Book of the Amber Dragon

Getting ready to make Cornish Pasties

Cornish Pasties (with my go-to pastry recipe)

While the weather had been unseasonably warm this past week, there was a definite chill in the air that means winter is finally on its way. My thoughts turn at this time to hearty soups, stews, homemade bread, and pies (both sweet and savoury).

I decided to make some Cornish pasties, and although the recipe I usually make is not very authentic, I have no complaints from my household. The first step is making the pastry. For some reason I always think this will be arduous, but this is my go-to pastry recipe. It always rolls out perfectly, and in one go, you can make enough pastry to use now and also freeze for later.

The pastry seems to be a variant of the traditional British hot-water pastry, used for making hand-raised meat pies. The addition of the baking powder, egg and vinegar seem to help this pastry be a little more tender than the hot-water style. I must mention that this is a totally different animal to the flaky pie pastry variety. It is more tender and uniform in texture, and lacks the flaky layers formed when the encapsulated fats expand during cooking) but I have used it in both sweet and savoury pies and never had a complaint.

Mme Jehane Benoit’s Special Dough for Tourtieres (adapted from The Canadiana Cookbook, 1970)

Mme Benoit notes in her recipe that this dough is a very old recipe, that makes a melt-in-the-mouth crust. She recommends this dough be used for all sorts of meat pies.

4½ cups All-purpose flour; up to 5 cups
4 teaspoons Baking powder
2 teaspoons Salt
1 pound Pure lard
1 cup Hot water
4 teaspoons Lemon juice or vinegar
1 Large egg; well beaten

First combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl or bowl of a mixer. Take 1 1/3c of the lard and cut it into the flour (or mix using the paddle attachment of the mixer) until lard is evenly distributed in the flour and it has a uniform mealy texture. Completely dissolve the remaining lard in the hot water, and add the lemon juice and egg.

Mix the liquid into the flour mixture until the dough leaves sides of the bowl. At this point, don’t panic, as the dough will be mushy and soft and feel more like playdough than pastry. Turn out on lightly floured board and knead about 1 minute until all the flour is blended (or if using mixer, continue to mix on lowest speed until all is combined).

At this point the pastry needs to chill to set back up enough for rolling out. So, divide into four balls, shape into discs, wrap in waxed paper, refrigerate 1 to 12 hours, or you can wrap them in plastic and freeze at this point. Very easy to roll when chilled.

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When I want to make Cornish Pasties, I make a filling of lean ground beef, onion, potato, salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce. This time I grated the potato and onion (I normally just cut them into a fine dice), and I added grated carrot too, which is not traditional! If I was making them just for me, I would have used the traditional rutabaga instead of carrot, but my family would mutiny.

I roll out one disc of pastry, on a well-floured board, until it is about 3mm (1/8″) thick. I used to then cut a 15cm (approx 6″) circle, using a saucer as a template, but my mum gave me a fancy little gadget straight from “As seen on TV” that on first glance seems really hokey but really does work. The largest size is what I use for pasties. The bottom of the piece is a cutter, and then you lift it up, and place the circle of dough you have onto the top. Then you add a scoop of filling (I find an ice-cream scoop a perfect volume for this size of pasty), moisten the edge with water, and then carefully flip the handle to join the other. Press down gently, and presto, you have a sealed pasty. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and repeat the process until you run out of pastry (re-roll scraps together) or filling!

If you don’t have a fancy little gadget, you can cut out your pastry circles, place the filling to one half leaving a lip free of filling, moisten the edge, fold over the top, and crimp with your fingers to seal. Another method is to put the filling in a line across the middle of the circle, and bring each edge up like a taco and crimp vertically.

Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown.

Roll out pastryCut out roundsScoop filling into pastry roundMoisten edge with water before crimpingCrimp gentlyCarefully remove from crimperPrick the pasties with a fork before bakingBaked pasties, ready to eat.

Kate • November 10, 2015


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