…you? My two front teeth? No, MATERIAL GOODS. LOVELY, LOVELY MATERIAL GOODS.
I’m kidding. Sort of. Because in actual fact, the one thing I hate about Christmas is its material nature and the commercialism. I am a regular old Scrooge when it comes to “holiday cheer/spirit” (phrases I detest). Christmas is the season to buy loads of useless rubbish, apparently. I love the giving, but only if it’s useful. Last year I knitted all my presents.
So why a Christmas-themed post? Because I’ve stumbled upon one Christmas goodie you’ll definitely want to get your hands on: A PIE IN A JAR.
I’m not the first to blog about these babies, nor will I be the last, but these are proving to be one of the best Christmas ideas ever. I first read about them over at Our Best Bites and at the time my mind was blown, I thought they were the cutest things I’d ever seen and quite desperately wanted to make some. But there was one obstacle standing in my way: I’d never made a pie before.
It got put aside for another day, that day became a month and then I rediscovered it and thought, hey, these would make awesome Christmas presents. So I tackled my first ever pies, and y’know what? I kicked butt. I gave two of these (nectarine & raspberry pie in a jar, and peach pie in a jar) to my girl friends Tiff & Kate for their birthdays/Christmas. Momma Lee and I ate the other tester one I made and then I made three more. I am one proud chicka-dee. They were delicious. I’m giving Christmas pies in jars to my colleagues at work at our annual Christmas party this year, which also happens to be my leaving do, and it’s a really perfect gift: something tasty to eat, a “do-it-yourself” element, and an awesome jar to keep after you’ve eaten the tasties! That, to me, is a useful present.
Even better, the ‘pie hole’ is snowflake shaped, thanks to the cutter the Tesco Real Food team sent me with my Cupcake Kit (I told you I was putting snowflake-shaped cut-outs on everything! Speaking of which, judging has taken place and I’ll be meeting the two winners, along with the other blogger judges, on Friday for an afternoon with cake-decorating expert Chef Mich Turner! Exciting! Watch this space for that event…).
So this Christmas don’t buy another useless gift that’ll sit unopened on a shelf for months before finally being thrown away; make a Christmas pie in a jar. The cuteness factor alone is worth it.
PIE IN A JAR
Makes 4 small pies in jars
For the pastry (from the Editors of America’s Test Kitchen):
1 1/4 cups plain flour
1 tbsp caster sugar, plus 1 tbsp
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsps vegetable shortening (I used Trex), chilled
5 tbsps unsalted butter, chilled
4 tbsps ice water
1 egg white, beaten
For the filling:
Your choice! For the pictured pies I used:
2 nectarines, peeled, de-seeded and chopped into bite-sized chunks
2 peaches, peeled, de-seeded and chopped into bite-sized chunks
A handful of dried mixed berries (cranberries, raisins, strawberries)
1/4 cup caster sugar
2 tsps cornstarch
The juice of 1/2 lemon
Mason/preserving jars (don’t use jam jars, they will shatter! Preserving jars are thicker and are intended to go in the oven/take high temperatures. I bought mine from Whisk)
1. Make the pastry: sift together the flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Add the vegetable shortening (easiest if you have already cut it into smallish chunks) and, using a knife, “cut” the shortening into the flour. That’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like, use the knife to cut and coat the shortening into smaller pieces in the flour.
2. Add the unsalted butter (also cut into smallish chunks) and, using two knives, cut the butter into the mixture as well. Keep going until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. You can also use the “rubbing in” method for this, which involves you rubbing the flour and butter together to form coarse crumbs (commonly used for crumble toppings). However, to do this, you must make sure your hands are a) very cold and b) very dry, or you’ll end up with a hot mess on your hands (literally).
3. Add the cold water to the mixture and stir and press it together with a spatula until it comes together in a dough. When it begins to come together, use your hands – you may need a little more water, add one tablespoon at a time.
4. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and refrigerate for an hour, or bang it into the freezer for fifteen minutes or so.
5. Make the filling: combine the fruits and sugar in a small bowl and let sit for about 15 mins or so. Strain the fruit, reserving 1 tbsp of the juice, then toss them all together with the lemon juice and cornstarch until well-combined.
6. Take the dough from the fridge/freezer and grab one of your jars. This is the magic part: you don’t have to roll the dough out. Split the dough into four pieces and tear off little bits of dough and press them into the jar up to as near to the top as you can get (and still be able to fit the lid on). You’ll want a little leftover for the pie lids.
7. Fill the pie jars to the top of your pastry sides.
8. Lightly dust a surface with flour and roll out the reserved pastry to roughly a 2cm thickness. Using the jar lids, cut out the pie lids. Cut a pie hole into whatever shape you like (to allow steam to escape during cooking). Pop the lids on top of your pies, pressing against the sides of the jar to seal them. You can also use the tines of the fork to crimp the edges of the pie tops. Pretty!
9. Brush the tops of the pies with a little egg white and sprinkle with the tablespoon of caster sugar.
10. Done! Pop the lids on and freeze them for a rainy day, or package them up for a loved one.
When you’re ready to bake them:
11. Remove all lids/metal/rubber bits (if that’s your type of jar), put them into a cold oven and turn up to 200 degrees C. Bake for roughly 1hr 10mins, or until the pastry is golden and the filling bubbly, remove from the oven and dig-in. You can eat them straight out of the jar, or turn them out and enjoy a single-serving pie in a jar on a plate. Recommended with ice-cream – what’s pie without ice-cream, eh?
As with all glassware, never subject your jars to extreme changes in temperature. Don’t put a cold jar in a hot oven, or a hot jar on/in a cold surface/water. This will cause them to crack/shatter/be damaged. Common sense, folks.
That’s all from me for now, go forth and bake and remember: useful gifts only, please! Peace and love.