Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness....
As a child, I remember my grandmother had the beautiful verses of Keats circling the tins she kept her cake and biscuits in. It reminds me always of being in her kitchen and tracing the lines with a finger as I rolled the words around my head. Perhaps in more ways than one I can thank her for my love of lyric and baking both.
This time of year truly brings Keat's words to life- as I rush around with breakfast each morning, I catch the smell of woodsmoke filtering into our home, and the greengrocers are filled with shades of russet; pumpkins, galas, squash and even Kentish cobnuts. That means only one thing in my mind- PIE time. Once again, in tribute to my beautiful Gran, here is our failsafe pastry recipe handed down from my baker great grandmother for making the most perfect savoury pie. In the spirit of progress however I have also included a secondary recipe for sweet pastry- a beautiful crisp shell that goes perfectly with any sweet filling. Just remember the golden rules on both recipes:
Cold hands make the best pastry- keep the heating off people.
DONT over mix once you add the liquid- if using a mixer, stop just as it beginning to clump together and bring it to a smooth ball by hand. Nothing worse than overworked, rubbery dough...
Roll out between two sheets of greaseproof- means no extra flour added and no sticking to worktops.
Rest the dough before using- stops it bouncing back and gives that pesky gluten time to relax and chill (geddit?!).
SHORTCRUST PASTRY- for savoury especially, but also the trad choice for apples (thanks Gran!)
400g plain flour (or 200g spelt/200g plain)
250g unsalted butter- cold and cubed
1 egg plus another to glaze
2 tsp sugar (optional)
Weigh out flour, sugar if using and add butter before crumbling with fingertips until mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg, beaten, plus a couple of tablespoons of very cold water and stir together gently until it clumps. Bring together by hand until it forms a smooth ball. Wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for a couple of hours before using.
SWEET PASTRY- or Pate Sucre.
100g unsalted butter- cubed
50g caster sugar
1 egg yolk
150g plain flour
Pinch of salt
Cream together the egg and sugar- it will be stiff at first before becoming runny. Add the butter and beat until a smooth paste forms. Add the flour and salt together through a sieve, then mix gently until clumping. Bring together by hand and wrap in cling film to chill for 2 hours before using.