This dessert was inspired by pies of the past! I love old cookbooks & my oldest (and favorite) is Mrs. Beeton's Book of Housekeeping & Cookery, from the late 1800s. The book is literally falling apart every time I open it, but I can't help it as I am fascinated by it and curious about the old methods & recipes. If you've ever watched Downtown Abbey, this book & its teachings in running a household are almost exact to what I've seen on that show! The pie recipes in it share methods of making hand-raised pies, adorned to impress and made with a basic recipe similar to hot water crust dough.
For my dessert here, I didn't have an old vintage pie form or mold, but I did use a glass cover from a pyrex dish to create the top pie cover. I attempted to use a stainless steel bowl as a form for the bottom but after many failed attempts over numerous days, I opted for a different method. Sometimes you need to improvise and use what you have to make something new and unique. So I had this glass dish - might be considered a trifle bowl - to hold the rest of the dessert. There is a standard pie crust on the bottom, then topped with graham cracker crust & finally layered with some fruit & pudding fillings. I could have made the bottom pie crust come up to the top of the dish but I really wanted to show the beautiful layers, while still giving the pie some texture.
If you'd like to take a look at some of the historic pies of the past, you can do so here.
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Step 1: Ingredients for Pie Crusts & Layered Fillings
Before we get started with all the ingredients needed, please know that there are a ton of ways to improvise and simplify things. Also, I baked a cake and sliced a layer of it as I was going to use it as one of the lower layers of this, but somehow I forgot to add it. If you decide to add something like that, it would be a nice addition of flavor and texture. Also, the first recipe below is for the dough used for the pie topper. Please note, you can use this recipe to make a hand-raised pie form if you like. That would involved greasing an object (like a jam jar or bowl of some sort) then rolling out the dough and hand-shaping it with a decent thickness of around a couple cms thick. You must mold it while it's warm and pliable because as it cools it becomes more dry and hard. Then, you would let that cool in the fridge or freezer, and remove it from the mold and pre-bake it or fill & bake it. In my recipe, we are only creating the topper, so, let's get started.
Tools & Extras
- rolling pin
- pizza cutter
- brush for egg wash
- sculpting or modeling tools (optional)
- other fondant cutting tools (optional) - I used a Wilton Fondant Cutter Set
Ingredients for the Hot Water Crust Pie Top - Recipe courtesy of Paul Hollywood of BBC Food
- 1 lb of plain flour, (sifting is recommended, but optional) plus extra for dusting
- 3½ oz of bread flour (sifting recommended, but optional)
- 1 tsp salt
- 2½ oz chilled butter, cut into cubes
- 5½ oz lard, cut into cubes, plus extra for greasing
- 1 egg, beaten, to glaze
Ingredients for the Banana & Pudding Layer Recipe courtesy of Silk.com
Pudding: You can either use a store-bought pudding mix or make your own. I cannot have dairy, so I used almond milk to make the pudding from scratch. I will share the dairy-free recipe here - and it can be modified to replace the milk alternative with actual milk. The only difference I noticed between this and regular pudding made with dairy is that the color wasn't the same - more of a dull color. But, that really doesn't matter because the rest of the dish (layers of strawberries) have lots of color.
- 4-6 ripe bananas (or more if using larger dish)
- 1/2 c sugar
- 1/3 c cornstarch
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 3 cups Almond Milk (or soy, regular milk, coconut milk, etc.)
- 3 Tbsp. margarine or butter
- 1 tsp. vanilla
Ingredients for the Zesty Strawberry Sauce
- 3 c strawberries sliced
- 1/2 c strawberries mashed
- 1/4 c of water (or use juice from an orange)
- 1/4 c of sugar (use less if you prefer a bit less sweetness)
- 1 1/2 Tbsp. cornstarch
- 1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice
- pinch of salt
- 1 Tbsp. fresh orange zest
Other Ingredients Needed
For the very bottom of the glass container, I used a normal pie crust and had it go up along the edges of the glass container about an inch. I pre-baked it (I will explain all of this in detail in the next steps). If you decide to do that, you can use any pie crust recipe. You can use the hot water crust recipe but it is a bit thicker and less flaky than others. I was so worn out with making pie crusts after many failures that I opted for using a store-bought dough that you just unroll and use. It was very thin and ideal for this purpose - to use at the bottom of the glass dish. Once that was pre-baked, I then (while it was still warm) layered a nice amount of graham cracker crust on top of it. I love the taste of graham cracker crust and thought it was a great addition. The graham cracker crust topping was also used on top of the dish, right below the strawberry flower.
