Category Archive: Pie


  1. Vanilla Pumpkin Pie

    Here we are – the weather has changed, a crisp air hangs in the sky and Thanksgiving is tomorrow! It’s a holiday that swings open the arms of  home to invite in everyone that can fit at the table. We gorge ourselves to the brim with chat and turkey with all the trimmings until we can’t possibly fit another bite… but then comes the pie.

    pastry, dough, pie, crust

    Pumpkin pie is one of those sacred American dishes – you simply must have it on Thanksgiving. No ifs, ands or buts about it!

    The culinary rules say that since dessert is the last thing to cross our pallets, it had better be impressive, with flavour that beats out everything you’ve eaten thus far in the meal. Never to be an afterthought, I have added a vanilla pod to the mix to ramp up the warming aromatics that make this pie utterly deserving of centre stage. I think this Vanilla Pumpkin Pie is just the ticket to round out the most generous of holidays.

    VANILLA PUMPKIN PIE

    INGREDIENTS

    One Quantity Basic Pie Crust (See my post on Short Crust and follow directions for Basic Pie Crust)

    425g solid pack pumpkin puree
    2 large eggs
    250ml double cream (or a combination of double cream and evaporated milk)
    180g caster sugar
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 vanilla pod, seeds stripped for use
    1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
    1 teaspoon ground ginger
    1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
    1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

    METHOD

    First thing, preheat your oven to 200°c / 400°f.

    Pumpkin pie is terribly easy because all you do is mix your spices and vanilla seeds together with your sugar in a bowl, stir in the pumpkin, then stir in lightly beaten eggs and leave it to infuse while you make the pastry. Try not to incorporate too much air as you want zero bubbles with any baked custard (yes, that is what this technically is). Don’t throw away that vanilla pod case, by the way! Put it in a jar of sugar and use this in whatever you like – it’s great in pancakes, cakes, cookies, even a cup of coffee.

    Cover the pumpkin mixture and pop it in the fridge to infuse while you sort out your pastry for the pie crust.

    Roll out chilled short crust pastry and line a fluted 28cm pie tin. Pop it in the freezer for 15mins to relax and chill. Or if you, like me, have zero room for anything in your freezer (not even ice), pop it in the fridge for 20mins. It should be completely firm when it comes out. Keep the scraps of dough for patching after blind baking.

    After chilling the pastry until firm, line it with a round of crumpled parchment paper big enough to hang over the edges once filled with baking beans. Push the paper into the corners well and fill with baking beans to the rim. Blind bake the pastry at 200°c/400°f for 15 minutes or until the sides are set up. Then remove the beans with a large spoon and the cartouche and bake for another 5-10 minutes until lightly golden with no grey patches of raw pastry left behind. You want a nice crisp bottom to your pie. If the pastry has ballooned up, use the back of a metal dessert spoon to gently rub the pastry until it settles. If the pastry isn’t cooperating, you can also pierce the pastry with a fork in the center of the bottom, which will let the steam escape and allow you to do the spoon trick. Lower the temperature of your oven to 160°c/325°f.

    Now patch up any cracks with scraps from the raw pastry and pour in the pumpkin mixture until it is full as you can make it without slopping over. As this is  a sort of custard, you don’t need to worry about it rising, so leave about a half cm or a quarter inch of pastry at the top. Bake this for 40-50 minutes until the center of the filling moves only slightly when jiggled but isn’t liquid at all. Allow it to cool completely to room temperature. If serving the next day keep it in the fridge over night and take out a couple hours before serving for it to come up to room temperature. I often pop my pumpkin pie in the oven for 5-10 minutes just before serving to crisp the pastry again and take the chill off.

    Serve with a generous dollop of vanilla whipped cream.

    Recipe adapted from Libby’s Famous Pumpkin Pie.

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  2. Berry Pie – The Taste of Summer

    Well here we are, it’s September. Late summer days are shortening already but I am hanging on for dear life to the still warm mornings and evenings, pretending that it will never turn cold again. It’s still boiling hot back home in Washington State in the beautiful Pacific Northwest after all! I have it in me to keep my head in the sand a little longer…

    This time of year in Washington, one of the top fruit growing states in the USA, you drive down a highway anywhere east of the Cascade Mountains and the road is lined with little stands selling summer fruits and berries. Buckets of bright red and blue line the fog line beckoning you in to spill juice down your front as you shovel in what you can’t wait to taste when you get home.

    I must say, I always recommend buying an extra punnet for the car. When I was a kid, I used to eat cherries and raspberries until my fingers turned pink and my tummy grumbled in protest. It was the absolute best!

