The Oxford Bake Off

Writing this blog is all very well but I need to challenge myself more in the food world, no I’m not suggesting I enter masterchef, that’s extreme but I wanted and still want to do the odd cooking event every now and again.

I had seen the posters and tweets but a bake off with a cupcake poster? I didn’t scream very me and certainly didn’t tick my culinary boxes. 

Category 3. The Perfect Pie.
On further investigation I found that there was in fact a pie category, savoury or sweet, your choice! Brilliant! However my investigation happened last weekend, so I had given myself under 1 week to pull this off, I emailed my forms over on the Tuesday (final entry day!)

Tuesday night – What type of pie should I make?
after having a chinese over the weekend and discussing this idea with my OH I thought I’d try a chinese pie and an Indian pie. Basic idea I know! So I ran to the shops after work and picked up my ingredients for both pies.
Chinese pie – I was thinking spring rolls – Butter, Carrot, Onion, Chilli, Ginger, Leek, Garlic, Soy Sauce.
Indian Pie – I was thinking samosa – Garam masala, Onion, Ghee, Garlic, Chilli, Chickpeas.
The Pastry – Ready to roll shortcrust pastry.

The verdict.
The Chinese pie was deemed good, but it was though that much more development was needed to get it right, be that ingredients, spices and slicing. so I will hopefully try this again when I’m not prepping for a competition. The Indian pie was the chosen one, I knew what I had to do to improve this, Garam Masala was just not going to cut it. As I have made plenty of curries in the past I didn’t feel that this would be such a daunting task to improve.

Wednesday night.
After a drive to work in the car with my fellow car lifties I was told by them, that I couldn’t enter a pie competition with pre-bought pastry! I was dismayed, I agreed but I only had 3 days to go and I wasn’t sure how my pastry would work out (and be fixed!) in time for Saturday. So that night I used ‘The Great British Book of Baking’ and make a shortcrust pastry, I wanted to jazz my pastry up so I rolled it in dried mustard powder before putting the ball into the fridge. I amended my mixture to discard the garam masala and include cardamom seeds, cumin, coriander, mustard seeds and  garlic. It has to be said the result was much more appealing, and my pastry worked!

Friday night – last minute change!
I read on Friday at lunch that puff pastry lids were best for mini pies, and I wasn’t that happy with my shortcrust pastry lids. So some bought puff pastry was used in this process! (Shocking I know!)
After Thursday night off, the pressure was back on, but this time for real. I knew what my pie mix had to consist of  but I now had to think of quantity and improving my last effort. I was making mini pies, I had previously made 2 or 3 this time I wanted to make 6 – 8 mini pies.
This evening I had time on my side. I made my pie mix and pastry, and waited for the pie mix to cool, if it goes in hot, you will end up with soggy pastry.
At 8pm the first batch of 4 went in for 35mins at 180C. I removed them from the oven allowed them to cool for a further 20mins, remove the ramekins and left the pies on a cooling rack, I was happy with the result. But there was no time for dancing, the next batch had to go in. (I had only purchased 4 mini pie ramekins).

By 10pm I was ready to sit down with a glass of wine, just before bed for an early Saturday start!  

Saturday D-Day

So this was it, I had to take my pies into the unknown world that was The Oxford Bake Off! – Scary stuff!
On arrival there was a large amount of tables filled with amazing looking cakes! The first thing to notice about the room, was the amount of colour and vibrance that filled the room. There were huge cakes, bright cakes, little cakes and bread. I put my pies onto the table ready to be judged against others, later that morning. Unfortunately the competition in my round was lacking, no I’m not being rude, but it was just me in the Pie round, so I won the round. I’d like to hope that the flavour and taste of the pies were to the judges satisfaction anyway, and hopefully the pies that were left made a contribution in the charity sale!

I enjoyed the build up and the event despite the Pie turn out, (I do like a bit of competition!) I would recommend to anyone out there that enjoys cooking and or baking that you should give something like this a try, so long as your free on the day of the event, you don’t mind a bit of competition, oh and you can brave being judged by people (who aren’t your friends and family) then there is no excuse! You never know the competition might not turn up! You’ve got to be in it to win it!

So on that note I’ll let you know that there will be an Oxfordshire Bake-off in 2013. More information about how you can be part of it is coming soon. 

To try my pies for yourself follow my recipe:

250g plain flour
pinch of salt
150g Unsalted butter
6tbsp cold water
How too:
Put the flour and salt in a food processor and pulse
Dice in the butter and blitz in the food processor
While the processor is running pour in the cold water, the mixture will quickly take shape in a solid round ball. At this stage take it out of the processor, cling film the ball and sit in the fridge for 25min.

2 Onions- chopped
1 tin of chickpeas
5 fresh tomatoes – chopped
2 garlic cloves – crushed
Small portion of peas – approx 100g
1/2 tsp sugar
2tsp mustard seeds
2tsp Cumin Seeds
6 Cardamom Pods – seeds only
1tsp ground coriander
1 fresh chilli (home grown if poss) finely chopped, add seeds if you want the heat.

Add some Ghee to a large pan, add the onions and garlic to the pan and cook slowly and stir every now and again until the onions are soft and clear.
Now take a dry pan add the spices until the mustard seeds start to jump. Now turn the heat off and pour the spices into a pestle and mortar and crush.
Mix the spices in with the onion and garlic pan, now add in the chopped chilli and season.
Add in the tomatoes, sugar and peas keep on a low heat for about 10mins
Now leave the filling to cool before adding to your pie pastry

Take your pastry out and roll. Now cut out your pastry and make sure this fits into your chose pie dish. Add your filling and top the pie off with puff pastry.
Add the pie to the oven. Mini pies took 25mins at 200C 



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