Category Archives: Cornish Pasties

How to Make a Cornish Pasty II

Top-crimped, steak and leek, that is. I’ll stick to the shaping instructions, since the dough mixing technique is almost identical to that for side-crimped pasties. We’ll pick up at the point where you’ve assembled your ingredient mound — salted at every layer of course — running right down the middle of your dough circle. Paint the outer edge with water…

Ahh, those long January shadows. Slip your hands under either side of the dough circle…

…and bring your palms together, thus enclosing the filling.

Now then, scooch your hands forward a touch, and while still supporting the pasty with your palms, press the edges of the dough together and the front end to seal. Work your way backward, creating a ridge down the center of the pie.

Now for the decorative crimp, which is even easier than the side-crimped pasty. Staggering your fingers slightly, press the dough between them, thus creating a squiggle shape.

Do this all along the ridge…

Until you’ve crimped the pasty all along its length. And you’re done:

Poke a small steam hole or two on each side, paint with egg wash and bake in a 400 for twenty minutes, then reduce heat to 350 and bake a further 20 minutes, until golden. Eat hot or cold.

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Top-Crimped Pasty Recipe

I decided I’d stretch out a bit for the top-crimped version, and do a steak & leek treatment on the concept. It’s still within the boundaries of traditional, assuming that word has much meaning. For as you know well by now, pasties were a make-do food. Anything and everything can — and did — go into them. In fact the old, old, old joke in Cornwall is that the Devil himself has always been afraid to cross the River Tamar (the historic border between Devon and Cornwall) for fear some Cornish housewife would catch him and bake him into a pasty.

Still, I’m taking a semi-stab at authenticity here. This pasty calls for the “rump steak” I mentioned in my earlier post on fillings. Here I should mention that there is no “rump steak” available in modern supermarkets. The closest you can find outside of a standard “rump roast” is bottom round. It’s not an expensive cut, though it does cost more than stew meat, which is a perfectly acceptable alternative.

This dough is a drier version of the formula I put up for the side-crimped pasty dough. The reason for the reduction in moisture is that this crust literally has to stand up by itself. It’s still nice and workable, however, so don’t fear. The result is that it’s a bit flakier and a bit more tender than it’s side-crimpable cousin — which I like. In fact that’s the reason I prefer the top-crimped pasty over the side-crimped. But that’s just me. For the dough:

12 ounces all-purpose (AP) flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 ounces lard (or shortening if you prefer), cold and in pieces
3 ounces butter, cold and in pieces
4 ounces cool water

Preheat your oven to 400. Whisk together flour and salt. Add the fat and work it in with your fingers until you get than corn meal consistency everyone always talks about. Add your water and work it in gently by hand until a dough is formed. Leave to sit at room temperature while you prepare your filling ingredients. You’ll need:

12 ounces bottom round or stew meant, cubed small
2 leeks, white ends only, trimmed, split and sliced
1 medium yellow turnip (rutabaga), cubed small
1 russet potato, sliced thin
salt an pepper to taste

Egg wash:

1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon milk

Begin by cutting the dough into four roughly 5 ounce pieces. Roll each into a ball. To make pasties, select a ball and roll it out to a roughly 10″ circle. Lay in the ingredients like you would for the side-crimped pasty, making an oblong heap down the center of each dough circle. Remember to salt and pepper each layer of ingredients as you lay them in. Start with the sliced potatoes, then the turnips, beef and finally the leeks.

Moisten the outer edge of the dough with water, slip your hands under the sides of the circle and bring them together in a “prayer” position, thus enclosing the ingredients. Squeeze the moistened edges together to form a ridge down the center of the pie, and crimp. Poke a few steam holes in the top of the pasty with a fork, and paint the pie with egg wash. Bake at 400 for twenty minutes, then lower heat to 350 and bake and additional 20-30 minutes until golden.

Makes four meal-sized pasties.

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How to Make a Cornish Pasty I

…side-crimped, glazed, with sliced potatoes and pork, that is. Top-crimped steak pasties coming soon. So then, let’s start with the dough, which is a very elementary proposition, even for those who fear pie crust. Begin by whisking your flour and salt together. Add your fat…

…and work it in by hand until you get a corn meal-like consistency.