- For Graham Cracker Crust
- about a cup of crushed graham crackers
- 1/4 c of sugar (brown sugar is best)
- 3 Tbsp. butter or margarine or substitute (melted)
Step 2: Hot Water Crust Pie Dough Recipe for Top
- Preheat the oven to 400F or 200C.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the flours & rub the butter in with your fingers.
- Put the water in a small saucepan and bring it to a boil.
- Then place the salt & shortening in that saucepan with the water and stir it until all is melted.
- Pour that water & shortening mixture into the bowl with the flour mixture & stir it with a spoon until it comes together.
- Flour the counter top & put the dough onto the surface and form it into a ball.
- Be sure to wait until it is not too hot to handle before kneading it a bit or rolling it out for the crust or pie topper.
Step 3: Making the Pie Top Crust
First, I recommend quickly cracking an egg white or two in a bowl and mixing that up a bit. Have a brush of some sort handy so you can use that to brush the egg white onto the pie topper. It will be used sort of like a glue and also brushed over the entire topper before baking it.
Once the dough isn't too hot to handle, you can kneed it out a few times and then when ready, use a rolling pin to create an even layer of dough. You will need some type of bake-ware cover to use as a mold. You will need to grease it with shortening, then dust it with flour and shake the excess off. Roll the dough out but leave it fairly thick (3/8ths to 1/2 inch). Then once large enough to put over the bake-ware cover, carefully lift it off the counter with your hands and/or a metal scraping tool (see in images). Place it over the glass cover and carefully use your hands to help shape it to the cover.
Once you have molded the dough onto the cover, you can then use a knife, scissors or pizza cutter to remove the excess dough from around the edges. Be careful with the top part because if you push in too far with the dough, then you won't be able to easily remove the baked crust off of the glass bake-ware dish. For me, I pushed it inward a bit too far. But, the inside part of the cover didn't bake thoroughly like the rest of it did. So, I was able to remove it off of the glass lid, and then flip it upside down (placed into a stainless steel bowl) to put it back into the oven so the thicker inside part could cook all the way through. Before moving onto the decorations, hold the cover with the dough on it up and move it around a bit to let gravity do it's work. If you see that some areas are thicker, now is the time you let it fall and cut it off, while you can even the area out. Put the excess dough into a covered dish and try to keep it fairly warm.
For the decorations, I used a Wilton Fondant Cutter Set to help me cut out the thin long strips which I then braided. I like the set because you can change the pieces around use it for embossing (you can see I did then in some photos of the cover) and also for cutting thin or multiple-sized strips. I braided a few strips and then used egg wash and a small sculpting tool (It is actually a leatherwork tool) to push parts of the braid into the dough that is covering the dish.
After braiding, I then used leaf-shaped cutters to cut out little pieces of dough & then use the rolling pin to make them very thin. I would then take that thin piece, and fold it in half the long way, and then in half vertically (see images). It would create a flower-like appearance. Then, I would use the sculpting tool and some egg wash to attach it onto the cover. I did that all the way around and that was it!
After everything was done, I then put a layer of egg wash onto the entire thing. I then put it in the fridge to firm up. Once nice and firm, I put it into the oven and baked it until it was cooked and had a golden color. If it starts getting too dark or you fear it will get too dark, please cover it with aluminum foil to avoid burning, but to allow it to cook thoroughly. It may take 20-40 minutes, so you must check on it often. Let it cool. Also, if the inside isn't cooked enough, you may need to put it upside down in another container (a bowl that is oven-safe) and let it finish cooking that way.
Seems like a lot of work, but definitely worth it! People seemed rather fascinated by this creation when I brought it to a recent get together. It received so many comments and questions and invoked much curiosity!
Step 4: Bottom Layer - Pie Crust & Graham Cracker Crust
For the bottom layer, I used both a pie crust and a graham cracker crust - because I love the taste of graham cracker crust! You can use excess from the pie dough already made, or a store-bought refrigerated dough (which is generally quite thin) for this. I prefer the store dough in this instance because it was convenient & I wanted it thin and flaky.
