Sweet as Pie: Blackberry and Apple Free Form Pies
This months Sweet Adventures Blog Hop is bought to you from the Northern Hemisphere. I wasn’t sure if I’d have time to participate this month, but the stars aligned and here I am. Hosted by The Kitchen Crusader, the theme for this month is “sweet as pie”. An appropriate theme for the Australian winter, but equally appropriate for any time of the year if you reside in the UK. I thought I’d Google the definition of a pie to make sure we are all on the same page; it said something along these lines:
“A baked dish of fruit, or meat and vegetables, typically with a top and base of pastry.”
My problem is, the first thought I had when I heard the theme was steak and kidney but I don’t think even Heston could get away with serving that as dessert.
Following a bit of research I settled on blackberry and apple, as this is pretty much the epitome of the Great British dessert pie. It also makes me think of my grandparents. Grandad is the best gardener I know, there is nothing he can’t grow in his garden. My mum is also a pretty keen gardener but the green finger/thumb* weakened as it was passed down the generations. The story usually goes something like this:
Mum “I bought these two plants, would you like one?” Grandad “Aaah that’ll be good in that corner over there”… wind the clock forward 6 months… Mum “Look at these, they’re not bad, but not as good as your Grandads” Grandad “What’ve ya done to them, mine are the size of golf balls.”
And that’s exactly what happened with the blackberries I retrieved from Grandma’s freezer. Mum had a handful of blackberries that were eaten before they even made it to the kitchen; Grandad had so many, they had bags full of them in the freezer and I was one of the lucky recipients.
I have a favourite pastry recipe that I normally use for desserts; but for a rustic dish like this pie, it called for something a little less refined. I turned to Marguerite Patten, a British food institution and one of the UK’s first “celebrity chefs”. Although not a chef, Marguerite is actually a food writer and home economist; she has made numerous appearances on TV starting in 1947 right up until 2011’s Great British Bake Off. Her pastry recipe is a very traditional English pastry made with lard and the only way to distinguish it from the savoury version is the tablespoon of sugar.
That brings me to the blackberry and apple free form pies. I know this recipe is technically not a pie by the definition above, as it doesn’t have pastry both on the bottom and on the top but it is nearly all covered, and for me this is a much better filling to pastry ratio. I also like individual portions of dessert, so rather than making one large pie (which you could) I went for individual serves.
For the Pastry
225g plain flour
50g unsalted butter
30g caster sugar
25-50ml cold water
For the filling
150g apples (weight once peeled, cored and chopped into small cubes)
40g caster sugar, plus extra for dusting after
pinch of cinnamon or to taste
2 tablespoons cornflour
1 egg beaten
Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
Start by making the pastry. Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl then rub the butter and lard into the flour until you get a breadcrumb like texture. Add the sugar and stir then add enough water to combine into a dough. The amount of water required will vary so don’t add it all at once. Carefully form into a dough, and don’t over work it. Wrap in cling film and rest in the fridge for at least half an hour.
Once the pastry has rested, roll out until 2mm thick. I like to roll between two large sheets of cling film as I find it doesn’t stick and is easier to work with. Cut circles out of the pastry. I opted for 11cm rounds to make individual pies, but other recipes I read suggested circles of varying sizes from side plate to dinner plate size.
Place a tablespoon of filling into the centre of the circle of pastry leaving at least a 2cm gap all the way around. Don’t overfill the pie otherwise you won’t be able to fold the sides up and over so by definition it won’t be a pie! Carefully fold up the sides of the pastry, pleating as you go to encase the filling. There should still be some filling visible at the top. Press firmly to try and seal the pastry, place on a baking sheet covered in baking paper, then rest in the fridge to firm up for 20-30 minutes.
Just before baking, remove the pies from the fridge, brush with the beaten egg and sprinkle with some caster sugar. Place in the pre-heated oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through.
*delete as appropriate depending on which country you are reading in.