Like I said, I took a week off from my Bake Off Challenge because I got married! But don't worry, I was indeed baking, because, like a crazy person, I decided to make my own cake. First, I couldn't bear paying $14/slice for a cake that I could make myself for one-tenth of the cost. And second, I'm really picky, and I don't think anybody's chocolate cake could beat the recipe I use. So, I spent two very (very) long days baking and decorating the cake. A whole microsite of this page will come with more details but suffice to say, I survived, and came back for more baking. Upwards and onwards to the great Cornish pasty.
Or, I guess I should say "San Francisco" pasty. According to the Powers That Be in the British culinary world, you can only call your pasty "Cornish" if it is made in Cornwall. So, despite using classic ingredients of potato, rutabaga, beef, and onion, and following the recipe to the T, these do not get the designation of being Cornish--instead, I'm giving them my own geographical title, and dipping the pasty in sriracha sauce as I eat it in protest.
I say any recipe that starts by asking me to spoon out a quarter pound of lard and then immediately asks me to add another knob of butter on top of it is a good recipe. I mean, I've been looking for an excuse to use lard and not feel bad about it. If Mary Berry is telling me to do it, I can't in good conscience say no. So... lard it is.
The crust is fairly straightforward. Slap it all in a bowl and mix it all together. I crumbled the fats into the flour by hand before adding the water, but the main impetus behind that is that I just love the feeling of fat and flour in my hands, not that it was actually part of the recipe. This dough is very dry, and it really will just come together, so don't add any more water than the recipe calls for. I noticed it most when I was mixing with my hands and the dough didn't stick to my fingers like pie dough sometimes does. It very easy to rub the dough off my hands and leave them clean--which, for a clean freak like me, was actually quite nice.
Now here's the fun with the dough. While a normal pie dough, which has the same ingredients, needs to be touched as little as possible so as to retain the tender flakiness of the crust, this dough actually needs to be worked. Paul Hollywood recommends a stretching, rolling, and turning triad of motions to build up the gluten or somesuch and make a sturdier pastry before resting the dough in the fridge to let it relax (after all that stretching and rolling, I could use a rest to relax as well TBH)
The history behind this rough behavior with a generally delicate dough is that the Cornish pasty came to popularity among the tin miners of Cornwall, as a portable lunch they would bring to the mines with them. A delicate pastry shell would not have survived the commute and the mine, and a yeast dough would become too easily soggy to hold the ingredients.
The filling of a Cornish pasty is deceptively simple, and wholly British. Root vegetables, meat, and a touch of salt and pepper. British food--God love 'em--is not known to be the most interesting of cuisine. I mean, mushy peas... do I need to say more?
And once you've gathered these (bland) vegetables, you chop. And chop. And chop. It's a lot of chopping. I had a ruler, because I'm a freak, but honestly you don't need to be that exact with the filling. As one of my favorite chefs, Chef John of Food Wishes says, all you need to do is "pick a size and stick to it." The only way you could mess up the inside is by having wildly varied sizes of the filling ingredients. If you have a pebble-sized potato slice here and a golf ball-sized one there, they will not cook at the same time and one will be soggily overcooked while the other is inedibly undercooked. So, pick a size and stick to it.
Now here is where it all comes together. The prep work is done, the dough is hanging out, and you get to assemble. Get your dough out and divide it into four, along with your filling. And whip out your rolling pin (or an empty bottle of wine--hey now, we've all been there).
This dough is fantastic to roll out. It may be the chilled rest in the fridge, or the massive amount of fat--let's get real, it's the fat--but this dough easily rolls out thin without snapping back or sticking, and without a fear of ripping, even with the hefty amount of heavy filling we're asking it to hold.
The last step is the crimping, which, I'm told, is an integral part of the pasty process. I do not know how to crimp, and despite watching Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry, despite expert YouTube videos and walkthroughs, I still cannot crimp. Thankfully, and it seems I say this at least once in each of these Bake Off weeks, I am not being judged by Paul Hollywood, and he doesn't get a say on if my crimping is exactly proper. I'm only judged by my own taste buds, and the taste buds of my family.
And my taste buds (and my stomach) approve. I'm giddy for this golden brown. The crust, which is the true "baked" part of this challenge, was fabulous. While serving the utilitarian purpose of holding the nutrition of the filling, it also added a crisp and tough but tender texture that would have been missing if you ate the filling alone.
Speaking of the filling, I alluded earlier that British food is not the most interesting in terms of taste, and this is no different. I get that some people love potatoes, but in my opinion, this recipe has way too much potato, especially considering you have an entire crust to deal with. Not that I'm one to knock carbohydrates, but it's a bit overkill, I would knock the potatoes down to match the 7 ounces of the other root vegetable, and replace the missing with another 4 ounces of meat. After all, if I'm working in a tin mine, I would much rather get my energy from beef than from potato. Totally get that there are socio-economic matters at play in the history of these ingredients, but GMOs man. GMOs....
Altogether, I approve of the Cornish pasty. It's not hard to make (once you get over all the chopping), and boy, is it filling. I ate one of these at 2PM and wasn't hungry until the next morning. Plus, these things keep amazingly well (they'd better, if I'm having to feed a hungry miner throughout his day), and crisp back up with just a handful of minutes in an oven. Who says baked goods can't be savory, hm?
makes 4 pasties
500 grams (1 pound, 1 ounce) BREAD FLOUR
120 grams (4 ounces) LARD
1 teaspoon (5 grams) SALT
25 grams (1 ounce) BUTTER
3/4 cup (175 milliliters) COLD WATER
1 EGG, beaten with a little water and salt
350 grams (12 ounces) BEEF (rump or skirt steak or any good braising cut)
350 grams (12 ounces) POTATO
200 grams (7 ounces) RUTABAGA
175 grams (6 ounces) ONION
2 tablespoons BUTTER
SALT + PEPPER
1. Combine the FLOUR, LARD, SALT, BUTTER, and WATER and use a spoon to gently combine the ingredients, then switch to your hands and bring the ingredients into a dry dough
2. Work the dough using the heel of your hand to stretch, roll, and turn the dough and repeat for about 5 minutes until it's smooth and glossy
3. Wrap the dough in plastic and put it in the fridge for 30-60 minutes
4. Peel and cut the POTATOES, RUTABAGA, and ONION into 1cm squares, and cut BEEF into similar sized chunks
5. Put all filling ingredients in a bowl and mix and season with SALT + PEPPER
6. Lightly grease and line a baking tray and preheat the oven to 325F
7. Cut the dough into four equal-sized pieces and shape each piece into a ball, then roll out to a 10-inch wide circle
8. Spoon a quarter of the filling onto one half of each disk, and top with one quarter of the knob of BUTTER
9. Fold the pastry over, and join the edges and seal with your fingers, then crimp the edges with a fork, or by making small twists along the sealed edge, and fold the end corners underneath
10. Put the pasties on the baking tray, and brush the top of each pasty with the EGG wash
11. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for about 45 minutes, until the pasties are golden brown (if they're not browning, increase temperature 50F for the last 10 minutes)
A personal challenge to conquer every technical challenge, and select signature bakes, from The Great British Bake Off
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