    Now, what to do with those punnets you actually get home? Well don’t just turn it all to jam – make a pie of course!

    Berry pie is my absolute favourite summer dessert. Bursting with juicy flavour, natural sugars and a tang to balance every bite, I think it is the ticket to prolonged summer happiness.

    Serve it warm, just cooled from the oven, with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream and you have equal to the American dream on a plate. I made this back for the 4th of July, which I spent here in London yet again. Homesick? Yes!  But this sweet berry pie made me feel like I could smell the sparklers and hear the pop of fireworks all the way from home…

    cooling berry pie baking pastry homemade

    Berry Pie
    Serves 12

    Ingredients 

    1 quantity Double Rich Pie Crust

    1kg mix of blackberries, raspberries and blueberries

    50g caster sugar (if the berries are tart, add a bit extra)

    1 lemon, zested and juiced

    Pinch of salt

    50g plain flour

    1 tablespoon corn starch

    2 tablespoons butter, cubed

    Method 

    Preheat the oven to 190°c/375°f . You will need a 28cm/12inch fluted pie tin, preferably with a removable bottom.

    Start by making the pastry then form it into two flattened disks and put it in the fridge to chill for at least 30 minutes to rest.

    In a large bowl, mix together the berries, sugar, lemon juice and zest, salt and the flours and allow to sit while you roll out the pie dough.

    Roll out one disk to line the bottom of the pie case. Press the dough neatly into the corners of the case so that you get neat bottom corners when you remove it for serving and roll off the over hanging dough with your rolling pin to neaten up the top edges. Please this in the fridge while you roll out the second disk.

    Roll the second disk out on a very well flour surface. Cut evenly sized strips out of the dough, making sure you can easily move them from the surface as any pulling will stretch the strips and make them irregular. Pour in the filling and begin the lattice. Starting from the center of the round and then use ever other strip going outwards. You should be following the same shape of the circle over the pie. and moving outwards on each side.

    lattice pie pastry berry summer baking

    If the pastry dough has warmed up a little too much, put the whole pie in the freezer for 5 minutes. You want the pastry to be cold as possible before baking so it comes out short and crisp.

    Bake the pie for a good 45 minutes on the middle shelf at 190°c/375°f for 30 minutes, check the top to make sure it doesn’t over brown and cook it for a further 15 minutes, turn the temperature down to 170°c/340°c if it’s getting a little too golden to keep it at a high temperature.  I find it useful to put a square of tin foil over the top of the pie during the remaining cooking time if it starts to go too brown to early. You want to cook it the whole way through to make sure the bottom crust is done.

    berry pie a la mode

    Allow the tart to cool down enough to handle and then carefully lift it out of the tin and slide it off the base onto a serving plate. This step is best done while the pastry is still quite warm, else it will stick to the case and break.

    Berry pie is the absolute best served a la mode with good vanilla ice cream and shared with friends. Just make sure to reserve a slice for tomorrow’s breakfast… you won’t regret it.

    (Thank you to my dear friend Sian Henley for the lovely photo at the beginning of this post. I was too busy pouring fourth of July punch and forgot to snap one before we sliced it!)

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  3. Vanilla Pumpkin Pie

    Thanksgiving is a holiday that  swings open the arms of home to invite in everyone that can fit at the table. We gorge ourselves to the brim with chat and turkey with all the trimmings until we can’t possibly fit another bite… but then comes the pie.

    pumpkin pie

    Pumpkin pie is one of those sacred American dishes. You have to have it on Thanksgiving, no ifs, ands or buts.

    The culinary rules say that since dessert is the last thing to cross our pallets, it had better be impressive, with flavour that beats out everything you’ve eaten thus far this meal. Never to be an afterthought, I have added a vanilla pod to the mix to ramp up the warming aromatics that make this pie utterly deserving of centre stage. I think this Vanilla Pumpking Pie is just the ticket.

    VANILLA PUMPKIN PIE

    INGREDIENTS

    One Quantity Basic Pie Crust (See my post on Short Crust and follow directions for Basic Pie Crust)

    425g Solid Pack Pumpkin Puree
    2 Large Eggs
    250ml Double Cream (or  a combination of double cream and evaporated milk)
    180g Caster Sugar
    1/2 Teaspoon Table Salt
    1 Vanilla Pod, seeds stripped for use
    1 1/4 Teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
    1 Teaspoon Fresh Grate Ginger
    1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cloves

    METHOD

    First thing, preheat your oven to 200°c / 400°f.