Use the dish flipped upside down and onto the dough to imprint into the dough or cut right through it so you know the size needed to fill the bottom of the dish. Then take that piece and lay it in the dish, working around to make sure it is even. You can use the bottom of a fork to imprint into it along the edges up the sides of the dish an inch or two. Also stab into the bottom a few times too. Then, bake according to directions in your recipe.
While that is in the oven, you can quickly prepare the graham cracker crust. You will need crushed graham crackers (boxed or crushed them yourself). Then mix in the sugar & melt the butter and then mix it right in. You may need to use your hands a bit.
I removed the dish from the oven when the pie dough was cooked nicely. When it was still warm, I then used a large spoon and spatula to place a nice fairly thick layer of graham cracker crust into the pie crust. I also used my fingers to push it down and compact it.
Step 5: Banana Pudding Layer
After the bottom layer, I then sliced up a couple bananas and layered those on top of the graham cracker crust. On top of that, I layered on the pudding. And on top of the pudding, I layered on some more graham cracker crust topping! After layering on the pudding, I realized the bananas were not visible so I sliced up another banana and put it in the dish vertically along the edge.
Banana Pudding Recipe Instructions
- Whisk together sugar, cornstarch and salt in a saucepan.
- Slowly whisk in milk (dairy or non-dairy), making sure there are no lumps.
- Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly.
- Lower heat and simmer, whisking occasionally until mixture thickens, about 3-4 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and whisk in margarine and vanilla. Cool.
After this is done, please place the dish in the fridge or freezer to let it firm up.
Step 6: Strawberries in Tangy Sauce
For this step, you will need to place the mashed strawberries and about 3/4 c of water into a saucepan and bring it to a boil. Then turn the heat down and let it simmer for a few minutes. Now, strain the juice from those mashed strawberries and discard them. With that juice, pour it into a measuring cup (you will need a total of 1 cup). You can fill the rest of the cup with water.
Now, take the saucepan and combine the sugar, cornstarch, salt and lemon juice. Pour that strawberry juice mixture into it and bring it to a boil, stirring regularly until it becomes clear pink/red and thick. It may take 3-8 minutes. You can then remove it from the heat and stir in the chopped strawberries. Finally, add the orange zest to the strawberries in the sauce and mix well. I recommend letting the filling cool before putting it into the dish. If you notice it is too liquidy, feel free to discard some of it or add more strawberries to balance it out.
Once cool, pour the strawberries into the dish and make it look nice and even.
Step 7: Rose Strawberry on Top - Finishing Touches
For the finishing touch, I sprinkled graham cracker crust in the middle area on top of the strawberries in sauce. I wanted to create some contrast for the rose or flower strawberry on top.
You will need to have a few strawberries and a nice sharp knife. Carefully cut a bunch of thin slices of strawberry. Many different sizes and shapes will work. For the center I basically cut a strawberry in half, leaving the normal top part of it only and place it in the middle. Then I used different slices of strawberries and bent them with my hand to create more of a rounded, almost half-circle shape. I place those pieces around the center strawberry top. Once you do one layer around, then do the next but not lined up the same with it. Go around until you are happy with how it looks - it is much easier than you might think! Lastly, I had a little strawberry sauce left and put it on the center rose.
Be sure to refrigerate this because you don't want to the pudding or layers to melt or fade together. All your hard work is done now and you can enjoy this beautiful centerpiece and delicious layered pie dessert!
Step 8: Failures - My Failed Attempts
Here are my hot water crust pie failures! I worked so hard the first few days and each day I failed...after putting in so much time and decorating so much. So, I wanted to share them anyway and some tips I learned. Basically, I was using the recipe and trying to use a very large stainless steel dish as a mold. This may have worked - but the dough melted and fell off after being put in the oven.
- Dough must be super thick all around
- Absolutely must freeze and take out of freezer and put directly in oven (with filling or pre-baking)
- Do not use an absurdly large item as a mold (ie: stock pot that I used)
I found that using a stainless steel bowl worked, but it might work best to remove it from the mold and fill it then bake. The last attempt for me did work, but the decorations got ruined so I would need to find a better way to make it work next time. I will try it again! I have not given up yet!