How to avoid the curse of the soggy bottom when cooking your pie

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MARY Berry on ‘Desert Island Discs’ the other week brought up the delicate subject of the soggy bottom. It is the worst of culinary crimes and yet a quiche or pie with an uncooked bottom is a common fault, making it not only unpleasant to eat but likely to cause indigestion!

The secret of a well-cooked, crisp base lies in a number of factors. One of them is to make sure the pastry is rolled out thinly and evenly. Michel Roux, who began making pastry at the tender age of 14 under the guiding hand of a master baker in Paris, insists on a 3mm thickness for most of his flans and tarts, although sometimes he wants 2mm. I have watched him at The Waterside in Bray and kitchens in Venice and Scotland demonstrating his remarkable skills with savoury and sweet pastry. Like all gods in the kitchen he makes it look easy but it isn’t.

For most of us who don’t bake every day, things will go wrong, but the trick is to keep calm and carry on, and the magic comes when everything clicks into place. Then you realise it’s not rocket science after all. Pastry must be cooked right through, and baking blind in a flan ring is a sure-fire way of achieving it. But how do you handle a tart that has a pastry bottom and a top?

My mother always made her apple tarts in just such a way and I can never remember tasting anything approaching a soggy bottom. The secret here is to follow all the rules of pastry- making, making sure that the pie gets plenty of bottom heat.

If you are lucky enough to cook in an Aga you can whack the pie straight on to the floor of the baking oven and everything should be fine. Otherwise you will need a flat metal sheet sitting in the oven to get nice and hot and cook the pie on that.

In our search for a high tea menu at the coffee shop we have been looking for the perfect recipe for a blackberry and apple pie and I think Rowley Leigh in the ‘FT’ has come up with it. I made the pie the other day and can heartily recommend it. See recipe below.

Of course you can vary the fruit to make different kinds of delicious pies.

Keith and Lynne Allan run the Restoration Coffee Shop at the Old Dairy in Ford (opposite Ford Castle) where they specialise in artisan roast coffee and freshly baked scones, soda bread, and cakes. They also make a range of Lady Waterford’s jams and marmalades and their country concept store has a range of architectural antiques, vintage and interiors including some unusual garden ornaments and restored tools.

Their high tea menu will soon be available at weekends with a glass of wine.

Open Wednesday-Sunday 
11am-5pm. Tel 01890 820325/01289 302658. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter.