Bakery tips & tricks: how to create the perfect pies

Pies are beloved by Brits. Here, pie experts explain how to create the perfect pastry, avoid the dreaded soggy bottom and get creative with toppings.

Hot stuff

“To make great hot water crust pastry, use a good-quality strong flour, lard and salt. Mix the flour, lard and salt to a crumb, then add boiling water while the mixer is running until the pastry resembles a marzipan texture. Leave to rest in a cool place for 24 hours, then knead before using. Never use straight away, because it will shrink.”

Roger Topping, managing director, The Topping Pie Company

Gluten-free perfection

“Gluten-free pastry is technically very difficult to produce. To get it as good as regular shortcrust is always going to be a challenge, so the best tips would be always add more water than you feel it needs when mixing (this will rehydrate the flour and ensure it’s not too crumbly when rolling out). Make sure you always rest for 12 hours (at least) in a fridge before using. Don’t be afraid of mixing it longer than usual pastry – after all, there is no gluten, so there is no fear of overworking.”

Phil Turner, managing director, Turner’s Pies

Make Mary proud

“The secret to avoiding a soggy pastry bottom lies in good-quality ingredients. The better the quality, the less you have to fuss to create that perfect base. However, there are some easy fixes to reduce the risk of sogginess. Firstly, it’s important to have a good level of fat content – plenty of lard or butter – to help firm the pastry up while cooking. Also, consider a long and steady cooking time to allow for good pastry penetration. In addition, putting pies onto a pre-heated baking tray, rather than a cool one, will help you hit the holy grail of pie bases.”

Rupert Willday, head of food, Charlie Bigham’s

Top it like it’s hot

“Take a look at what your pie filling will be and how you intend for your pie to be eaten. Some fillings naturally lend themselves to a different style of topping – a creamier pie is best topped with a crisp puff pastry lid to ensure that the filling doesn’t risk boiling out and keep the rich flavours inside.

In contrast, our Paneer & Spiced Chickpea Pie features a lattice top as the filling is bright, bold and vibrant, so we wanted these colours to shine through. Pies that are enjoyed cold also feature a more delicate topping, such as a lattice lid.”

Alysha Luckin, food director, Higgidy

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