Is anyone else obsessed with The Great British Bake Off (I thinks its called The Great British Baking Show in the US…)? It’s such a warm hug of a show. It breaks the pastry mold when it comes to reality competition shows. It delivers only the positive aspects of the contestants, eliminates all drama and interpersonal conflict; characters are seen helping each other out, and hugging each other when they are struggling through a challenge. Judges critique objectively, and you never see contestants being produced to bring out the worst in themselves or criticize others.
I love reality show drama as much as the next American trash television fan, but there is something to be said about the wholesomeness of Bake Off and the way that it chooses to present the concept of competition.
The competition is not about the competition between each of the contestants, but about the contestants trying to be the best that they can be. There are no aprons to compete for, no shitty team challenges, and you’ll never see Mary Berry or Prue Leith surprising the contestants with a $100 budget to buy equipment at an outdoor supply store before she asks them to prepare a 5 star meal in 30 degree weather at a snowy campsite.
More than any other cooking competition on TV, I learn so much from Bake Off. The challenges introduce a specific baked good that the contestants have to make. Contestants are allowed to prepare and practice for two of the three weekly themed challenges. They can come to the tent with their own cooking equipment, and even some of their favorite ingredients.
Watching the show, you learn what the final products are supposed to look like, or how the internal structure of a cake or pastry is supposed to be. On Top Chef, the competition is about making Padma and Tom happy; making sure there is enough salt for the judges’ palate. With Bake off, it’s about whether or not the contestants correctly baked that particular pastry. The criticism is about the crumb of the cake, not about whether or not that cake was aesthetically pleasing to a bunch of stone-faced chefs at 18,000 feet.
My favorite episodes of Bake Off are always the savory pastry episodes, in particular the episodes where contestants have to make hand-raised savory pies.
Years and years ago I worked at the art gallery in the Bellagio. As an occasional splurge, I would treat myself to one of the golden brown savry hand-raised pies sold at the coffee shop across the hall from the gallery. The steak and potato ones were always my favorite; the curry ones a close second. I was always mesmerized by how the they were able to produce these individual handmade pies, full of savory filling, that stood up on their own without the support of a pie tin. I had never seen anything like them. The sides of the pie were 4 or 5 inches high, and when you broke into one, the filling was decadent, yet stayed perfectly in place.
Needless to say, I have been chasing those pies for over 15 years, and it wasn’t until the hand-raised pie episodes of Bake Off that I was able to understand exactly what those pies were, or how to make them.
Could I actually make this magic for myself?
I knew that I at least had to give it a try, and of course I needed to figure out how to make it vegan. I found some recipes from the crust online, but they all called from butter, lard, shortening, or a combination of. Most vegan butter is coconut oil based, and coconut oil is a lot like shortening, so I figured I could just sub in coconut oil for the solid fats in the other recipes. Should work… Right?
When it came to the filling, I wanted to recreate that steak and potato flavor, but of course without the steak, and without any vegan meat products. Mushroom and potato seemed like the way to go.
Sometimes it’s nice to see the process as opposed to just the refined finished product. So with this video and recipe, I wanted to take y’all along on my journey as I tested out this pie for the first time. This is by no means a finished recipe. I have a few kinks to work out. But I wanted to post it just in case anyone is interested in making the filling, which is amazing, or if anyone can diagnose my problems?
After video update: The pie rested at room temperature for another 20 or 30 minutes, and the filling came out perfect. Once completely cooled, was sliceable, with the filling staying in-tact. If you make this pie, I would recommend serving it at room temp, waiting to slice into it after about an hour or so… Make it in the morning, serve it in the afternoon.
This is by no means a finished recipe. I have a few kinks to work out. But I wanted to post it just in case anyone is interested in making the filling, which is amazing, or if anyone can diagnose my problems?
- 20 cremini mushrooms (about 4 cups of mushrooms once cut into quarters)
- 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 6 cups peeled potatoes, cut into ½ to ¾ inch cubes
- 1 onion
- 2 small carrots
- 2 celery stalks
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 sprig fresh thyme
- 1 cup vegan red wine (I used Cabernet Sauvignon)
- 2 cups veggie broth or water
- 1 vegan beef bouillon cube (I used Edward & Sons)
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch + ¼ cup water
- cranberry sauce to serve on the side.
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ⅓ cup water
- 1 cup refined coconut oil
- Cut your mushrooms into quarters. To a large pot on medium heat, add the olive oil and cut mushrooms. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are caramelized, about 10 minutes.
- While the mushrooms cook, roughly chop the onion, carrots, and celery, and then add them to a food processor along with the garlic. Process until finely chopped.
When the mushrooms are caramelized, add the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic to the pot, and allow to cook until the moisture is cooked out, and the vegetables are lightly browned. Pour in the red wine, deglazing the pan as you pour, and then allow the mixture to cook until the red wine is almost completely cooked out
Add your peeled and chopped potatoes to the pot along with 2 cups of water or stock, the thyme, and the vegan beef flavored bouillon cube. Bring the pot to a simmer, and then turn the burner down to low. Allow everything to cook, covered, for about 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are starting to soften.
In a cup, or small bowl, combine the cornstarch and water. Dissolve the cornstarch, and then add the slurry to to pot. The broth in the pot should thicken to a gravy very quickly. If it doesn’t, bring the pot back to a simmer until it does. Remove the pot from the burner, and allow the filling to rest while you prepare the crust.
To a small pot on medium-high heat, add the water and coconut oil. Bring to a simmer.
- In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt. Pour in the simmering water and coconut oil. Stir with a fork until a shaggy dough forms.
- In the bowl, begin to knead the dough for a couple of minutes. If the dough does not come together into a ball, add a bit more hot water, 1 tablespoon at a time.
- Preheat your oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit.
Divide the dough so that about ⅔ of the dough can be used for the base of the pie, and ⅓ can be used for the top. Roll out the ⅔ portion between two sheets of parchment paper until it is about ¼ of an inch thick, or until it is roughly large enough to fill the bottom and sides of the springform pan.
- Remove the top parchment, with the crust still stuck to the bottom parchment. Gently place the pie crust into the pan. Remove the bottom parchment, and then continue to fit the crust to the bottom and sides of the pan. This dough is very forgiving, so if you need to piece things together to get the dough to fill the pan, go for it. Just make sure there are no holes in the bottom or sides.
Pour the filling into crust, making sure that there is about ¼ to ½ inch of dough sticking up around the filling.
- Roll out the top crust portion between the two sheets of parchment paper. Remove the top parchment, and then place the crush over the filling. Remove the bottom parchment, and then remove any excess dough that sticks out more than a ½ inch from the pie.
- Press the top crust into the sides of the pan so that the top and sides combine. Create a decorative edge if you can, but the key is to make sure that the pie is completely sealed around the edges.
- With the handle of a wooden spoon, or with knife, create a whole, about ½ inch wide into the center of the top crust.
Place your springform pan onto a large baking sheet before placing it in the oven, and then bake at 375 for about an hour, or until the top crust is golden brown*
- Remove the pie from the oven, and allow it to rest for about 30 minutes before removing the sides of the pan, cutting into it. To ensure that the filling isn’t going to run you might want to wait at least an hour before cutting into it, or better yet, until the pie has cooled completely.
- Serve with cranberry sauce.
*The greatest flaw of my pie was the browning. I'm not sure what went wrong. The pie baked for about an hour at 375, then for another 30 or so minutes at 400, and then for about 20 minutes at 500 before I pulled the pie out, still slightly blond. Maybe with some type of vegan "egg wash" it would have browned better or sooner.