Inspired by Bake Off’s Tudor Week and the delights of Tetris, I entered the murky world of hot water crust pastry. I’ve always been put off by this one because of the lard. But the slightly grim connotations of lard are vastly outweighed by how great it is to make things with hot water crust, it’s so easy and malleable – like play dough you can eat!
Macaroni Cheese Pies, serves 6
For the dough
230g flour, half plain/half strong
65ml boiling water
1 tsp salt
For the filling
300g macaroni pasta
1 pack of bacon lardons or pancetta
200g mature cheddar cheese, grated
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
small bunch of thyme
a few handfuls of spinach (optional)
- Make the dough. Put the lard, boiling water and salt in a pan over a medium heat until the lard melts into the water. Stir to combine, but be careful, things get hot!
- When it’s melted, stir in the flour and mix to form a dough, shape into a rough ball and leave in a bowl until it’s cool enough to handle
- Meanwhile, cook your pasta. 10 minutes in boiling water with a pinch of salt. Drain and set aside.
- Pre-heat the oven to 200C.
- Below are the instructions for tetris shapes, but the tips can be applied to whatever shape you want to make. When cooled, roll out the dough to half a centimetre thick.
- Make a paper template of your shape(s). Cut out the bottom pieces of dough slightly bigger than your template.
- For the sides, lay tinfoil and greaseproof paper on top of each other and fold over to make sturdy strips. Using your paper template shape the sides of the pie from these strips around the template, folding cleanly and sharply. When you get to the two meeting sides, clip them together. Or just fold them over a bunch of times like I had to.
- Top Tip: make your pies on the baking sheet, it’ll be much easier than trying to maneuver them onto a tray later.
- Cut out strips of dough the same height as your sides and fit them around your newly formed shapes, pressing the dough into the corners using whatever tools you have to hand. I went for wooden skewers.
- Drop in the bottoms dough pieces, letting the edges slight ride up the dough sides. Gently press the rolled up edges in the sides to seal.
- Time to make your cheese sauce. Fry the bacon lardons and put to one side, leaving the fat in the pan.
- If using, throw in your spinach and sauté until wilted. Set to one side.
- In the same pan, melt the butter and whisk in the flour until it forms a rue (a smooth paste). Then gradually add the milk, a little at a time, whisking continually. You may not need all of it, you make need a little more. You’re looking for a thick sauce that merrily coats the back of a spoon.
- Add the cheese to the sauce, saving one handful, and mix until incorporated.
- Time to bring it all together. Save a small handful of bacon and mix the rest into the cheese sauce and macaroni pasta.
- Time to layer up your pies. Place some spinach in the bottom and then add your macaroni/bacon/cheese mix. Sprinkle over a little cheese, bacon and a few thyme leaves.
- Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes, until the sides are crisp and golden.
- Remove the tinfoil/paper sides and dig in, maybe with a salad.
If you have any left over pastry and mix, you can make mini pie cups by cutting out pastry disks and popping them into a muffin tray, lining the sides. Add your mix and toppings and bake for 20 minutes.