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While pastry has served as a container for food for centuries, a Cornish pasty is unique to Cornwall, a memento of its mining past although they are eaten by everyone, for lunch, for tea, whenever a quick and portable meal is needed. It was designed to accompany a miner to the mine in his pocket and it contained enough for at least a couple of meals. The miner's initials were usually carved into one end, to vent steam as it baked and so there would be no question to whom the pasty belonged.
Pasties today are a bit smaller and the fillings are not quite the hearty fare they were in the past. The following recipe also works with the fillings in Savory Pies for Supper.
The Pasty Pastry
2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (4 ounces) lard (traditional but you can substitute vegetable shortening and/or butter)
1 beaten egg
1 tablespoon water
2 teaspoons vinegar
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for wash
A Traditional Miner's Filling
1 cup turnips, coarsely chopped
1 pound cubed or diced lean beef (uncooked)
1 medium onion (3/4 to 1 cup), chopped
2 cups potatoes, diced
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat your oven to 400°F.
To make the pastry: Combine the flour and salt. Cut the lard into small pieces and distribute evenly over the flour. With two knives, a pastry cutter or your fingertips, cut or rub the fat lightly into the flour, lifting it up as you do to incorporate as much air as possible and to keep the mixture cool. Continue until the mixture resembles cracker crumbs.
Beat the egg, water and vinegar together. Sprinkle this lightly over the flour mixture, using a fork to distribute it as evenly as possible.
Gather the dough together, knead it gently until it becomes cohesive and divide it into four pieces. Cover with plastic wrap and chill while you prepare your filling. As a result of the kneading, you will develop the gluten somewhat, usually a "no-no" in making pastry. In this case, because these are hand-held pastries, you want a dough that will hold together. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes or until they are golden brown. (The smaller pasties will bake more quickly; the uncooked fillings will need a longer baking time.)
To make the filling: Put all the ingredients together in a mixing bowl and mix together with your hands or a large spoon. This filling is placed uncooked in the pasty to cook along with the pasty in the oven.
Assembly and baking:
After the filling is ready, roll each piece of dough out on a floured surface into four 6-inch (approximately) circles (or, for "two-bite" pasties, ten 3 1/2-inch circles).
Place a dollop of filling in the center. Dampen the edges, bring them up and over the filling and pinch them together. Flute the edge as you would the edge of a pie crust so it looks like the back of a tiny dinosaur. Turn up the ends just a bit so they look a little like devil's horns. (This helps keep the filling and juices inside the pasty.)
Cut a design (or initials) on one of the sides, as you would a pie crust, to release steam.
Place the pasties on their backs on a greased baking sheet so their fluted seamed edges are up. Brush with the egg wash. Bake at 400°F for the first 15 minutes. Lower the temperature to 350°F and bake for a further 25 to 30 minutes.
Nutrition information per serving (1 pasty, 280 g): 478 cal, 22 g fat, 24 g protein, 44 g complex carbohydrates, 3 g dietary fiber, 169 mg cholesterol, 434 mg sodium, 576 mg potassium, 13 mg vitamin C, 3 mg iron, 100 mg calcium, 232 mg phosphorus.
Nutrition information per serving (1 pasty, 300 g): 626 cal, 46 g fat, 10 g protein, 40 g complex carbohydrates, 6 g dietary fiber, 132 mg cholesterol, 661 mg sodium, 607 mg potassium, 16 mg vitamin C, 4 mg iron, 272 mg calcium, 208 mg phosphorus.
This recipe reprinted from The Baking Sheet Newsletter, Vol. III, No. 5, May-June 1991 issue.