    Pumpkin pie is terribly easy because all you do is mix your spices and vanilla seeds together with your sugar in a bowl, stir in the pumpkin, then stir in lightly beaten eggs. Try not to incorporate too much air as you want zero bubbles with any baked custard (yes, that is what this technically is). Don’t throw away that vanilla pod case, by the way! Put it in a jar of sugar and use this in whatever you like – it’s great in pancakes, cakes, cookies and biscuits or a cup of strong coffee.

    Cover the pumpkin mixture and pop it in the fridge to infuse while you sort out your pie crust.

    Roll out chilled pie crust and line a fluted 28cm pie tin. Cover with cling film and pop it in the freezer for 5-10mins. Or if you, like me, have zero room for anything in your freezer (not even ice), pop it in the fridge for 20mins. It should be completely firm when it comes out. Keep the scraps of dough for patching after blind baking.

    pie crust

    After chilling the pastry until firm, line it with a parchment paper cartouche ( a round piece of paper used in cooking), crinkled so it can be pushed into the corners well, and fill with baking beans to the rim. Blind bake (without filling) at 200°c/400°f for 15 minutes or until the sides are set up. Then remove the beans with a large spoon and the cartouche and bake for another 5-10 minutes until lightly golden with no gray patches of raw pastry left behind. You don’t want a soggy bottom! Lower the temprature of your oven to 160°c/325°f.

    Now patch up any cracks with scraps from the raw pastry and pour in the pumpkin mixture until it is full as you can make it without slopping over. As this is custard, you don’t need to worry about it rising but it could souffle if cooked at too high a temperature or for too long. So leave about a half cm or a quarter inch of pastry at the top. Bake this for 40-50 minutes until the center of the filling wobbles only slightly or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

    Serve with a generous dollop of vanilla whipped cream.

    Recipe adapted from Libby’s Famous Pumpkin Pie Recipe.

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  4. Vanilla Pumpkin Pie

    My goodness how time flies! I can’t believe my last post was in September! I have been getting all sorts of experience in the food, including a fabulously beautiful trip to the Amalfi Coast where I ate my weight in pizza, pasta and gelato. Definitely put this on your bucket list. Visit Positano, you will not regret it. The beauty almost hurts your eyes.

    IMG_8595

    I have worked a month as a chef at Kome, a marvelous pop-up restaurant and catering company with food crossing the divide between Korean and Mexican flavours. Then a few more work experiences starting with 10 Greek Street in their pastry section,  a few days with Southerden bakery right near me in Peckham, followed by a life changing week at Restaurant Story with Tom Sellers, who I owe a lot to for nudging my towards starting a career in food. Check out some of the snacks I helped make while I was there:

    Crispy cod skins with emulsion and gin botanicals

    IMG_2741

    Eel flavoured take on the Oreo with vinegar dust, delicious I swear!

    IMG_2739

    And the beautiful Egg with salmon roe and egg emulsion

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    You would not believe the amount of prep work that goes into making these little snacks. Now just imagine how much work goes into creating one of their main dishes. Snacks of the Sea for example (I think they like the word ‘snack’…

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    Or Almond and Dill (I got to make the dill oil!)

    IMG_2769

    There are 10 courses on the tasting menu with 6 additional snacks and every dish is magical. The Story team is so talented and they are more dedicated than most, hence the Michelin star. They are also some of the most thoughtful and humble. I am so lucky to have learned some of the magic. Phew, it’s almost emotional!

    In between all that I have done some exciting private catering and before you know it here we are in November. Very little sleep but a whole lot of fun!

    Anyway now that I’ve swiftly updated you all with the new notches in my CV, on to an updated version of one of my favourite foods in the whole world… pumpkin pie. Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner (OMG I HAVE NOT EVEN THOUGHT ABOUT THIS YET) and the only thing that could possibly make us feel better about the flames bursting from our pockets as our wallets spontaneously combust is to eat delicious things like pie. So here we are:

    Vanilla Pumpkin Pie

    Damn I miss home this time of year. The crashing of pans followed by the clinking of glasses and catching up with my American family… This time of year is when London really does feel a bit sad in comparison. Y’all just don’t know what Thanksgiving means! And you’re missing out…

    At home, Thanksgiving is the time when we invite our whole family including every possible cousin within a 100 mile radius around our table to gorge on my mother’s fabulous turkey and stuffing. We break out the old linens, the silver, the china and we try our best to pay homage to the past generation’s parties through a balance of grandeur and generosity fit for such an important occasion. In a world where Christmas is often quiet and close, Thanksgiving makes up for it by swinging open the arms of the home and inviting everyone in we can fit. We gorge ourselves to the brim with chat and turkey until we can’t possibly fit anymore… and then comes the pie.

