Friday, December 16, 2011

Savoury for a Change - Chicken Pies

It is time for a change! As sweet-toothed as I may be, I cannot be relying on my sweet bakes to fill my stomach or replace my daily meals. With some inspiration from Masterchef series and suggestions from H, I decided to do a savoury bake, and chicken pies shall be on the menu. 

Since the preparation of the filling involved cooking, there is no hard and fast rule with regard to the ingredients used. Instead of using frozen mixed vegetables, freshly diced carrots were used instead. I also made a couple of tweaks to the pie crust recipe and the chicken pie filling proportion. 

For a first attempt on chicken pies, I am rather comforted by the flakiness of the pie crust. Despite the moist filling and an absence of a blind-baked pie dough, the pie base had not turned soggy at all. Perhaps the baking of the pies on a preheated baking tray placed in the lower rack of the oven might have helped, a tip I picked up from my stash of baking books. 

Even though I am now into my third year of baking, every baking session is still like a new lesson to me. Recently, I have learnt how to make better use of the oven rack position to my advantage. In the past, I have always baked all my goods in the middle rack. It works well for cakes most of the time. However, that is not quite the case for tarts in my case. To get a nice finish for my tarts, it is necessary to bake them nearer to the top heating element of my oven so that they can brown nicely within a much shorter time. Else, the tart crusts would turn out to be creamy white and hardly brown, like the ones in my nutella cream cheese tarts.

To me, most pie dough recipes look all quite the same, be it the ingredients used or the proportion of ingredients. However, the handling of the pie dough makes so much difference when it comes to determining  the pie crust texture. Unlike cakes where it is often necessary to ensure that ingredients are evenly dispersed within the batter, there is no need for even dispersion of ingredients in pie dough. The uneven dispersion of different sized butter pebbles in the pie dough allows for a flaky texture, when the butter turns into steam in the process of baking.

Chicken Pies (recipe adapted from Baking Mum)
Serving size: 9 three-inch pies
Taste and texture: Flaky buttery pie dough with moist chicken pie filling
Equipment and materials:
  • Flour sieve
  • Balloon whisk
  • Measuring spoon set
  • Mixing bowl
  • Wire rack
  • Fork
  • Pastry blender (optional) or two sharp knives
  • Clingfilm
  • 3-inch individual tart tins

Flaky pie dough pastry: 
  • 250g plain flour 
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 170g chilled unsalted butter, cubed 
  • 1 egg yolk, chilled
  • 4 tbs plain yogurt or sour cream, chilled
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten for egg wash

Chicken Pie Filling:
  • 150g potato, peeled and cubed
  • 50g carrot, peeled and cubed
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled and cubed
  • 260g chicken breast meat, cubed 
  • 110g canned (drain water solution away) or fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 120ml homemade or store-bought chicken stock 
  • 1 tbs cornflour mixed with 2 tbs water to form a solution
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Making chicken pie filling:

Oil a pan with some cooking oil. Place the cubed potato and fry over medium heat for 3 minutes. Add cubed carrots and frying the mixture for another two minutes. Set carrots and potatoes aside.

Next, sauteed the onions until soft and fragrant. Add in chicken breast and mushrooms. Cook the mixture for about 2 minutes.

Lastly, add in the cooked potato and carrot. Pour 120ml of chicken stock and allow the mixture to simmer on low heat for 4 minutes, without covering. Allow the liquid to reduce. When most of the of liquid has reduced, add the corn flour solution to the thicken the mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste. The chicken pie filling should be a mixture of ingredients coated with a thick sauce.

Making the flaky pie dough pastry:

Mixing dry ingredients - In a mixing bowl, sift in flour. Add in salt. Whisk with a balloon whisk to distribute the ingredients evenly.

Forming the pastry - Cut chilled cubed butter into flour with a pastry blender until there is a mixture of different sized flour-coated butter 'pebbles' and fine flour-coated butter 'crumbs'. Alternatively, rub the cubed butter into the flour with your clean hands. Mix the egg yolk with the yoghurt/ sour cream. Drizzle in the yolk + yogurt/sour cream mixture use a fork to moisten the flour-coated butter 'crumbs'.

Gently gather the crumbs and knead briefly so that the crumbs come together to form a dough. Wrap dough with clingfilm and chill dough for at least 30 minutes. To save time, freeze dough until it is firm enough to handle.

Making the chicken pies - Divide dough into 9 portions. Pinch about 2/3 of one portion of dough to roughly form a ball using both palms. Place the dough ball on one palm and use the other to flatten it evenly, big enough to fit into a three-inch tart tin. Place the flattened dough over the tart tin and press it in place, ensuring thickness is even throughout.

Spoon and compact cooled chicken pie filling onto pie dough base. With the remaining 1/3 of one portion of dough, roll it into a rough shaped ball and flatten it until it is big enough to cover the fillings. Cover fillings with pie dough and press down to seal the edges. Repeat for the remaining 8 portions of pie dough. Chilled ready-to-bake chicken pies for 20 minutes.

Baking the tart crusts - While chilling ready-to-bake chicken pies, preheat oven to 200 degrees C. Brush egg wash onto the chicken pies. Using a fork, prick over the top of each chicken pie, allowing air to escape and ensure pie dough do not rise much.

Place chicken pies onto a preheated baking tray and bake for about 30-35 minutes in the middle rack or until tart crusts are golden brown. If pie dough do not brown after 20 minutes into baking, transfer to upper rack and bake a further 10-15 minutes to achieve a golden brown appearance. Allow chicken pies to cool slightly in tart tins before removing them from the tart tins to cool completely on a wire rack. Serve chicken pies warm.

  1. For better flavour, marinate chicken breast or add some herbs when cooking the filling.
  2. Increase the proportion of chicken breast used if a more meaty filling is desired. 


  1. it looks flaky indeed. yogurt / sour cream used in the pastry . ah reminds me of rugelach where it used cream cheese. very flaky pastry too.

  2. Swee San,

    yeah it is flaky, the way i would like it to have turn out. This is my first time using yogurt/ sour cream in pie pastry. Read somewhere that it helps to add richness to the pastry.

    Have yet to try making rugelach. Something I bookmarked in my mind but have not set to doing it.

  3. Your chicken pie looks good! I made it once but never again. I'll love to make this again but it's quite time consuming. In the mean time, I'll just drool over your pics.

  4. Merry Christmas & Blessed 2012!


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