Cornish Pasties

Pasties – what can I say? They’re pretty famous throughout Northern Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin, especially in areas where Cornish and Welsh miners settled. They’re famous throughout Britain, too. Maybe its time they became famous everywhere…little pastry filled pockets of goodness, the list of simple ingredients belies the taste.

The Cornish Pasty
The Cornish Pasty

I’ve been thinking about Pasties for weeks, ever since my post on the Runza, another pocket meal passed down the generations.

If you’ve never had a pasty, think back to your childhood – did you ever spend time around a campfire waiting for your “Hobo packs” to be done? Now, imagine a slightly more sophisticated Hobo pack tucked inside a perfectly crunchy, flaky, golden brown pastry. You’ll slice in to it to find layers of potato (and rutabaga if you follow tradition,) onion with just a bit of juicy meat – break one open and the steam wafts up…it’s simple food at it’s best.

As many of you know, I love to play with my food – and rolled the leftover scraps of dough to make just one more pasty – Ham & Cheese…you’re only limited to your imagination as far as fillings go.

The Cornish Pasty
The Cornish Pasty

Cornish Pasties

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

Dough:  (Photos below)

  • 1 pound flour (3 1/3 cups) bread flour (preferred, regular flour works fine)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 ounces shortening (suet or lard is traditional)
  • 2 ounces butter
  • 6 ounces cold water
  • 1 egg, beaten with a little salt (for glazing)

Add flour to bowl with salt. Add shortening and butter in small bits (about a teaspoon) and using fingers, coat with flour. Rub the bits of shortening and butter into the flour – this will start to make a fairly dry mixture. Use a pinching, rubbing motion – the idea here is not to break down to a texture of “cornmeal” or “peas” as many food processor recipes for pastry instruct.

Stir in water, then turn out and begin smearing or rubbing the dough with the heel of your hand. Bring into a ball, and repeat. As the dough begins to smooth out and come together,  switch to a rolling pin, rolling out the dough, then folding into thirds and rolling again.

You’ll know as you start to rub if it’s too dry to come together – sprinkle with a bit of water – but you don’t want a “wet” dough, here.

Don’t be afraid to really work the dough – this will take about five to six minutes. If it feels grainy, keep working it. You’ll want a strong, glossy dough at the end.

Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes while you get the filling ready.

Filling:

  • 12 ounces thinly sliced or cubed chuck or skirt steak
  • 12 ounces (about 3 medium) potatoes, peeled, cut into uniform pieces
  • 7 ounces swede (rutabaga) cut into same size as potatoes
  • 6 ounces (one medium) onion, cut in 1/4 and then thinly sliced
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

I cut my potatoes into quarters the long way and then thinly slice.  Same with the Rutabaga. If you’re not using Rutabaga, add another potato. Don’t do the potatoes until last minute or they’ll turn brown. You can peel and keep in water ahead of a time, but if you slice them and keep them in water, they’ll be too wet, so slice as you go.

Assembly: 

(There are photos, below, for technique as well as two short video links…)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Divide dough into four quarters, form into small balls. Rewrap and set aside three of the balls.  Working with one at a time, roll out to the size of a small dinner plate (about 10 inches) and use the dinner plate as a template to make a round.

Drape part of dough over rolling pin to support it while you fill. Layer, first the rutabaga, then potato, then onion, then meat, seasoning each layer. Use 1/4 of each ingredient. If any sharp edges of vegetables are sticking out, nudge and turn them so they won’t form holes in your pasty when you fold and crimp it.

Brush 1/2 of the edge with egg mixture, then lift both sides of the round (the side on the table and the side on the rolling pin) and pinch together in the middle. This will put the seam about 3/4 down the top of the pasty. Work down both sides until you have a “half moon” shape, with a lip about an inch deep.

(Just a note – there is a dispute about where the crimp should be – and the official crimp is a side one – but almost the women I saw while researching used this rolling pin method. It makes sense, it’s easy, and it’s not likely to leak.)

Starting at one end, pinch and fold the dough edge over to form an attractive pasty. Classic Cornish pasties have 13 to 20 turns. Turn outside edges under. If there are any holes, which is unlikely with this sturdy dough, patch with egg wash and a scrap of the dough.

Place each pasty on a baking tray (you can wrap tightly at this point and bake the next day,  if you wish – bring up to room temperature and continue with instructions. Do not brush with egg wash or place a hole in the pasty if you are not cooking right away.) To cook, brush each with egg wash.  (I like to sprinkle with a little sea or kosher salt.) Place a small hole near the top of each pasty.

Bake at 325 degrees for about 45 minutes. If the tops aren’t yet nicely browned about 10 minutes before they’re done, turn the oven up to 375 degrees. Watch carefully at this point.

Note:  I had enough dough scraps left over to make another pasty, which I filled with ham and cheese because I had those ingredients on hand.

Pasties reheat best in the oven rather than the microwave.

from the kitchen of http://www.frugalhausfrau.com

Techniques:

I watched many videos on making pasties, but I really found this one helpful for the dough – although it’s quick, she explained the technique for making what she called “rough puff” pastry, which she explains is really a “rubbed” pastry. She simply means she folded and turned the dough several times while rolling it out. The rolling at this point isn’t strictly necessary, but does make for a nice, flaky crust.

I liked this video for the filling and the crimping.

Note:  In the above videos, they season at the end – I think Pasties are better if each layer is seasoned.  Note Cornish Nan said no egg is needed to make it stick – I tried three methods, egg all around which didn’t work, egg on one side which worked great, and no egg which was a little more difficult.

Let’s talk about how to save money/time on this recipe:

  • Use a coupon matching site! One of my favorites in my area is Pocket Your Dollars, but every store has a group of enthusiastic Coupon Matchers. Do not discount the savings! I check their site every week, even if I don’t “need” to go to the store and often find bargains I can’t pass up.
  • Follow my 12 Strategies – You’ll see them on the upper drop down menu of every page and how I apply them, below.
  • Don’t get discouraged if your prices don’t match mine! Keep shopping at the best prices and your fridge/freezer and pantry will be stocked with sales priced ingredients.
  • Read below for additional tips as well as throughout the recipe, for saving time and managing food.

Strategies Applied:

I don’t have much room left for a detailed list of ingredients – the chuck, at its lowest price is around $2.99 a pound in my area – skirt steak is always more expensive here;  Butter should always be bought on sale and frozen – look for $1.99 a pound or less.  Eggs, too, should be bought on sale, they keep for weeks, same with potatoes and onions – just keep the potatoes and onions in a cool, dark place, and not together. If flour isn’t on sale, buy at Aldis for about $1.79 a pound. Shortening is always less expensive in a can, and be careful not to buy the “whipped” variety or you’ll pay more.

My cost for these Pasties, not counting the “extra” I made from the scraps of dough and leftovers was about $3.89 – Even without sales priced ingredients, these Pasties are still inexpensive.

Put Your own Spin on It:

  • A Pasty could be filled with almost anything that’s not too wet…I’ve just had a request for next time for a Philly Cheese Steak Pasty – why not? I think beef and mushrooms would be wonderful…
  • Parsley is considered a traditional ingredient to add, but why not go with a little seasoned salt or other herbs of your choice – no one’s going to report you to the Pasty police! (At least not here in the States!)
  • For more inspiration, check out the World Pasty Championship and some of the creative Pasty winners.

Comments and discussion always welcome - tell me what you think.

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