Whoever came up with the expression 'easy as pie' clearly had never baked a pie in their lives. Pies may a lot of things - delicious topping the list - but 'easy' is not necessarily one of them.
Not that pie crust is difficult to make in itself - the trouble usually starts once you get to the baking. Pies are finicky creatures and react badly to being underbaked (the dreaded soggy bottom) and then, the next minute, they are burned on top. It takes a fine balance of just the right type of filling, oven temperature and sometimes even type of dish to produce a pie you can be proud of.
As you may (or may not) have noticed I haven't really had any pie recipes on the blog until quite recently. I was keeping them at arm's length... until I bought this book. Do yourselves a favour and buy a copy - it has a huge number of recipes, gorgeous but simple photography and a great tips / techniques section at the back. My only complain would be that the savoury section is quite small, but it's only a small niggle.
NOTE: the book uses US measurements - if you are based in UK or Europe you will get by just fine if you invest in some US cup measures.
This recipe for pear and ginger hand pies is available elsewhere on the t'internet but I have tweaked it somewhat. The original combination of pear and ginger is a little bland, IMHO, so I have upped the flavour by including stem ginger and a ginger caramel sauce. The sauce is entirely optional but it really makes an event out of these little pie-lets (tartlets? mini-pies? all of the above?). Make these - the only thing you will regret is not doubling the recipe.
100g | 1/2 cup caster sugar
60ml | 1/4 cup cold cream
2 tbsp butter
2-3 tbsp stem ginger syrup
1. Make the crust: in a food processor, pulse flour, sugar and salt until combined. Add the butter and shortening and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Combine vinegar and water and add to the dough in a slow drizzle while pulsing. Stop when the dough forms clumps. You may not need to add all the water or you may need to add a touch more if dough is crumbly.
2. Pat the dough into two disks, cover with cling film and chill for an hour or up to a day.
3. Dust your worktop and rolling pin with flour. Roll the dough out to 6mm | 1/4 inch thick. Cut 12 rounds using a 12cm/5in cutter. Press the rounds into the cups of a muffin tin, making pleats around edges. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes (or in the freezer if you are in a hurry).
5. Finely dice the pear and stem ginger and put in a small bowl with the lemon juice.
6. Heat the butter, grated ginger and vanilla seeds in a small saucepan. Continue to cook over medium-high heat until the butter foams then browns - about 4-5 minutes. Pour the butter through a fine sieve over the pears and mix together. Add the egg/flour mixture and combine. The filling will be fairly thin.
7. Divide the filling among the chilled pie shells, taking care not to overfill. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the crusts are golden and filling is mostly firm. Cool the pies in the muffin tin then gently ease out. You can now serve dusted with icing sugar or proceed to step 8.
8. If you wish to make the ginger caramel, put the sugar into a small saucepan. Add 2 tbsp water, and stir over a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Turn up the heat and cook without stirring until mixture turns light amber. Take off the heat, then carefully whisk in the cream and butter (the caramel with bubble, so be careful). Stir in the stem ginger syrup and cool slightly before drizzling over the pies.