Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Cornish Pasties and a Bonus

I spent a week exploring California's Gold Country -- seeing towns like Ione, Sutter Creek, Nevada City, Grass Valley, and Jackson.  What fun!  I learned a lot about mining technology, the history of the towns (most burned down at least once), the personalities of the prominent people, and the various cultures that were imported from around the world.  The primary time period is from 1849 (when gold was discovered) to about 1900.

One group that contributed much to the advancement of gold mining technology was the Cornish miners.  They were particularly good at mining underground!  Here's a little bit about them:  They brought with them their traditions, their songs, and their recipes for pasties (pronounced "past - ees", not "paste - ees").

    Picture from

This traditional lunch was designed to be hearty and easy to eat. One source even claimed the miners held the fancy crust border with their dirty hands, ate the part with the filling, and then threw away the border so as to keep their food clean.

Upon visiting the Empire Mine, I picked up a flyer they published called "The Cornish Miner and His Pasty".  It, of course, contained a recipe which I decided to try.

Cornish Pasties

3 cups flour
1 cup shortening
1 tsp. salt
8 tbs. cold water (approx.)
4 tsp butter
5 potatoes, sliced thin
2 lb round stead, diced
3 onions, cut thin
minced parsley
salt, pepper to taste

Make a rich dough by mixing flour, salt, shortening, water.

I used my Kitchenaid mixer with the wire attachment to first cut the shortening into the flour and salt mixture.  It resembles cornmeal when you get it right.

Then I used the mixer again to blend in just enough water to make the dough stick together.  Use very cold water so the shortening doesn't melt during the mixing process.

It was a hot day and my kitchen matched that, so after I scrunched the dough into a ball, I covered it and popped it into the refrigerator while I made the filling.

The recipe continues with...

Divide into six parts and roll out each part about 1/4 inch thick.

I waited until the filling was made before doing this.

Combine remaining ingredients...

Now this picture doesn't show it, but this is a large bowl (5 inches high and 10 inches wide) and it is pretty full.  How am I going to fit all this into the six parts of the dough???

I had promised myself to do the recipe as it was written, so I bravely continued.

Here is one piece of the dough rolled out:

It is the requested 1/4 inch thick and turned out to be about 8 inches in diameter.

... and place filling on each section of pastry.  Fold over half and pinch edges together so that juices will not run out.

After a bit of practice, I found what seemed to be a good quantity of filling and still leave enough dough to cover it.  I didn't even try for the fancy border!  

I worked with my hands to press out the air and compress the filling so I could make a pinched border around it.  The dough did break in a few places so I expected leakage.

Cut hole in top of pastry and in this hole put a chunk of butter.  

I used a small spoon to twist a hole in the top, making nearly a complete circle and leaving the flap of dough attached.

The white stuff is the butter

The amount of butter listed in the recipe was too much for these six pasties, so I used half of it here and the other half about 30 minutes later.

Place in baking pan and bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes; then reduce temperature to 350 degrees and continue baking for 45 - 50 minutes.  When pasties are baking good, put a little hot water through the hole of each one to keep them from becoming too dry.  May be served hot, or cold on a picnic.

"Baking good" to me meant about 30 minutes into the cycle, so that is when I poured in some hot water from my kettle and dropped in the second batch of butter.  There was leakage of juices from the breaks but not in a bad way.

So how did they turn out?

The Verdict:  Oh my, they were yummy and filling, too.  Moist and rich and flavorful.  They even made my house smell good.  I declare it a success!

I loved this quote from the flyer:

"Remember, pizza delivery and quick hamburgers were not even conceived at this early time and what you brought from home had to serve you throughout your 12 hour work day.  (While you shoveled rocks.)"

I think I would have brought all six pasties with me in order to accomplish that task!


Now let's return to the giant bowl of filling, shall we?

This is what was left over after I made the six pasties:

The level was only dropped down by about an inch or so.  This is a lot of leftover filling!  I figured that I could have made 3 to 4 more batches of dough to use all this up.  So I would recommend that you either reduce the filling quantities to 1/4 of what was listed or make four batches of dough.  This would get you 24 pasties.

I wasn't up to making more pasties -- did I mention it was hot? -- so I took the remaining filling and added some flour, some spices and herbs (pepper, marjoram, savory, and powdered garlic), diced carrots, and 28 ounces of chicken broth.  This turned it into a large bowl of stew.

Before cooking
I baked it, covered, for about an hour at the same 350 degrees as the pasties.  The stew also turned out delicious and so I got a bonus from my pasty recipe.

Final Note:   A quick look around the Internet shows me that there is no limit to pasty fillings except in your imagination.  Ham-and-cheese, chicken-and-vegetables; even dessert pasties with Nutella-and-strawberries or pumpkin pie filling exist.  Basically, if you have a tasty filling, wrap it up in a pastry and you have something fun to eat.  I particularly liked that the crust was thick and rich because it added to the heartiness of the taste. 

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