Newcastle, NSW, Australia
I’m a former industrial chemist, and after deciding on a career change while at home with my two young children, I’m now a qualified pastry chef. In 2009 I started taking some classes in cake decorating and other pastry-related cookery, and taught myself many more decorating techniques from books and internet resources. In 2010 I started a pastry apprenticeship, studying Retail Baking (Cake & Pastry) Certificate III at TAFE, which I completed with Distinction in 2012. I completed my apprenticeship in December 2013, and am now working as a full time Pastry chef and Cake Decorator at 'Exquisite Cakes by Lennert' in Cessnock, NSW.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Free Form Pumpkin & Feta Pie

Back in May I did a Pies & Tarts cooking class at WEA. I can’t say it taught me anything I didn’t already know about making pastry, but I guess it was aimed at home cooks, not people who want to take pastry making to a professional level. Still, it was an interesting afternoon, and there were some nice recipes in the course notes. The Pumpkin and Feta Pie that we had for dinner tonight was one of them.

This is the second time I’ve used this recipe. The first time I cooked it, it was so rich that we could barely eat more than a small sliver at a time, so I made a few modifications for tonight’s attempt. The ingredient amounts in the recipe were quite vague, for example, it called for “a small packet of feta.” This time I used half of the smallest packet of feta I could find, and that was well and truly enough. There is also supposed to be some parmesan cheese mixed into the shortcrust, but this time I left it out. Finally, I cut back on the overall amount of olive oil used in cooking the filling, as last time the base was so soggy it barely held together.

Overall, it was a much better effort than my first attempt at the recipe. It was certainly one of my better attempts at making shortcrust pastry! It was still a little softer on the bottom than I would have liked, but I guess that’s going to happen with a free form pie because the crust isn’t blind-baked.

I’m also starting to appreciate just how much difference the quality of ingredients really makes. With a family of four on a single wage, we started switching to generic brands wherever possible in an effort to down-size the grocery budget. “Flour is flour, isn’t it? How can you go wrong with basics?” Apparently, very!

After I made the decision to work towards becoming a pastry chef I started doing quite a bit of baking, but I was constantly disappointed with my results. Recently I’ve gravitated back towards paying a little more for brand name ingredients, and the results are starting to show. I’m now using a special purpose cake, biscuit and pastry flour, and I used a brand name butter for tonight’s pastry as well. I didn’t do anything else any differently, so I have no doubt whatsoever that using better quality ingredients has paid off.

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