Individual meat pies are a joy to eat, especially when they're as cute as these hand raised chicken, bacon, and apricot pies. The crisp, golden hot water crust pastry encloses a flavorful layered filling.
Why This Recipe Works
- We're using the right pastry. Hand-raised pies like these chicken, bacon, and apricot pies are traditionally made with a very strong pastry that can support the heavy fillings without the use of a tin. This pastry, called hot water crust, is very easy to make!
- We're using jam jars instead of a dolly. Traditionally, hand-raised pies were shaped around a wooden mold called a dolly, but the pastry can stick to the mold and be hard to remove. Using the jam jars instead is much easier and more foolproof because hot water can be poured into the jars, loosening the pastry.
- Jelly is added to the pies after baking. This is a mixture of chicken broth and unflavored gelatin, which is poured through the vent hole in the top and hardens in the fridge. Not only does the jelly improve the flavor, but it also keeps the filling fresher by filling any air gaps and helps the pie reduce cracking during transport.
Curious what ingredients you need to make these delicious chicken, bacon, and apricot pies? Fortunately, it takes mostly simple ingredients that are easy to find. Let's talk about the most important ingredients!
- Hot Water Crust: It's best to make these pies with homemade hot water pastry, as it's the only pastry sturdy enough to support the heavy filling without a tin.
- Meat: A mixture of cubed raw chicken breast and small pieces of raw bacon are the best options. Feel free to experiment with chicken thighs or different flavors of bacon for a different result.
- Apricots: Dried apricots are a great option here. Be sure to finely dice them so they fit easily into the pies.
- Fresh Thyme: This is one of the most important seasonings in these pies. We like thyme and used a lot in this recipe, so feel free to dial it back if it's too much for you.
- Unflavored Gelatin: It's traditional to serve these hand-raised meat pies cold with a chicken jelly inside. You'll need to have unflavored gelatin powder or sheets of gelatin to thicken the jelly.
See recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.
- Chicken: Swap the chicken breasts for chicken thighs or chicken pieces for a different flavor and texture.
- Bacon: Try smoked bacon for extra flavor.
- Herbs: Exchange the thyme for another of your favorite fresh herbs that would go well with these flavors, such as oregano or rosemary. Add to taste.
How to Make
- Roll out some hot water crust pastry to a 7-inch circle.
- Wrap the pastry around a lightly oiled jam jar.
- Flatten out the wrinkles, then lay the jar on its side and roll it back and forth until the pastry is smooth.
- Make holes in the lids with a piping nozzle so you can pour in the chicken stock jelly later.
- Chill the pastry for 20 minutes, then trim off the excess. Doing one jar at a time, fill the jar with boiling water, then loosen the pastry with a knife and pull out the jar.
- Layer the filling inside as follows: bacon, onion, chicken, apricot, bacon, onion, chicken.
- Brush the rim of the pie with beaten egg.
- Place the lid on top and gently pinch to seal.
- Crimp the edges to get a ruffled look.
- Brush the lids with beaten egg to make the pies golden brown as they bake!
- Bake at 400°F for about 50 minutes, until golden brown. Pour in the chicken stock jelly while the pies are hot, then let them cool. Refrigerate them for 8 hours to allow the jelly to set inside.
- Slice them in half, and serve. You and your family will enjoy them for dinner!
Hand raised pies are called this because they are shaped by hand and aren't baked in a tin, like the famous Melton Mowbray pork pies. Traditionally, hand raised pies were shaped around a wooden mold called a dolly, but it's easier to use jam jars, as you can loosen the pastry from the mold with hot water.
If you're using a traditional wooden dolly, be sure to flour it first to reduce sticking. Use a palette knife or spatula to loosen the pastry sides from the mold, then shake gently until the pastry case comes off.
Mary Berry suggests using jam jars instead. This is easier because the molds can be chilled to firm up the pastry, then hot water can be poured inside of the jars to loosen the pastry, making the shaping process much easier.
Once the pastry is baked, it can be frozen. Uncooked hot water crust pastry can't be frozen, since it needs to be warm when it's shaped.
Serve these chicken, bacon, and apricot pies cold if you added the chicken jelly. Reheating them will melt the jelly! However, if you didn't add the jelly, you can definitely serve the pies warm.
Accompany these dainty pies with other British favorites like a bowl of broccoli and Stilton soup, a slice of bloomer bread, or a dish of mushy peas. Serve a dessert like coffee and walnut cake or chocolate roulade to finish the meal.
Leftovers: These pies will keep well in the fridge for 3-5 days, as long as they are tightly covered or sealed in an airtight container.
Freezing: These pies freeze very well. Wrap them individually in aluminum foil, then seal them in a zip-top freezer bag and freeze for up to 1 month.
Reheating: Bake the pies at 350°F for a few minutes until heated through, or microwave individual servings on high until warm.
If you added the jelly to the pies, they'll need to be served cold, as reheating them would cause the jelly to melt.
- Make sure the hot water pastry is still warm, since it hardens and becomes brittle once it's cooled. Keep the pastry warm in a double boiler if you can't use it right away.
- Cover with aluminum foil while baking if the top is getting too dark.
