Time for another savory treat. I was ready to finish baking these pork pies and write a post about how bland and awful they were. How they sat on our countertop for three days and how I had to throw them out because they got soggy and mold-prone. But I can't write that entry. Instead, I have to write an entry about how delicious they were, how my husband and I ate the entire batch over the course of the day, how cute quail eggs are, and how the leftover filling made for an amazing faux-Filipino dish for dinner.
Life is hard.
First, let me tell you about my journey to get these ingredients. As background, I had made my last entry's recipe, Brandy Snaps, about two weeks ago. I like to have my recipes actually baked in advance, so I can take my time writing the entry and reflecting on the experience. I had to go to New York for business last week, so I thought I would make these pork pies before I left, and spend my time away writing this entry, and keep my schedule of baking and posting.
But do you know how hard it is to find quail eggs at mainstream boring American grocery stores? It's hard. Lucky and Safeway yielded nothing but chickens. Trader Joe's had nothing. I was going to try Whole Foods, but I like having a positive bank balance, so I tried Mollie Stones, which would also eat up my paycheck, but at least it would be going toward a local business. They also had no quail eggs. That's when I went out one nightto a drag show with my husband and our friend Diana, who is a fan of this blog. I told her my next entry would be delayed because I couldn't find quail eggs and she told me all I had to do was go to an Asian grocery store, where they carry them in droves.
Richmond New May Wah did not disappoint, and last Saturday I took a stroll up there and bought nearly two dozen quail eggs. I only needed 6 for the recipe, but they were just so cute.
While at the Asian grocery store, I grabbed the rest of my ingredients, namely, the meat. Because at $2.99/pound, I would be a fool not to buy my meat there. Even if they only sold the lump bacon in a size about 4x what I needed. You can never have too much bacon.
And speaking of fat, you need lard and butter for this recipe. When I read that, I started to have hope for what I thought was going to be a bland British dish. Butter is great. I love butter. I would never trade it for margarine. But like I wrote in my Cornish Pasties entry, there's just something about a recipe that dictates for lard which gets my juices flowing. Low fat is no way of life.
Let's talk for a second about this crust though, this lard-and-butter-made magic dough. The British pork pie calls for what is called a "hot water crust," meaning it's made with, surprise, hot water. This is directly in contrast to most pie crusts, which deliberately tell you to keep your ingredients as cold as possible, and to use ice water to bring everything together. This may not seem like a big detail, but what it does is it melts the fat in the dough completely, which keeps the crust from having "pockets" of fat that evaporate in the oven, pockets which help you achieve the flakiness we know and love in pie crusts.
There's an interesting bit of history about this dough. The crust dough we make today--with ice water--is designed to be flaky and tender. In contrast, hot water crusts are made to be free-standing indestructible edible luggages for the filling. Back in the day, these kinds of pastries (including the Cornish pasty) were made for mine workers to bring along as lunch, and Ziploc hadn't yet been invented, so they had to be a bit more organic about their vessels of choice for carrying the meat (and potatoes) that would sustain them through this greuling work.
The dough, surprisingly, was actually not made to taste very good. Many times, the crust was actually thrown away because of its inedibility, once the inside had been consumed. The good news for the baker is you don't need to be as gentle with it as you have to be with ice water pie crust.
I'm happy to report, however, that this is not the case with this recipe. Paul Hollywood has done well in keeping the essence of the hot water crust alive, while making it absolutely delicious, if a bit tougher and less flaky than your average pie crust. I think it has something to do with lard and butter and only melting the lard in the hot water, whilst rubbing the butter into the flour.
The filling itself is also delicious. It's a mixture of pork loin (for meat) and bacon (for fat), as well as onions (though make sure you get a small onion -- mine were a bit too onion-y), and parsley. It's simple, per British standard, and could be a bit bland, so make sure you add enough salt and pepper. Also, I would add in some garlic.
And I actually did add some garlic to the leftover. Be forewarned: this will produce about 1 full cup of leftover filling--at least. We cut up some extra pork loin and bacon, added some garlic, and fried the mixture until it was super crispy (some might say burnt), served alongside some rice. For the Filipinos or Filipino food lovers out there: it's like sisig, but more meat and less cartilage. Or so my husband says.
It's a bit of a mess getting everything together, and forget about prettily crimping it (those niceties are for Mary Berry)--I ended up just slopping things together and pressing to seal with my fingers.
Despite what it may look like before, it's gorgeous after. They would be cute as an appetizer, or a couple as a full meal. Good to have around the house to snack on.
One word of warning: the egg wash will make the top look done, but the crust underneath won't be crispy unless you overcook it by a few minutes. I did not and I was running along the line of "soggy bottom," though thankfully did not cross into soggy bottom territory. I wish I had cooked it a bit longer to make the crust crispier.
The pastry as a whole was delicious. I like my food spicy, so of course I added some sriracha after these pictures were taken, but it was delicious even without the sriracha. I didn't think the quail egg would really add anything that special, but it really took these to a different level that makes me prefer them over other such savory bakes like the Cornish pasty.
And we did finish all 7 in one afternoon, so there's that.
Mini Pork Pies
makes 6-7, with extra filling
240 grams (8 1/2 ounces) FLOUR
50 grams (1 3/4 ounces) BUTTER
3 1/2 ounces (1/2 cup) WATER
1 teaspoon SALT
60 grams (2 1/4 ounces) LARD
1 ONION, very finely chopped
350 grams (12 ounces) PORK LOIN, finely chopped
100 grams (3 1/2 ounces) BACON, finely chopped
small bunch of PARSLEY
SALT and PEPPER
6 QUAILS' EGGS
1 large EGG
jelly ingredients (optional -- I did not use):
1 CHICKEN STOCK CUBE
5 ounces (1/2 cup) BOILING WATER
2 leaves GELATIN
1. Preheat the oven to 400F and grease a muffin tin, or 6 small ramekins
2. Rub the BUTTER into the FLOUR until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs
3. Bring the WATER and SALT to a boil, then add the LARD and stir until all is melted
4. Pour the melted lard over the flour mixture and form a dough, then work it into a smooth ball
5. Roll the pastry out to 1/8" and cut out six 5" circles to line the muffin tin, then re-roll and cut out six 4" circles for the lids, and poke a hole in the center of each lid
6. Cook the quails' eggs in a pan of boiling water for two minutes, then cool and peel
7. Put the ONION, PORK, BACON, and PARSLEY into a bowl, season with SALT and PEPPER, and mix until well combined
8. Spoon a little of the mixture into each lined pie case, place the cooked and peeled quail's egg in the center, and spoon over more of the filling
9. Brush the edge of each pie case with a little beaten EGG, place the lids on top, and crimp to seal completely
10. Bake in the oven for 40-55 minutes (check to see how brown your pies get), then set aside pies to cool
11. To make the jelly (optional: I stuffed my shells so full that I had no room for jelly), dissolve the CHICKEN STOCK CUBE in the BOILING WATER and soak the GELATIN in a little cold water, then squeeze out the excess water and whisk in the stock; alternately [insert instructions for powdered gelatin here]
12. Pour the gelatin mixture into the hole in the top of each pie until filled
13. Serve warm, or allow pies to set in the fridge overnight
A personal challenge to conquer every technical challenge, and select signature bakes, from The Great British Bake Off
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