It’s time for the bake from my own country. There are so many to choose from: timeless cakes like the Victoria Sponge, regional specials like the Eccles cake or Bakewell tart, seasonal fruit cakes or hot cross buns, tea time favourites of scones or crumpets, or the humble muffin, which even has “English” in its name (everywhere except, of course, in England). But I’ve chosen to do a pastry style that I’ve hardly seen anywhere else in the world: the hot water pie crust, using it to make the classic English game pie. Since it’s coming up to December and people are thinking about Christmas, I’ve gone for a recipe from the BBC with the seasonal twist of cranberries and chestnuts.
Although you can warm up this kind of pie, it’s more often eaten cold as a lunch dish. It’s a fabulous main course for a picnic, although you’ll need freezer capacity since the game season doesn’t generally coincide with picnic weather in these parts. But the same technique should work for a pork pie or other variants.
The pastry-making technique is a bit like choux pastry without the eggs: boil up fat and water together, then quickly combine the flour and mix. As with most recipes for hot water crust, the BBC’s specifies lard, which is difficult to find right now and, in any case, isn’t to everyone’s taste. I used butter and it worked fine. The key is to work quickly when mixing and rolling the pastry, which is beautifully elastic when it’s still warm.
Cranberry sauce filling
150g fresh or frozen cranberries (buy 200g – we’re using the rest later)
50g golden caster sugar
If using frozen cranberries, defrost them.
Add all ingredients into a pan, bring to the boil and simmer until cranberries are soft and the liquid is much reduced
Pour into a bowl to cool
800g mixed boneless game, such as rabbit, venison, wild boar, pheasant, partridge or pigeon
300g pork belly
200g bacon lardons
150g cooked chestnuts (the vacuum packed ones readily available in UK supermarkets work well)
50g fresh or frozen cranberries
½ tsp ground mace
2 large pinches of ground nutmeg
Small bunch sage
Small bunch thyme
Finely mince the pork belly (or blitz in a food processor)
Chop the game finely. I went for around 5mm cubes, which gives a fairly coarse filling which is well matched to the size of the lardons in the supermarket packet. But you can go finer if you prefer.
Chop the chestnuts coarsely.
Chop the sage and the thyme finely.
Mix everything together as evenly as you can: it takes a surprisingly long time to get the belly mince evenly distributed around the rest of the filling.
Making the hot water crust pastry and filling the pie
200g butter, plus some for greasing
575g plain flour, plus some for the board
Preheat oven to 160℃ fan.
Boil a kettle.
Grease a 20cm springform cake tin.
In a small bowl, beat the egg.
In a large bowl, mix the flour and salt.
Cut the butter into cubes, perhaps 2cm per side.
Get your rolling pin and board ready, spread some flour on them.
Now work quickly: combine the water and butter in a jug and mix thoroughly. If the butter is taking too long to melt and the whole thing has cooled down, top up the temperature with 30 seconds in the microwave.
Pour your wet mix into the flour and rapidly combine it, kneading a little until you have a smooth dough with no dry flour.
Take a quarter of the dough and wrap it in cling film.
Roll the rest of the dough to a circle somewhat larger than the diameter of your tin plus twice its height.
Transfer the dough to the tin, using it to line the base and sides. For now, leave any excess hanging over the sides.
Fill the pie in the following order: half the meat filling, all the cranberry sauce, then the second half of the filling. The top should be slightly domed.
Roll out the remaining dough and slice into 1cm strips.
Make a lattice on the top of the pie with the strips of dough – leaving gaps (or at least one gap) big enough to poke a funnel through. If you’ve run out, cut off some of the overhanging pastry and roll them out to make up the shortfall.
Brush the top with some of the beaten egg (you’ll only need a little of it)
Bake for 45 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 140℃ fan, then bake for another 90 minutes.
4 gelatine leaves, or 1 sachet powdered gelatine
300ml veal or chicken stock
Leave the pie to cool for at least an hour, preferably two.
Warm the stock to close to boiling, then add and dissolve the gelatine in it.
Pour the stock through a funnel into one or more holes in the lattice until it nearly overflows. Discard any excess stock.
For Americans, the phrase “Apple Pie and Motherhood” (or possibly “Apple Pie and Mom”) means “a thing in life that everyone agrees to be unarguably good”. But even Americans would accept that Apple Pie comes from the Netherlands. In fact, there are two variants of Dutch Apple Pie: appeltaart, the lattice-topped version that I’ve made here, and appelkruimeltaart, a crumble-topped version whose American equivalent is Pennsylvania Dutch Apple Pie.
Most Dutch recipes (I’ve started with this one) go for a shortcrust pastry with a fairly high butter to flour ratio (this recipe uses 2:3, but I’ve seen higher), sweetened with brown sugar. As often, I’ve cut down the amount of sugar – the original recipe goes for 50% more than I’ve used. The Dutch use self-raising flour, which moves the end result somewhere in the direction of a cake compared to a typical French apple tart or English pie. A neat trick is to cover your base with a layer of breadcrumbs: this soaks up the juices in the early part of the bake and helps to prevent the dreaded soggy bottom.
