Australians have always had a love affair with pies but who ever would have thought a clever little appliance would become a social media phenomenon.
From Kmart's $29 model, through to brands such as Sunbeam (from $49 for a two-pie machine to $79 for the four-pie version), Big W, Kogan and Aldi, there's a version to suit all budgets and tastes.
In 2019 Choice put the cult Kmart version to the test.
"It's the budget appliance that has sent Australians into a pie-cooking frenzy. This $29 pie maker has shot to the top of people's list of favourite Kmart buys ... because who doesn't love a golden flaky pie, right?"
In the end Australia's leading consumer advocacy group rated the product "very good" for general performance and ease of use in their expert tests.
"It's cheap, versatile, and does the job, creating lightly golden snack-sized pies in under 15 minutes. We think it's perfect for no-fuss cooks, busy parents or (self-sufficient) hungry teenagers."
The Kmart pie maker has even spawned a Facebook group. Kmart Pie Maker Recipes, Tips and Ideas Australia has more than 190,000 members. People are finding all sorts of uses for the pie maker, from making cakes with lemonade to poaching eggs.
They welcome owners of all models. Someone in the group posted a handy chart comparing all models. The Sunbeam pie maker makes the biggest, deepest pies, looking very much like bakery pies.
With a pie maker, pies can be whipped up at whim, perfect for hungry teenagers after school, fillings can be pre-made and kept on hand ready to go. It's a great way too of using up leftovers. Curries and stews come up a treat.
Whether you're after something savoury or sweet - the Choice taste-testing team said its favourite filling was tinned pie apple with mixed spice and a sprinkling of sugar - the pie maker proves very versatile.
The Australian Women's Weekly has published a book which embraces the trend that's taken Australia by storm, celebrating all things pastry pies as well as a host of clever creations you'd never expect.
What follows is an edited extract with some delicious recipes.
Most brands of pie makers are designed to make four individual pies and are similar to operate. The main difference between brands lies in the size of the pies they make.
One of the most popular-sized machine makes 1/3-cup (80ml) pies, however there are also machines for larger 3/4-cup (180ml) pies, and even those that produce a single 2 1/2-cup (625ml) family-sized pie.
The majority of the recipes in this book are for a 4-hole (1/3-cup/80ml) pie maker, but there are several meat pie recipes designed for a 4-hole (3/4-cup/180ml) pie maker, plus a sprinkling of sweet and savoury options for family-sized pies. Regardless of the machine you have, once you know the capacity of each hole, you can adapt the amount of filling you need for your particular machine. Alternatively, simply aim to always leave a 2mm gap between the top of the filling and the rim of the pastry before cooking a tart, or covering with pastry for a pie, unless otherwise specified in a recipe. Before you start making any recipes in this book, determine the capacity of the individual holes of your pie maker. To do this, fill a small measuring cup with water and fill a pie hole to the brim. As a guide, these are the hole capacities for the three most common machines:
4-hole (1/3-cup/80ml) each hole will hold approximately 1/4 cup filling.
4-hole (3/4-cup/180ml) each hole will hold approximately cup filling.
family-sized single pie holds approximately 2 cups filling.
Take care not to overfill your pies or they will make a mess. You can always check one pie before filling them all. It is also important to read your pie makers' instruction manual for further specific guidance around use.
Your pie maker has a non-stick coating, which is best preserved by using nonstick cooking utensils. Most pie makers come equipped with a cutter designed to cut out both the bottom and top rounds of pastry to fit the brand of pie maker. However, each of our recipes also notes the size of the pastry rounds required.
When making multiple batches of pies, wipe the pie holes clean with a damp piece of paper towel and avoid the use of abrasive cleaning agents.
The best combination for most pies (or for tart bases) is a shortcrust base for crispness and then either a puff pastry or shortcrust top. For speed, pastry rounds can be cut to size and stored in the freezer so you have them on hand. You can also use the pie maker to make tart shells.
Meat pie fillings can all be made ahead and refrigerated. They also freeze well. To reheat frozen pies, place 1/3-cup (80ml) pies in the pie maker for 14 minutes and 3/4-cup (180ml) pies for 12 minutes. (Note that the pastry will continue to brown.) Alternatively, reheat in a 180C oven for 15 minutes.
Holding the machine lid ajar
Use a heatproof object, such as a wooden spoon or a narrow roll of paper towel as a wedge at the front of the machine to prevent the lid from squashing the contents.
Ready-cooked ingredients straight from the can make some of the fastest savoury pies ever. Use one of our suggestions here, or scan the supermarket shelves to create your own family favourites.
1. Baked beans
If you think beans on toast are the bee's knees you'll love them in a pie. Try classic style, smoked or spiced beans with cheddar or barbecued chicken. Go luxe with a half and half combo of beans with mash.
Pick a tuna flavour from the myriad available - try chilli, lemon and smoked tuna. Fancy a cheat's tuna mornay pie? Combine tuna with some onion-flavoured spreadable cream cheese. Or mix a can of tuna with pasta sauce.
It's not just kids who love this childhood convenience food but adults, too. Try with a halved ball of bocconcini pushed into the spaghetti. For a meatball pie, form the filling from a sausage into four "meatballs"; cook in the pie maker first, then combine with the spaghetti.
4. Corn kernels
For Mexican-inspired flavours, swap pastry for tortillas cut to size. Mix corn kernels with tomato salsa and a pinch of salt and a pinch of smoked paprika.
