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  • Writer's pictureGrace Saadi

Gooseberry Pies Inspired by Bridgerton

Updated: Feb 7, 2021


Like almost everyone, I recently found myself binge-watching Netflix's Bridgerton from the moment I pressed play. Though I am a bit late to the party, I'd like to think that I am excused by offering this recipe to the table. For those who are considering watching Bridgerton but haven't gotten around to it yet, there are some spoilers ahead.


As the English high society of all rank and status gather at the opera, Lady Danbury invites the Diamond of the Season, Daphne Bridgerton, and her mother to join her box for the performance. Disheartened by her daughter's lack of suitors, Viscountess Bridgerton and Lady Danbury soon find themselves developing a matchmaking ploy. The infamous Lady Whistledown and her Society Paper forming their common ground for the potential pair, spreading undesirable information on both Daphne and Simon, the Duke of Hastings. The deal is sealed with a dinner invitation and the promise of gooseberry pie.


And so the story begins. Bridgerton is loved for more than just its enticing plot. Along with the diverse cast, unique and modern soundtrack, and incredibly detailed costuming, the elegance of the Regency Era has inspired a new generation (as if Jane Austen hasn't done that enough already). And while many viewers are now squeezing into corsets and planning tea parties, I took a slightly different route.


Though the gooseberry pie is never seen, we get a hint of what pies looked like from the era in a later episode. The food stylist team opted for small, free-standing pies with simple decorations and a fluted edge. It resembles what many today would recognize as a Scottish meat pie. Obviously, pies have taken on a much different form in modern baking. Short, wide, lattice top, and often shared in triangular slices. Knowing what I know now about modern pie making, and wishing to further my knowledge of food history, I decided to test how historically accurate Bridgerton's pies are and make up my own!


image via janeausten.co.uk

First and foremost, searching "Regency Era pies" doesn't offer many results. Even "Regency Era desserts" was rather sparse. Images of quite tall and decorated platters of fruits, cakes, and trifles offered suggestions as to where to start, but nothing quite like what I saw in the show. BUT let's not forget what came shortly after the time period in which the show is set- the industrial and highly researched Victorian Era.


Though styles and silhouettes gradually changed, desserts and their trends stayed fairly stagnant. As stated prior, there was an emphasis on height. Architectural works of art elaborately made out of edible material meant to simultaneously impress and mistify those partaking in the meal. High-society always has and always will be looking for one reason or another to flaunt wealth and luxury at guests. I would have sympathy to the pastry chefs of English past who were tasked with creating these, but seeing those massive kitchens wood-burning stoves donned with copper pots and pans, I'll admit I'm pretty damn envious.



image via pinterest

As further research would reveal, pies are no exception when it comes to the trend. Equally as tall as they are decorated, pies of the victorian and regency era (sometimes referred to as Game Pies) sought to impress. Though the contents are quite familiar-golden crust, meat fillings- the process does differ. The mold is similar to that of a cheesecake tin, with latch sides that help to remove the baked pastry. The pastry casing is also far less flaky than modern pie crust. And the decorations tended to vary, ranging from intricate filigree to leaf-like patterns. English Heritage does a terrific job of going through the steps of making a historically accurate pigeon pie in such a style.


When it comes to Bridgerton's pies, I'd say it all checks out! The pies we see are much smaller and less decorated because of the setting and context. They are made and offered by a local town baker during a country fair in Hastings. Made by the common people, for the common people. So, I had to make some assumptions when it came to the fabled gooseberry pies. And take a few liberties as well.


Now that I am currently in Ohio, the task of finding unique ingredients is tough. But, luck was in my favor because our local store happened to be carrying golden berries before I had even watched the show. Often referred to as cape gooseberries, this variant would not be what the Bridgerton house chef would've used in his signature pie. Rather he would have used the green or purple berries that are a species of Ribes, tasting similar to that of grapes. Traditionally more sour, while the golden berries are more tart and tomato-like. But you work with what you have, and I was still very happy with how mine came turned out using the same flavor pairings.


On that note, you may have already noticed that my pies are rather... short. In conducting my research, both virtual and within my own kitchen cabinet, I soon came to the realization that I was unable to make the pie authentically. Victorian-inspired pie molds are upwards of over $150, and I could only get my hands on so many golden berries at a decent price. Along with all of my cake tins being too wide, I decided to try something a little different. My collection of mini fluted tart tins provided the extra accents I wanted, as well as the perfect ratio of tart filling to crust. I did my research and had to discard it in the end, but that means anyone can make this at home using whatever means they can!


