I cannot believe that I have never written a story on this blog about “raising” a pie in the grand English tradition. The long immersion in the topic while I was writing Pie: A Global History must have confused me. I am going to make it up today.
There are a lot of reasons to make raised pies. An important one is so that a great, and very old, tradition might be preserved. Once upon a time, before there were such conveniences as baking tins, refrigerators, and lunch-boxes, a ‘coffin’ of thick dough performed the functions of all three perfectly well. So well that the contents were said to be able to be kept for many months (even a year), although I do not suggest that you risk the experiment today.
A second reason is that they are great fun to make. If you like hands-on cooking, then the process is definitely for you. If you are afraid of making pastry, it is also for you, because the traditional pastry-making rules of keeping everything cool and using a light hand, are the opposite of what is required. If you are a frustrated sculptor, or your parents didn’t let you mess about with play-dough when you were a child, then the fun will be all the greater.
Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, raised pies – especially raised PORK pies in the style of the famous Melton Mowbray pies – are an absolutely delicious experience (if they have been done properly and well, of course.)
If three good reasons are not sufficient to convince you to at least buy and try a good raised pie - even if you cannot or dare not make one - then I fear you may be a lost cause.
Here, from the marvellous English classic, Cassell’s Dictionary of Cookery (1870’s) are detailed instructions on the method:
Paste for Raised Pies.
In making raised pies the first consideration is whether the pastry is intended to be eaten or not. If it is intended merely to form a mould in which to hold the meat, it may be made firm and compact without very much diffculty, and may be beaten with the rolling-pin or kneaded with the knuckles to make it stiff and hard. If it is intended to be eaten, greater care will be necessary. It must be remembered that small pies are much easier to make than large ones, and the very easiest and best way for inexperienced persons to make them is to use one of the tin moulds manufactured for the purpose, which opens at the sides. The French pastry named Pâte Brisée, the recipe for which is given (see Crust, Pâte Brisée), makes a good crust for small raised pies. When the pastry is not to be eaten, dissolve three or four ounces of lard in half a pint of boiling water, and stir in as much flour as will make a stiff smooth paste. A little more than a pound of flour will be required. Knead it thoroughly with the fingers, and when it is sufficiently firm to keep its form when moulded, put it into a bowl, and cover with a cloth until it is nearly cold. Dredge a little flour on the pastry-board, put the pastry upon it, and roll it with the hands into the shape of a sugar-loaf or cone, with the diameter of the lower part rather less than the size required for the pie. Place the cone upright, and flatten the top until it is half the height. Press it down with the knuckles of the right hand, at the same time forming the walls of the pie with the left. When the sides are smooth, and of equal thickness, fill the pie, roll out the cover, lay it on, and make a hole in the centre. Fasten the edges securely with a little egg, ornament the pie according to fancy, glaze it by brushing it over with the beaten yolk of an egg, and bake in a quick oven. An easier way of shaping a raised pie is to roll out the pastry to the required thickness, and then cut out a piece for the top and bottom, and a long strip for the sides. These pieces must be fastened with egg, and the edges pressed over one another, so as to be securely fastened. The pie may then be finished according to the directions given above. When the crust is intended to be eaten, the pastry may be made according to the directions given for Pâte Brisée (see Crust, Pâte Brisée) or as follows : Rub a quarter of a pound of butter into a pound of flour. Sprinkle over it a small tea-spoonful of salt. Put another quarter of a pound of butter into a saucepan, with the third of a pint of milk. Stir it over a gentle fire until the butter is dissolved, then pour the liquid over the flour, and stir it to a smooth stiff paste. Dredge some flour over it; give it two or three turns, and mould it into the proper shape before it has had time to cool. Time to bake raised pies, from two to five hours, according to size.
Quotation for the Day.
The Fine Arts are five in number: Painting, Music, Poetry, Sculpture, and Architecture--whereof the principle branch is Confectionery.
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