Beef taco pies
10 x 15cm white corn tortillas
1 cup grated cheddar
1 cup shredded red cabbage
1 medium tomato, chopped
1/2 cup guacamole
1/2 cup sour cream
coriander leaves and lime wedges, to serve
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, chopped finely
1 clove garlic, crushed
500g minced beef
30g packet taco seasoning mix
400g can diced tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/3 cup beef stock
1. To make taco filling, heat oil in a large frying pan; cook onion and garlic, stirring, until onion softens. Add beef; cook, stirring to break up lumps with the back of a spoon, for five minutes or until browned. Stir in seasoning mix, tomatoes, paste and stock; bring to the boil. Reduce heat; simmer, for 15 minutes or until thickened. Season to taste. Cool. (Makes 3 1/2 cups.)
2. Lightly grease and preheat a four-hole (3/4-cup/180ml) pie maker (see tips). Wrap tortillas in paper towel; reheat in the microwave on HIGH (100%) for 40 seconds. Keep warm in a clean tea towel. (Heating the tortillas will make them more pliable and prevents them from tearing.) Line prepared holes with tortillas, pressing into base and side.
3. Spoon cup taco filling and one tablespoon cheese into each tortilla case. Close lid; cook for eight minutes or until cheese is golden. Remove taco pies; transfer to a wire rack. Repeat with remaining tortillas and taco filling to make 10 in total.
4. Top pies with cabbage, tomato, guacamole and sour cream. Serve with coriander and lime wedges.
Tips: To make these in a smaller pie maker, see page 7 for information on how much filling they hold, then adjust accordingly. You can also use larger tortillas and cut to size using the pastry cutter provided. If you like a kick to your tacos, add a pinch of chilli flakes. The taco filling will keep frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw in fridge overnight before using.
Makes 10 pies.
Thai chicken curry pies
6 sheets frozen shortcrust pastry, thawed
2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 egg, beaten lightly
1 tbsp peanut oil
1 medium onion, sliced thinly
1/3 cup Thai green curry paste
800g chicken thigh fillets, cut into 2cm pieces
100g green beans, trimmed, chopped coarsely
3 kaffir lime leaves, torn (optional)
1 cup coconut cream
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 tsp cornflour
1. To make curry filling, heat oil in a large saucepan; cook onion, stirring, until softened. Add curry paste and chicken; cook until browned. Stir in beans, lime leaves and coconut cream; bring to the boil. Reduce heat; stir in fish sauce. Simmer, for 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked and beans tender. Mix cornflour with two teaspoons of water. Stir cornflour mixture into curry; simmer until mixture thickens. Season to taste. Cool. Discard lime leaves. (Makes 4 1/2 cups.)
2. Lightly grease and preheat a four-hole (3/4-cup/180ml) pie maker.
3. Using pastry cutter provided, cut six large rounds (15.5cm) from shortcrust pastry and six small rounds (12cm) from puff pastry. Line prepared holes with shortcrust pastry rounds, pressing into base and side. Refrigerate remaining pastry rounds until required.
4. Spoon cup curry filling into each pie case. Top with puff pastry rounds; press edges firmly to seal. Brush pastry with egg. Close lid; cook for eight minutes or until pastry is golden. Remove pies; transfer to a wire rack. Repeat with remaining pastry rounds, curry filling and egg wash to make six pies in total.
Tips: To make these in a smaller pie maker, see instructions on how much filling they hold, then adjust accordingly. Pies and curry filling will keep frozen for up to three months. Thaw in fridge overnight. Reheat pies in the pie maker for 12 minutes.
Makes 6 pies.
Classic custard tarts
2 sheets frozen shortcrust pastry, thawed
1 cup pouring cream
1/3 cup caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg, plus extra to serve
1. Lightly grease and preheat a four-hole (1/3-cup/80ml) pie maker.
2. Using pastry cutter provided, cut eight large rounds (11cm) from shortcrust pastry. Line prepared holes with shortcrust pastry rounds, pressing into base and side. Close lid; cook for two minutes or until pastry is light golden. Remove tart cases from holes; transfer to a wire rack to cool. Repeat with remaining pastry rounds.
3. Whisk cream, caster sugar, eggs, vanilla and nutmeg in a large jug. (Makes 2 1/2 cups.)
4. Place cooled tart cases on a tray; pour a scant 1/4 cup custard filling into each (be careful not to over fill, there should be a 2mm gap below tart rim).
5. Place custard tarts back in pie maker holes. Close lid; cook for 10 minutes or until custard is set. Remove tarts; transfer to a wire rack to cool. Repeat with remaining custard tarts.
6. Serve custard tarts sprinkled with extra nutmeg.
Tip: Custard tarts are best served on the day they are made, but will keep stored in the refrigerator for up to three days.
Makes 8 tarts.
Choc-peanut butter brownie pies
100g butter, chopped
100g dark chocolate, chopped coarsely
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten lightly
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup plain flour
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1/4 cup smooth peanut butter, plus extra to serve
6 small scoops vanilla ice-cream
2 tbsp coarsely chopped unsalted roasted peanuts
2 tbsp choc fudge sauce
1. Lightly grease and preheat a four-hole (1/3-cup/80ml) pie maker.
2. Stir butter and chocolate in a saucepan over low heat for five minutes or until melted and smooth. Remove from heat. Stir in sugar, then eggs and vanilla; mix well. Sift flour and cocoa powder over chocolate mixture; stir until combined.
3. Spoon two tablespoons brownie mixture into each prepared hole. Drop two teaspoons peanut butter in the centre, then cover with another two tablespoons brownie mixture. Close lid; cook for 12 minutes or until risen and firm to touch. Remove pies; transfer to a wire rack to cool. Repeat with remaining brownie mixture and peanut butter to make six pies in total.
4. Serve brownie pies topped with vanilla ice-cream, extra peanut butter, the peanuts and chocolate fudge sauce.
Tip: Pies will keep, stored in an airtight container, at room temperature for up to three days.
Makes 6 pies.
- Recipes from The Pie Maker: Quick and easy recipes for pies and other clever creations. The Australian Women's Weekly. $24.99.