    Pumpkin pie is one of those sacred American dishes. You have to have it, no ifs, ands or buts. However, sometimes it can be more of an after thought to all that turkey and stuffing. So, I’ve opted to shake it up a bit, adding a vanilla pod to the mix to ramp up the warming aromatics that make this pie so deserving of centre stage. It’s one of the acts, not an encore! The culinary rules say that since dessert is the last thing to cross our pallets, it had better be impressive, with flavour that beats out everything you’ve eaten thus far this meal. I think this Vanilla Pumpking Pie is just the ticket.

    INGREDIENTS

    One Quantity Basic Pie Crust (See my post on Short Crust and follow directions for Basic Pie Crust)

    425g Solid Pack Pumpkin Puree

    2 Large Eggs

    284ml Single Cream (or Evaporated Milk)

    180g Caster Sugar

    1/2 Teaspoon Table Salt

    1 Vanilla Pod, seeds stripped for use

    1 1/4 Teaspoons Ground Cinnamon

    1 Teaspoon Fresh Grate Ginger

    1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cloves

    METHOD

    First thing, preheat your oven to 200°c / 400°f

    Pumpkin pie is terribly easy because all you do is mix your spices and vanilla seeds together with your sugar in a bowl, stir in the pumpkin, then stir in lightly beaten eggs. Try not to incorporate too much air as you want zero bubbles with any baked custard (yes, that is what this technically is). Don’t throw away that vanilla pod case! Put it in a jar of sugar and use this in whatever you like. It add extra oomph to pancakes especially.

    Cover the pumpkin mixture and pop it in the fridge to infuse while you sort out your pie crust. Ta dah!

    Roll out chilled pie crust and line a fluted 28cm pie tin. Excuse the horrible lighting/sharpness of this photo… I have been playing with a new lens. Cover this with cling film and pop it in the freezer for 5 minutes or the fridge for 15 if you, like me have zero room for anything in your freezer, not even ice. Keep the scraps of dough for patching after blind baking.

    IMG_8859

    After chilling the pastry until firm, line it with a parchment paper cartouche ( a round piece of paper used in cooking), crinkled so it can be pushed into the corners well, and fill with baking beans to the rim. Blind bake (without filling) at 200°c/400°f for 15 minutes or until the sides are set up. Then remove the beans with a large spoon and the cartouche and bake for another 5-10 minutes until lightly golden with no gray patches of raw pastry left behind. You don’t want a soggy bottom! Lower the temprature of your oven to 160°c/325°f.

    IMG_8861

    Now patch up any cracks with scraps from the raw pastry and pour in the pumpkin mixture until it is full as you can make it without slopping over. As this is custard, you don’t need to worry about it rising but it could souffle if cooked at too high a temperature or for too long. So leave about a half cm or quarter inch of pastry at the top. Bake this for 40-50 minutes until the center of the filling wobbles only slightly or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

    IMG_8893

    This is definitely one to practice before Thanksgiving since it’s so delicious and a perfect dessert to follow any special autumn meal. Serve with a generous dollop of whipped cream or for even more excitement, cinnamon ice cream.

    Recipe adapted from Libby’s Famous Pumpkin Pie Recipe

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  5. Short Crust and Cherry Pie

    It’s that time of year when we are all getting just a little tired of the fresh fruit bowl… pie season! Let’s start with making the perfect pie pastry, then fill it with what you like. Today, I’ll be filling my pie with cherries, which have been in amazing abundance this year.

    IMG_7788

    Below are my favorite recipes and methods for perfect short crust pastries. Like my grandma’s recipes, the base of these start with a combination of butter, flour and salt with additions of lard, egg yolk and sugar to make them as flakey, rich or sweet as you want them for different recipes. For the purposes of this lesson, I will be making the Double Rich Pie Crust recipe.

    RECIPES

    Basic Pie Crust 250g plain flour, 1 large pinch salt, 140g cold unsalted butter or 100g cold unsalted butter and 40g cold lard, 2 large egg yolks, 3 TBS chilled water (or 5 TBS chilled water, no egg yolks)

    Double Rich Pie Crust 500g plain flour, 1/8 tsp salt, 280g cold unsalted butter/200g cold unsalted butter and 80g lard, 4 large egg yolks, 5-6 TBS chilled water (plus extra)

    Sweet Rich Pie Crust To the 250g flour recipe, add 1 TBS caster sugar with salt.