The filling is usually fairly heavily spiced and often has other fruit or nuts in addition to the apple. I’ve chosen cinnamon and raisins, but there are plenty of alternatives: cloves, ginger, walnuts or almonds to name just a few. At least once recipe recommends soaking your raisins in rum.
If you’re not in the Netherlands with access to Goudreinet (Golden Rennet) or Belle de Boskoop apples, you’ll have to improvise. You’re going to want an apple which is crisp enough not to disintegrate while baking, and which has plenty of flavour and a level of tartness. Lockdown London isn’t offering my usual levels of choice, so I went for 50/50 Granny Smith and Cox’s Orange Pippin, which worked pretty well. The Granny Smiths are there for tartness, but I’d worry that using them exclusively would be both too sour and too watery.
300 g self raising flour, plus flour for rolling
100 g soft brown sugar
a pinch of salt
200 g cold butter
1 egg, beaten
Combine the flour, sugar and salt.
Cut the butter into small cubes and mix into the flour mixture with your fingertips until you’ve got rid of the lumps of unblended butter.
Keep aside a small amount of egg for brushing, pour the rest into your mixture and blend until you have a smooth dough which no longer sticks to the side of your bowl.
Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes.
1 kg apples (see above)
Juice of 1 lemon, or more to taste
6g ground cinnamon
50 g sugar
50 g raisins
Peel, core and chop the apples into quarters, then chop each quarter into 4-5 slices. As you go, put the pieces into a bowl with the lemon juice and mix them around: the lemon will stop the apples going brown as you work.
Add the raisins.
Combine the sugar and cinnamon, add them to the apples and raisins and mix everything until even.
Breadcrumbs (probably around 30g – sorry, I didn’t measure)
I used the fan setting on my oven and I wish I hadn’t – baking for longer without the fan would have resulted in a somewhat softer filling. If you like the apples crunchier, go with the fan option.
Preheat oven to 180℃ conventional.
Grease a 22-23cm springform tin with butter.
Divide the dough into 3 portions, roughly 40%, 40%, 20%.
Roll out the first portion into a circle and use this to line the base of your tin. Trim off any excess and keep it.
Roll the next portion into a long rectangle (you may need more than one) and use it to line the sides of your tin. Again, trim off and keep any excess.
Add all the excess dough to your third piece, roll it out and cut into strips, around 1cm wide.
Spread the breadcrumbs evenly to cover the base of your tart.
Fill the tart with the apple mixture, trying to get rid of the air gaps so the apples are packed well down (but don’t press too hard). The filling will probably form a slight dome over the top: that’s fine.
With your strips of dough, form a lattice over the tart. The Dutch tend to do a kind of overlapping W-shaped pattern – my attempt at this was comically clumsy, as you’ll see from the photos, but this didn’t really matter. You can also do a standard criss-cross version (and if you’re feeling particularly competent, weave it).
Brush the top of the pastry lattice with the remaining egg.
Bake until the pastry is a deep golden brown, which should take around 50 minutes (conventional) or 40 minutes (fan) – depending, as ever, on your oven.
Leave to cool. After 10 minutes or so, extract the pie from the tin.
Enjoy. It’s the perfect treat for a damp, autumnal day.
So here’s the problem. I’m out of bread, I’m in lockdown and not heading for the shops, and it’s an hour to lunchtime. The solution? The Irish have this right: make soda bread. You can do the whole thing in 40 minutes (of which half is waiting while it’s in the oven), it’s delicious and it requires no particularly high level of skill. In short, I am confident that this will be the easiest of this whole “80 bakes”, a winner that I keep coming back to.
You can choose any combination of flours you like: 100% white and 100% wholemeal are both fine, but my favourite is 50/50 white wheat and wholemeal spelt. The recipe specifies buttermilk, which definitely helps because of its slight acidity, but you can use milk as an alternative. I suspect that milk with a tablespoon of yoghurt would work well, although I haven’t actually tried.
If we’re all honest, this is closer to an oversized scone than a bread, which is perfectly fine, because scones are lovely. And like scones, once you’ve mastered this plain recipe, you can move on to all sorts of flavourings, sweet and savoury: raisins, honey, nuts, dates are great for sweet versions; bacon, cheese (and also nuts) for savoury.
This recipe is only slightly adapted from the one in Emmanuel Hadjiandreou’s excellent How to make bread.
Sunflower or other oil for greasing
125g white flour (plain or strong, it doesn’t really matter)
125g wholemeal flour, plus a bit for the board (I use spelt, but wheat is fine)
4g baking soda
260g buttermilk (or 260g milk, or 240g milk plus 20g yoghurt)
Preheat oven to 200℃
Brush a small pie dish with a little oil
Stir together all the dry ingredients in a bowl until evenly mixed
Pour in the buttermilk and mix until you have an even dough with no separately visible flour. Don’t overdo the mixing.
Transfer the ball of dough to a board lightly dusted with flour; with your hands also lightly floured, form it into a firm, even ball.
Transfer the ball of dough to your pie dish and make two gashes across the top to form a cross.
Bake for 20-30 minutes until it sounds hollow when tapped.
Transfer to a rack and cool for 10 minutes or so before eating
Soda bread is best eaten immediately after that initial cooling – but if that doesn’t work out, it’s still great for a day or so. It does NOT keep particularly well.