Friday, 06 March 2015


You can’t beat a deliciously sweet homemade pie, says Hannah Miles

Written by Hannah Miles

One of my favourite three-letter words is pie. However, if you ask me to tell you what a pie is, I have no straightforward answer for you, as pies come in many shapes and guises. Some encased in pastry with tangy fruit fillings, others creamy and indulgent. What is certain is that nothing beats a homemade pie. Straight from the oven, bursting with berries or topped with cream and chocolate, there are few greater comfort foods than pie to dig into with friends. If you asked someone in England to name a pie, I expect that it would be an apple or plum pie, but in America, while apple pie is, of course, a national dessert, there are many other popular pies such as Mississippi mud pie (said to resemble the Mississippi swamp base, but far more tasty!) and Key lime pie.

In addition to pies, my new book also includes recipes for tarts. This is where the position becomes even more challenging; if there is confusion about the definition of a pie, trying to distinguish between pies and tarts is even more difficult. Some say it is determined by the shape of the dish that the dessert is cooked in, with pie dishes having sloping sides and tarts having straight sides. Others say that it is to do with whether there is a pastry top to cover the pie or not. Whatever the difference, my recipes make delicious desserts, whatever you want to call them, and probably no more explanation is necessary.

Sweetie Pie, by Hannah Miles; photography by Steve Painter (Ryland Peters & Small, £16.99).

Strawberry meringue pies(main image above)

Makes 4
For the pie crust
  • 250g lemon shortbread or lemon-flavoured biscuits
  • 150g butter, melted For the strawberry mousse
  • 200g strawberries
  • 100g caster sugar
  • ½ tsp vanilla bean powder or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 12g powdered gelatine
  • 300ml double cream For the strawberry meringue
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 60ml golden syrup
  • 3 egg whites
  • 250g strawberries, hulled and chopped

You will need

  • chef’s blow torch

Blitz the shortbread to fine crumbs in a food processor or blender, or place in a clean plastic bag and bash with a rolling pin. Add the melted butter and mix again, so that all the crumbs are coated in butter. Using the back of a spoon, press the mixture into four greased, 8cm loose-bottom, deep, round cake pans, so that the sides have a thick layer of crumbs on and the bases are completely covered, with no gaps. Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. For the mousse, place the strawberries in a saucepan with the sugar, vanilla bean powder and 100ml water and simmer until the fruit is soft. Pass the mixture through a sieve, pressing down the strawberries with the back of a spoon to pass them through the sieve. Discard pieces that will not pass through. Return the strawberry syrup to the pan and heat gently, then sprinkle the gelatine over the surface of the liquid and whisk in. Do not boil, as this can cause the gelatine to lose its setting properties. Leave until just cool. Place the cooled strawberry syrup and cream in a bowl and whip to soft peaks. The mixture will not form stiff peaks given the liquid quantity but will set firm in the refrigerator due to the gelatine, so do not worry if it seems runny. Divide the mousse between the pie crusts and chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours. For the meringue, heat the sugar, syrup and 4 tablespoons of water in a saucepan until the sugar has dissolved, then bring to the boil. Whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks. Gradually pour the hot sugar syrup into the egg whites in a thin stream and whisk until the meringue cools down. This will take about 10 minutes and is therefore best done with a stand mixer. Spoon the meringue into a piping bag. Remove the pies from the refrigerator and top the mousse with the chopped strawberries. Pipe the meringue onto the pies in high peaks or swirls. Lightly brown the meringue with a chef’s blow torch or under a hot grill. Serve immediately. These pies are best eaten on the day they are made.

Nectarine crumble pie

Serves 8 to 10

For the pie crust
  • 500g ready-made shortcrust pastry
  • plain flour, for dusting
  • 1 egg, beaten

For the crumble topping

  • 150g amaretti biscuits
  • 130g golden marzipan
  • 100g butter, melted For the filling
  • 6 ripe nectarines
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp cornflour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean powder or pure vanilla extract
  • icing sugar, for dusting

On a flour-dusted surface, roll the pastry thinly into a circle just larger than the size of a 23cm tart pan. Lightly grease the pan, and using the rolling pin to help lift it, carefully move the pastry into the pan and press it down so it fits snugly. Trim away the excess pastry using a sharp knife. Use the trimmings to create a decorative border and stick it to the edge using a little beaten egg. Prick the base with a fork; chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. To prepare the crumble topping, crush the amaretti biscuits into small pieces with your hands. Chop the marzipan into small pieces and add to the crushed amaretti biscuits. Stir in the warm melted butter and squash the mixture together with your hands so that everything is mixed well and you have a crumble mixture. For the filling, remove the stones from the nectarines and cut the flesh into large chunks. Place in a mixing bowl with the sugar, cornflour, salt and vanilla. Stir together gently. Brush the bottom of the pastry crust with a thin layer of beaten egg using a pastry brush and then place the nectarines on top. Sprinkle over the crumble topping. Bake in the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown. If the crumble topping starts to turn dark, cover loosely with foil. Serve warm or cold, dusted with icing sugar. This pie will keep for up to two days stored in the refrigerator.

Glazed mango mousse pie

Serves 8

For the pie crust
  • 250g ginger biscuits
  • 150g butter, melted

For the mango mousse

  • 1 large ripe mango
  • 70g caster sugar
  • freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon
  • 12g powdered gelatine
  • 300ml double cream

To decorate

  • 1 ripe mango
  • about 20 fresh strawberries For the glaze
  • 2 sheets of leaf gelatine
  • freshly squeezed juice of 2 lemons
  • 30g caster sugar
  • 1 packet glaze topping, such as Dr Oetker’s (optional)

Blitz the biscuits to fine crumbs in a food processor or blender, or place in a clean plastic bag and bash with a rolling pin. Add the melted butter and mix again so all the crumbs are coated in butter. Using the back of a spoon, press the crumb mixture into a greased, loose-bottom rectangular pan so the sides have a thick layer of crumbs on and the base is covered, with no gaps. For the mousse, peel the mango and chop the flesh away from the stone. Place the flesh in a blender with the sugar and lemon juice; blitz to a smooth purée. Dissolve the gelatine in 1 tbsp warm water, then add to the mango mixture. Whip the cream to stiff peaks and then fold through the mango purée, whisking gently so that it is all incorporated. Pour the mousse into the pie crust and chill in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours. When the mousse is set, finely slice the mango and strawberries for decoration, and arrange in patterns on top of the mango mousse. If you are making your own glaze, soak the gelatine leaves in cold water. Heat the lemon juice with 250ml of water and the sugar, until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is warm but not boiling (if the liquid is too hot it will affect the gelatine’s setting properties). Stir in the gelatine until dissolved, then strain through a sieve. Leave until just cool. Or, prepare the glaze topping according to the packet instructions. Pour the glaze over the fruit and leave to set in the refrigerator overnight. This pie will keep for up to two days in the fridge. 


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