- We recommend adding the jelly because it keeps the filling moist, fills in the gaps inside the pies, and adds more lovely flavor. Leftover jelly can be poured into a bowl and chilled until set, then served with the pies.
- Pan fry any leftover filling over medium heat until the chicken and bacon are cooked. Add a couple splashes of white cooking wine for extra flavor.
- Make these pies in advance to allow the jelly to set. Serve them cold, or otherwise the jelly will melt when the pies are reheated.
Other Savory Pies to Enjoy
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Chicken, Bacon, and Apricot Pies
For the Filling
- 1 large boneless skinless chicken breast, cubed
- 9 slices smoked bacon, cut in small pieces
- 6 ounces dried apricots, cubed
- ½ cup yellow onion, chopped
- ¼ cup fresh thyme leaves
- 1 ½ teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the Pastry
- 1 pound hot water crust pastry, still warm
- 1 large egg, beaten
For the Chicken Stock Jelly (Optional)
- ⅔ cup unsalted chicken stock
- ¼ cup cold water
- 1 envelope unflavored gelatine
Preparing the Filling
- Cube the dried apricots and chop the onion. Rinse and pat dry the thyme, then pull off the leaves until you have ¼ cup (6g) of leaves. Grate the lemon zest and measure out the salt and pepper.
- Cut the bacon slices into small pieces, then cube the chicken in small chunks. Place the meat in separate bowls, cover, and refrigerate until needed.
Shaping the Pies
- Line a 9 by 13-inch rimmed cookie sheet with parchment paper, then very lightly oil the outsides of four clean 6-ounce (177 ml) glass canning jars.
- Divide the still warm hot water crust pastry into four equal pieces. Cut a small chunk off each piece and set aside to make the lids.
- Roll out one of the larger pieces of pastry to make a 6 or 7 inch circle. Place the jar in the center of the circle and bring the pastry up around its sides. Flatten out the creases with your hands, then lay the jar on its side and roll it back and forth to smooth out the pastry. Try not to make the pastry too thick, but make sure there are no holes. Repeat with the remaining jars.
- Roll the four smaller pieces of pastry into circles a little larger than the mouths of the jars, then cut a ½ inch hole in the center with a piping nozzle. This will allow you to pour in the stock later.
- Chill the pastry-wrapped jars and lids for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, fill a kettle with water and bring to a boil.
- Once the pastry has chilled, trim off the excess pastry to give each pie a flat top. Fill one of the jars with boiling water, then gently loosen the pastry with a knife and carefully pull the jar out of the pastry. Repeat with the remaining jars. Be careful not to let the hot water sit in the pastry-wrapped jars for long, or the pastry will become very soft.
Filling & Crimping the Pies
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Toss the chicken with the lemon zest and half of the thyme, salt, and pepper. Add the remaining seasonings to the bacon and mix until well blended.
- Layer the filling in each pie as follows: bacon, onion, chicken, apricot, bacon, onion, chicken. Make sure the filling goes all the way to the edges of the pie, and be careful not to overstuff. You will probably have extra filling.
- Brush the rims of the pies with beaten egg, then place the pastry lid on top. Pinch the edges gently to seal. Decoratively crimp the edges by placing your thumb and index finger on top of the edge about ½ inch apart. Push the index finger of your other hand in between the gap to make a bump. Repeat all the way around each pie to create a ruffled edge. Brush the tops with beaten egg. It's okay if the egg drips down the sides.
- Bake at 400°F for 50 minutes, until the pastry is a rich golden brown and the pies have an internal temperature of at least 170°F. Place them on a wire rack and let them cool for 10 minutes. If you're not adding the chicken stock/gelatin mixture, skip the next steps and serve them warm or cold.
Adding the Chicken Stock Jelly (Optional)
- Heat the chicken stock in a small saucepan over medium heat until quite warm.
- Meanwhile, sprinkle the unflavored gelatin over ¼ cup cold water and mix to combine. Let stand for 5 minutes, then add to the warm stock and stir until dissolved.
- After the pies have cooled for 10 minutes, pour the stock into the hole on top with a funnel until each one is full to the top. The filling will absorb the stock, so check them in a minute or two and continue to add the stock until they are full.
- Let them cool on the counter for a couple hours, then cover and refrigerate for 8 hours to allow the jellied stock to set.
- Serve cold and cut in half.
- Keep the hot water crust pastry warm, as it will become brittle if it cools completely. Keep the pastry warm in a double boiler if you can't use it right away.
- Pies getting too dark? Cover them with aluminum foil.
- Do I need the jelly? Technically, it's optional, but we recommend it because it keeps the filling moist, fills in the gaps inside the pies, and adds even more lovely flavor. If you do use the jelly, it's not recommended to warm up the pies, as this will melt the jelly. Leftover jelly can be poured into a bowl and chilled until set, then served with the pies.
- Leftover filling? Fry it over medium heat until the meat is cooked. Add a couple splashes of white cooking wine as it cooks.
- Need to make ahead? These pies can be refrigerated for up to 3 days and reheated in the oven or microwave.
Serving sizes and nutritional information are only an estimate and may vary from your results.