A couple of weeks ago, we hosted our second BakeClub cooking class here at the farm kitchen, (the first was No Time to Bake last November) and again, it was the best of days. Bake Club's one and only Anneka Manning came to stay, teach and cook with us and we had a full house of students from all over NSW, even Victoria.
Anneka is a real food hero of mine; there's nothing she doesn't know about baking and through her brilliant business BakeClub, she is sharing it all, one class/book/blog post at a time. But for Anneka's top five pastry tips, you need look no further than this very post; she shares them right here (scroll down a touch).
The theme for this particular class was 'Winter Pies and Tarts' and did our students ever get value for money - in one morning Anneka covered puff, (sweet and savoury) shortcrust and filo pastry. We made five different tarts (recipes were taken home in goodie bags with a copy of Anneka's book and Wiltshire pie dish), then sat down for a beautiful lunch together with a range of Cargo Road Wines to match.
We made the above roasted pumpkin, tomato and oregano tart, plus venison pies with puff pastry lids (recipe follows), chicken pie, blue cheese and leek tartlets and a rich, chocolate pecan tart to finish.
Needless to say, the day wasn't entirely geared to our gluten-free friends!
Anneka Manning's top 5 tips for making great pastry
Here are my 5 Top Tips for Making Great Pastry to help you get over your pastry ’fear’. In no time you will be making beautiful homemade pastry that will really make the difference between a good pie or tart and an outstanding one!
- Keep your cool. Always keep everything – ingredients, utensils and hands – as cool as possible. If you have warm hands it’s a good idea to put them under cold running water for a minute before rubbing in the butter. On warm days you can chill your bench top by placing a freezer bag filled with ice cubes on it for a couple of minutes before wiping dry, dusting lightly with flour and then rolling out your pastry.
- Hands off. It is important to handle the pastry as little as possible when mixing and rolling. Overworking it will ‘develop’ the gluten in the flour, which can make the pastry hard to roll. Overworked pastry is also more likely shrink during cooking and to be tough in texture once cooked.
- Take a break. Always rest you pastry in the fridge both before rolling and before baking to help the pastry ‘relax’, and to set the butter. This, in turn, will make the pastry easier to handle when rolling, less likely to shrink during baking, and lighter in texture (less tough). Sadly though, no amount of resting can fix dough that has been overworked and handled too much.
- One direction. When rolling out your pastry roll it in one direction only at a time, starting near the centre, to stop it from being overstretched (which will cause it to shrink considerably when baked). Also, to help roll it evenly and stop it sticking to the bench top, use a medium pressure and turn the pastry a quarter turn after every roll.
- Go naked. There is no need to grease your tart or pie tin before lining it with pastry – the high butter content in the pastry will naturally stop it from sticking. I have also found that non-stick tins with a dark coating aren’t great for baking tart shells as the pastry has nothing to ’grab’ hold of when baking and will tend to slip down the sides of the tin, casing it to shrink dramatically. It is best to just stick to the traditional uncoated metal tins.
Above is Anneka's incredible chicken pie with cheat's puff pastry and honestly it was one of the yummiest and most loved up pies I've ever had. We shared the leftovers with Alice and Tom for dinner that night and it got even better with a reheating!
Below, meet Anna, who also came along to help out. She's bearing a tray of little venison pies. The filling was of shanks braised in stout and aromatics, then shredded from the bone back into the rich casserole then topped with puff pastry lids - recipe is just below. Yummo.
Venison and stout piesThese are gorgeous pies with bold flavours and tender meat beneath a golden puffy lid of pastry. for best results, make the filling well in advance then gently reheat before serving. You can also forget about the pastry and serve this as a casserole in its own right. Try with mashed potato and/or parsnip or a lovely cheesy polenta. Use either diced shoulder, shanks, osso buco or other good braising cut. Serves 6.
500g diced Mandagery Creek Venison shoulder or 1kg Mandagery Creek shanks
2 tbsp plain flour
1 knob unsalted butter
2 red onions, peeled and thinly sliced
1 sprig fresh rosemary, leaves picked and chopped
2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 cups sliced button mushrooms
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 cup stout or dark ale
2 cups hot veal stock
375g frozen puff pastry (thawed in the fridge)
1 egg, beaten.
Preheat oven to 140C. Dust the venison in the flour and season well. Place a large flame-proof casserole pan over medium-high heat, add a couple of glugs of olive oil and the butter and in batches, brown the venison on all sides. Set aside, reduce heat to medium-low, and add a little more olive oil. Now cook the onions and herbs, stirring often, for about 15 minutes or until completely soft and golden.
Add the tomato paste, mushrooms, vinegar, stout and stock and season well. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low, add the venison, cover with a lid and place in the oven for 2 hours, or until very tender*.Remove from the oven and set aside while making the pastry lids.
Increase the oven temperature to 200C. Line a large oven tray with non-stick baking paper. Roll out the thawed puff pastry until about 5mm thick and cut into rounds roughly the same size as the tops of the pie tins or ramekins you are using. Place the pastry rounds on the lined oven tray, brush with the beaten egg and bake for 20 minutes or until golden and puffed up.
To assemble the pies, divide the hot venison mixture among pie tins or ramekins. Place the pastry lids on top and serve immediately.
*If using the shanks; please increase the cooking time to 3 hours and make sure they are in one layer only. I tend to use a large, deep-sided baking tray covered with foil.