Add about half your water…

…work it in gently to moisten the mixture…

…add the rest of the water…

…and lightly knead it into a dough. Don’t work the dough much if you can help it, since you don’t want to develop stretchy gluten, and have the crust shrink and crack in the oven.

Now then, produce your ingredients, all prepped and ready. I have here pork, potato, turnips, onion, salt & pepper. Notice the dramatic lighting (my assistant and I thought something artistic might be a nice change of pace).

Place your dramatic, 5.5-ounce ball of dough on the floured work surface…

…and roll, turning the dough disk 90 degrees every pass or two to keep it in a rough circle.

See how nice and easy this dough is to work with? Stop when your disk is about ten inches across.

Now for the assembly. Drape the half of the dough circle that’s closest to you over your rolling pin. This will save space, keep the dough from sticking and give you a support, up against which you can make your ingredient mound. Lay down some sliced potatoes…

…and salt and pepper them. Here it’s important to point out that good pasty making requires every new layer of ingredients to be individually seasoned. Could you season them before you stack them? Well, yes, but that’s just not how I was taught.

Keep stacking and salting…

…until you’ve got a good sized pile.

Now then, moisten the bottom edge of the dough disk with water, flip the top over (stretching it some if need be) and press the edges together.

Now for the crimp. This is really quite easy. You simply want to gather two points of dough rim together to make a simple, z-shaped gusset. Then pinch it shut against the pasty.

Gather a little more and pinch…gather a little more and pinch, working your way around until the whole thing is crimped.

Like so:

See? No big deal. You can even skip the crimp if you want, though I might call you a sissy. Paint this with a wash of 1 raw egg mixed with about 1 tablespoon of milk. Poke a few steam holes on the top and bake in a 400 oven for 20 minutes. Then lower the heat to 350 and bake another 20 minutes to half an hour, until the pasties are nice and golden. Eat hot or cold.

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Side-Crimped Pasty Recipe

This dough is a slightly wetter version of the dough that I use for top-crimped pasties. But either one is very wet compared to pie dough of the kind you bake in a pan. That extra toughness is of course what allows the pasty to maintain its shape without the help of a mold. So, fear not the water, pie bakers! It’ll all work out just fine in the end. Here’s the formula for a very supple, easy-to-handle pasty dough:

12 ounces all-purpose (AP) flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 ounces lard (or shortening if you prefer), cold and in pieces
3 ounces butter, cold and in pieces
6 ounces cool water

Preheat your oven to 400. Whisk together flour and salt. Add the fat and work it in with your fingers until you get than corn meal consistency everyone always talks about. Add about half your water and work it in gently by hand until the entire mixture is moist, then add the rest of the water and keep mixing gently by hand, just until a dough is formed. The nice thing about pasty dough is that it doesn’t have to sit in the refrigerator to chill. It’s ready to use just as soon as it’s mixed.

For the filling, you’ll need:

12 ounces pork, cubed small
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium yellow turnip (rutabaga), cubed small
1 russet potato, sliced thin
salt an pepper to taste

Egg wash:

1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon milk

Begin by cutting the dough into four roughly 5.5 ounce pieces. Roll each into a ball. To make pasties, select a ball and roll it out to a roughly 10″ circle. Drape the half of the circle closest to you over your rolling pin, which will make the final flip easier, plus provide you with a backstop up against which you can stack your ingredients. Remember to salt and pepper each layer of ingredients as you lay them in. Start with the sliced potatoes, then the onions, turnips and finally the pork.

Moisten the outer edge of the pastry circle with water and flip the top half of the dough circle over, enclosing the filling. Press the edge to seal, and crimp. Poke a few steam holes in the top of the pasty with a fork, and paint the pie with egg wash. Bake at 400 for twenty minutes, then lower heat to 350 and bake and additional 20-30 minutes.

Makes four meal-sized pasties.

Filed under:  Cornish Pasties, Pastry | 2 Comments