Baking challenge: who ate all the miniature pork pies?

This post is part of my personal challenge to bake my way through all the challenges of the Great British Bake Off. The challenge below is the technical challenge for week five (pastry week) of series two: make six miniature pork pies with a perfectly cooked (of course!) quail egg in the centre.

Pork pies – who doesn’t love them? They are an essential part of British food culture, an indigenous tradition – and, much like the mince pie, not one I have taken to. Dense pastry and pork do not set this non-Brit’s heart alight, and the combination of eggs and meat is one I have serious difficulties with. I grew up in Singapore and scarcely ate any Chinese or Malay food when I lived there, and I’ve realised that the ubiquitous addition of eggs to meat stews and laksas had much to do with eat.

A tower of pies
A tower of pies

But to my British boyfriend and a dear friend these pies were truly delightful, with their fresh, meaty filling, the touch of bacon giving it depth of flavour, and the parsley a hint of freshness. For my boyfriend, the egg in the middle which was my personal nemesis was his favourite part – he described it as a ‘lovely surprise’ when he ate the first pie (as he wasn’t aware they were in there) and as something to look forward to. So there we go. It takes all sorts, really.

I actually ended up repeating this recipe (both batches eaten gratefully by the boyfriend and friend), and so below can go into some extra tips I picked up along the way.

Could have been more golden.
Could have been more golden.

A warning of sorts to those who may wish to try out this Paul Hollywood recipe for themselves: quail’s eggs are the very devil to peel. In the how-to video Mary recommends peeling the eggs as soon as they are cool, but even so I found it quite difficult.

This recipe is made not with shortcrust pastry, but the more traditional hot water crust pastry, which starts off life sticky but becomes dry and brittle relatively quickly. Work fast. I covered it in a damp tea towel in between rolling and stamping out the pie cases and tops to ensure it didn’t dry out. Don’t rest it as you would a shortcrust pastry. Lard – used in the pastry – smells disgusting, especially when melted, so be prepared. A food processor makes it easier to chop up all the pie filling, though be gentle – you don’t want to end up with a smooth, homogenous paste. Finally, I found using jumbo muffin tins about a thousand times easier to make the pies in than a standard-sized muffin tin.

Finally, reader – I did not make the gelatine. This was principally because the promised hollow or gap within the pie never materialised. My pies were crammed full of meat and egg and the filling didn’t shrink. It did bubble juicily out of the pastry, however, where it baked on sticky and black and actually looked quite appetising, I thought.

At risk of rambling I feel that I must add that although these are called ‘small pork pies’ they are by no means ‘mini’ – they’re small only relative to one of those huge full-size pork pies.

Small pork pies
From Paul Hollywood; recipe available on the BBC website

NB: The original recipe includes instructions for making a pork jelly. I skipped this below because I didn’t make it with the jelly.

For the hot water crust pastry

  • 200g plain flour
  • 40g strong white flour
  • 50g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 100ml water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 60g lard

For the filling

  • 6 quails’ eggs
  • 1 onion, very finely chopped
  • 350g pork loin, finely chopped
  • 100g unsmoked streaky bacon, finely chopped
  • small bunch of parsley, finely chopped
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 free-range egg, beaten

NB: I placed the onion, pork loin, bacon, parsley and salt and pepper in a food processor and pulsed a few times instead of chopping each ingredient separately. Heresy, probably, but it worked.

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Grease a 6-hole jumbo muffin tin
  2. For the pastry, sift the flours into a bowl and rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Bring the water and salt to a boil; add the lard and stir until the lard has melted.
  3. Pour the lard and water over the flour mixture and stir to form a dough. Tip the dough onto a floured work surface and work into a smooth ball (you must work quickly or the dough will become too firm to handle).
  4. Roll the pastry out to a thickness of about 3mm. Cut out six 15cm circles and use each circle to line a hole in the muffin tin. Cut six 10cm circles for the lids and set them aside.
  5. For the filling, cook the quails’ eggs in a pan of boiling water for two minutes then refresh in cold water, peel carefully (and with great difficulty) and set aside.
  6. Put the onion, pork, bacon and parsley into a bowl, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and mix until well combined (see my note about my heresy above). Spoon a little of the mixture into each lined pie case, place a quail’s egg in the centre and spoon over a little more filling.
  7.  Brush the edge of each pie case with a little beaten egg, place the lids on top and crimp the edges together to seal completely. Make a small hole in centre of each pie and bake in the oven for 40 minutes.

 

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