
16. Leave to cool and serve room temperature
A personal challenge to conquer every technical challenge, and select signature bakes, from The Great British Bake Off
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