I’m a huge fan of the Great British Baking Show. I admit it. It’s just so much fun to watch, and there’s no backstabbing or drama– just baking. There’s not even a huge prize at the end, so it’s clear people are just in it because they love to bake. And aside from the wholesome enjoyment of watching something like that, I have fun seeing the quintessentially British recipes that come up every week. Like pork pies. Cute little mini pork pies with adorable tiny quail eggs in them. (Here’s the episode: it’s around minute 20 of the show.) I just fell in love with those, and when I decided to have a historical-themed picnic I knew that they’d be perfect.
I’d never made a meat-based pie before, and I’d definitely never made hot water crust pastry before, but I was willing to give it a shot! I found Paul Hollywood’s recipe* and got to work!
I had to substitute shortening for the original lard in the crust recipe– for some reason, none of the stores near me carry lard anymore and I wasn’t willing to pay for shipping to order it online. Also, I omitted the jelly poured into the pies after baking. The idea of savory jelly just squicks me out– blech!
The finished pies were really delicious– nice and savory, with added smokiness from the bacon and a hint of freshness from the parsley. Annoyingly, the juice escaped from a few and burned onto my muffin tins, preventing me from removing all the pies neatly, but the ones that I did get out were fantastic and held their shape nicely in my picnic basket.
The dough itself was quite tasty and easy to work with, but I didn’t like the amount of waste that resulted from only being able to roll out the dough scraps one extra time– next time I’d weigh the dough into balls (one for each crust) and then roll them into circles individually, thus eliminating all waste issues.
*I will note that I used Paul Hollywood’s recipe for plain pork pies (rather than the recipe available online from the BBC for his pork pies with quail eggs) and then added the eggs afterwards. Why, you ask? The BBC recipe’s proportions were all off, making enough pork filling for 10 pies but only enough dough for about 8, all the while telling you to make 6 pies. Perhaps the proportions would’ve worked for jumbo muffin pans, but the photos didn’t support that idea. Besides, who wants to go to all that trouble just to make 6 pies? The regular pork pie recipe, on the other hand, made a more reasonable amount of dough and filling– i.e., the correct amounts for 12 mini-pies. I had more pork than I needed for that, so ended up doubling this recipe to make 24 pies.
Paul Hollywood’s Pork Pies (slightly adapted from Paul Hollywood)
For the filling
Hot water crust pastry
1. Combine the two different kinds of flour in a bowl. Add the butter and cut or rub in until the mixture resembles fresh breadcrumbs.
2. In small saucepan, bring the water and salt to a boil. Add lard/shortening and stir until melted.
3. Pour the liquid into the dry mixture and stir to form a dough. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead until it forms a smooth ball.
4. Immediately roll out the dough on a well-floured surface to about 1/8″ thick. You need to work fast or the dough will stiffen up. Cut out circles for the top and bottom crusts– the bottoms will need to be about 2″ larger in diameter than the tops. Cut small holes in the tops about 1/2″ to 3/4″ in diameter for the juices to vent.
To assemble and bake:
1. Line muffin tins with large dough circles. Dough should come up slightly over the edge so you can crimp the tops on later.
2. Spoon filling into muffin tins until about halfway full, then poke a hole in the middle and nestle a quail’s egg (upright) in the center. Add more filling until the quail’s egg is covered.
3. Top with small dough circles and crimp edges with your fingertips.
4. Brush the tops with beaten egg and bake at 375 degrees F for about 40 minutes.
I will note that you need to be sure that your bottom crust comes up high enough over the edges of the muffin pans so you can crimp the top crust to it, forming a seal. Otherwise you’ll get leaks and the pies will likely stick to your pan. Ask me how I know… the ones on the left were nicely crimped. The ones on the right were less so.
These are the perfect size to pack for picnics– large enough to be hearty but small enough that you won’t be full after eating just one. If I were making them for packing in an actual lunch, I’d either pack two at a time or make them in jumbo muffin tins.
I just have to say, these are very, very good. Seriously, every time I heat up one of my leftover pies (they freeze well!) and the aroma floats through my kitchen, I think “oh yeah, I’m going to make these again.” And I totally will. You should try them too!