Hands up if you have ever made puff pastry. Now keep them up if you have made it more than once. Chances are, 90% of the people who own up to making puff pastry have only made it once because let’s be realistic, nobody has time to make puff pastry at home unless they are trying to show off. It’s one of those things (like croissants) that you do to be able to say you have done it and never again.
The difficulty with puff pastry is how easy it is to go wrong. Patience is the key but even that only goes so far. The pastry must be kept cool – but not to cold otherwise the butter will seize and crack – and you must let it rest between every single fold. It takes a whole day. Some people call it a labour of love. I call it proving a point so when that one difficult person at your dinner party asks if you made the pastry yourself, because they have been watching too much Come Dine With Me, you can say that you did with a clear conscience.
Puff pastry is comprised of many incredibly thin layers of dough sandwiched with layers of butter or shortening. The fat stops the layers from adhering to each other so that when it goes into the oven, the steam created in the pastry can push the layers apart creating the flaky texture we all know and love. Of course, if your heart is set on making the pastry yourself, there are plenty of recipes out there but for most of us mere mortals, buying premade pastry is just fine.
The same process of lamination – creating the alternating layers of butter and dough – is performed when making croissants however unlike puff pastry, Danish pastry dough and croissant dough contain an extra leavening agent: yeast. This gives the dough a larger rise in the oven and results in a far softer finish. Puff pastry is hard and flaky but Danish pastries are soft and flaky. To be fair to the puff pastry, it’s still less time consuming than making croissants which, if you follow some recipes, will take days to prepare.
The recipe for my chicken pie is a relatively universal filling. For this one, I have given a basic pastry topped pie however the same filling can be used with a fully lined pie dish and I also use it for filling hot water crust pastry when I make giant chicken pies. It takes a little time to make but it keeps in the fridge so you can make it the day before and just pop on the pastry before it goes into the oven. The filling is delicious and is a good way to make a little chicken go a long way. When using hot water crust pastry, I can stretch the two chicken breasts to eight big portions
Prep time: 45 minutes (must be done in advance as the filling has to cool)
Cook time: 20 minutes
Price per portion: around £1.50
2 large onions (around 400g) – finely diced
2 large carrots (around 400g) – chopped into 1cm cubes
4 cloves garlic – minced or finely diced
2 chicken breasts – chopped into 2cm cubes
200ml strong chicken stock
200ml milk (can be replaced by water or 100ml milk and 100ml cream for an extra creamy filling)
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
¼ cup cornflour mixed with ¼ cup of water
Salt and Pepper
For the filling:
If using chorizo, finely chop it and add to a pan with a teaspoon of oil (just enough to stop it sticking and burning).
Fry the chorizo for a few minutes to allow the fat to render out of it.
Remove the chorizo from the pan and set to one side. Keep the oil for frying the onions in.
If you are not using chorizo, add 2 tbsp oil to a large pan and add the onions. Fry until translucent.
Add the carrot and the garlic and fry for another 5 minutes.
Push the vegetables to the side of the pan and add the chicken into the well in the centre.
Stir the chicken until it’s all sealed (white on the outside).
Add the stock and the milk and stir everything together.
Simmer for 10 minutes to soften the carrots.
Add the parsley and half the cornflour slurry stirring it through to thicken the sauce.
If it is still very runny, add more slurry a tablespoon at a time until the sauce reaches your desired consistency. It should flow slowly as you want a gravy but you don’t want it to go everywhere when you cut into the pie!
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Simmer for another five minutes and then pour the filling into a pie dish and leave it to cool.
Once the filling is cold, preheat the oven to gas mark 7 (2100C).
Roll out your puff pastry. Half a block/half a sheet should be enough to cover the entire pie if rolled out enough. (The rest of the puff pastry can be frozen or made into another pie or little snacks like cheese straws or palmier.)
Place the pie crust over the filling and tuck it down the sides so the pie bulges in the middle.
If you want to do an egg wash, beat an egg with a tablespoon of water and then lightly brush the top of the pie. You can also use the egg wash to bind any off-cuts of pastry on as decorations.
Bake for 25 minutes turning about halfway through.
Serve hot with potatoes and probably something green.
I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you fancy a beef pie instead, my recipe for a saucy cottage pie is divine and you can easily replace the mash with puff pastry as above or if you are looking for something a little bit sweeter, then check out how to make a delicious batch of scones!
Have a good one and I’ll see you next week with a recipe for a tangy lemon drizzle cake.