History lessons aside, let's get onto the recipe!

 

Gooseberry Pie

Yield: 2 mini (4") pies


Pastry/Pie Crust

170 g all-purpose flour

4 g salt

14 g granulated sugar

113 g butter, unsalted, cold

57 g water, ice cold


Instructions

  1. Whisk together flour and sugar in a medium bowl. Add the salt to the ice water and stir to dissolve. Cube the cold butter.

  2. Add the cold butter to the flour mixture and toss to coat. Pour out onto a clean work surface and cut the butter into the flour using a bench scraper. Then proceeded to work the butter into small pieces by rubbing it in with your fingers. Work until it is at a mealy consistency, in small, somewhat uniform pieces (smaller than the size of a pea).

  3. Form the butter/flour mix into a circle. Using it as a border, pour the cold salted water into the center. Carefully toss in some of the flour perimeter to absorb the water, continue until it is almost all absorbed and use a bench scraper to stop any leaks.

  4. Fold the mass onto itself to help soak up any of the remaining water and help form a uniform dough. Continue gently folding, but do not overwork the dough. Shape it into a disk, wrap with plastic, and place it in the fridge to rest for at least 1 hour (preferably overnight) before rolling out.

Tips:

*Try to work as quickly as possible to keep your dough chilled and easier to handle.

*It is best to dissolve the salt in the water to prevent the dough from having a splotchy look.


Gooseberry Filling

250 g cape gooseberries

4.5 g cornstarch

40 g sugar

pinch of salt

2 TBSP elderflower cordial (syrup)

1 TBSP lemon juice

2 TBSP water


Instructions

  1. Reserve 1/3rd of the berries and set them aside.

  2. Add all the ingredients to a saucepan and cook over medium heat stirring frequently. Heat until the contents thicken and the berries pop and deflate, approx 10 minutes.

  3. Add in the remaining berries and cook just until the berries begin to pop about 5 more minutes.

  4. Remove the filling from the stove, transfer into another bowl to cool completely, cover, and refrigerate until needed.

Side note: if you are using traditional gooseberries, you may have to adjust the ratios of sugar and lemon juice. My filling was more on the tart side, and some people may prefer it slightly sweeter.


Assembly

Also need: egg wash and granulated sugar

  1. Prep the tin by spraying lightly with pan spray, adding a small parchment circle to the bottom, and spraying once more to coat. Set aside.

  2. Roll the pie crust out to 1/8 of an inch thick and cut out 4.5" 2 circles (or slightly bigger than whatever tin you are using to bake). Using the tin, cut out 2 fluted circles for the lids and cut out the decorative pieces.*

  3. Press the 4.5" circles into the prepared tin to mold to the shape and remove any excess that is sticking out over the top. Add the filling into the center so that it is level with the top of the crust and set aside.

  4. Cut a small circle in the fluted circles (lids) to allow steam to vent, brush with egg wash and assemble the decorative pieces, pressing them down to help stick. Brush the edge of the filled pie tin with egg wash and place the lid on the filled pie tin. Firmly press edges together to help seal. Refrigerate for 15 minutes and preheat the oven to 400°F.

  5. After 15 minutes, brush the lid again with egg wash and sprinkle with granulated sugar. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the crust is golden. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.

  6. Once cool enough to handle, carefully remove the pies from the tin. Serve warm or at room temperature with tea and homemade vanilla bean whipped cream.

Tips:

*Before rolling out the pie crust, it helps to hit the cold dough disk with a rolling pin to make it pliable. Remove it from the fridge, discard the plastic wrap, and hit it all along the edge to soften but remain cold.

*When cutting out the fluted circles and other small decorative pieces, it is best to place the pie crust in the freezer for 10 minutes before cutting to help get a clean edge. Return the piece to the freezer before assembling.

*When it comes to decorating, have fun! I tried 2 different designs.

For the first, I used the snowflake cookie cutters from this post and layered them to create a lace design.

For the second, I stacked 3 different sized leaf shapes to make this symmetrical like that more closely mimics the Victorian pies.

 

These pies would make a great addition to any themed tea party or picnic. The pie crust and filling could also be used to make even smaller bite-sized open-faced tarts or used in plenty of other shapes and sizes to best fit your needs. Perhaps they'll be good enough to win yourself a Duke!


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