    Cherry Pie Filling About 1kg/2lbs fresh, tart, whole cherries 1 TBS Almond Liqueur 3 TBS Corn Flour 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon 150-200g/1 cup-1 1/2 cups granulated sugar (depending how tart cherries are) 2 TBS granulated sugar (for topping)

    METHOD

    First thing’s first – pop a small jug or cup of water in the fridge to chill down. You’ll need it very cold. Now, follow this same method for each pie pastry recipe and you’ll get there. Start by choosing either the slow manual or quick machine method for rubbing fat into flour, then follow the steps after. For now, let’s focus mainly on the quick method. I’ll add some more photographs of the slow method a bit later… To start, measure flour and salt into a large bowl and cut up cold unsalted butter into cubes. If you don’t have unsalted, for heaven’s sake just use salted and omit the salt in the recipe. Life’s too short for needless extra trips to the grocery store…

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    (more…)

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  6. Pâte sucrée

    The patisseries of Paris make everyone swoon and Pâte sucrée is the base for those fabulous tarts and biscuits that stand at the front of the shop window. Rich yet light, works perfectly with chocolate, fruit, cream, custard, cheese cake, citrus filling and tastes as delicious raw as it does cooked – it really is a wonder of the pastry world. Trust me, when you learn to make this pastry you might not go back to any other! Save for the near-holy american apple pie that is, which undoubtedly calls for short crust… or does it?

    It’s not the easiest to make but when you get it right it is oh so satisfying. The recipe and method I am using is adapted from the Leith’s How to Cook book, which I highly recommend. You can of course make it in a Magimix or other food processor if you want to, or bung the wet ingredients in a bowl and knead in the dry, but it won’t be as good. Besides, pastry making really is for those who get pleasure out of the cooking process as much as the eating, so I’m going to show you the old fashioned way.

    As with most good things baked, butter, eggs and sugar enrich this dough to decadence. Use it for mini fruit pies as I have here, citrus or chocolate tarts, accompaniment biscuits… anything you think needs a sweet base really. One thing to remember though: as this pastry has more sugar than a usual one it should be blind baked (i.e. without filling) at a slightly lower temprature of 190°c/375°f and on the top shelf of your oven for high heat. If you are using a fan oven adjust accordingly, usually down 20°c.

    IMG_6295

    INGREDIENTS
    (Adapted from Leith’s HTC)

    250g plain flour
    1/8 tsp salt
    125g unsalted butter (cool but slightly soft)
    125g caster sugar
    3 large egg yolks (cold)
    3 drops vanilla extract

    METHOD
    (Adapted from Leith’s HTC)

    Have out: weighed ingredients, a pallet knife, cling film (two layers) and a butter knife for the initial stages.

    Start by sifting the flour and salt onto a clean smooth surface, then use your fist to make it into a large ring. You’ll be working in the middle of the ring so make sure to leave plenty of space. Now for some hand movement instructions. Remember when you used to make shadow puppets when you were a kid? Make a goose. Ok now you are going to keep the goose’s beak almost all the way shut while you push down with the pads of your fingers rather than your nails. Once you get started you’ll get what I mean… a bit like pecking.

    First separate cold eggs, reserve whites if you like and keep egg yolks cold until ready to use.

    Put the cool butter in the centre of the circle of flour and push it into the surface with the pads of your fingers so it is smooshed down. Then pour the sugar over the butter and, using only one hand, mix it it in with your finger tips.

    IMG_6296

    Use a few scooping motions if needed to flip sugar back over the butter and pinching motions to smoosh it together. You want to do this step efficiently so that the butter does not melt or become greasy.

    Peck in sugar

    If necessary use your second hand to help move more quickly but ideally keep it to one so you have your other hand free to move flour away if you need to.

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  7. Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

    I picked up a few stems of rhubarb from our local farmer’s market yesterday. I love rhubarb- it’s like magic celery, but fruity instead of salty. Just don’t eat it raw. It’s so sour you might implode with puckering… NOT a good look!

    The Flavour Thesaurus (see Cookbooks To Live By in the left margin), says that rhubarb, when it is ripe, contains a slight strawberry-like floral flavour, which is why strawberry and rhubarb are so often paired together in the US. Strawberry-Rhubarb pie is one of my absolute favourites. Tart and sweet, it goes perfectly with vanilla ice cream- which I also LOVE. This recipe is so easy, there aren’t a lot of pictures. It always turns out well because the strawberries add the sweetness rhubarb needs where in other rhubarb recipes too little sugar can cause a disaster.

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