Chocolate Brown and Dry

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The second time I made pasties it was just my father and me at home, because my mum was on a business trip, and he didn’t mind the idea that I was going to make dinner. What he didn’t like was finding out that I was going to make a vegetarian version of the Cornish pasty. My father is very much a meat man so he was grumbling a bit when we walked out of the grocery store with only root vegetables and a couple bottles of wine.

 

This time around I was going to try an American take on a crust using a recipe I found on the New York Times website. There aren’t a lot of published Cornish pasty recipes out there, but this one looked as good as any, at least the crust did, so I tested it out

For the filling I used information I found in Yarvin’s book, which I mentioned in the last post. It is traditional to use root vegetables, and although some people are strongly against using carrots when making their pasties, I couldn’t resist the temptation, I love carrots and the flavour they bring into a dish, and it is my recipe.

 

The cold American crust came together fairly well, I remembered to add a lot more water than the recipe called for and this time instead of using rice and oat flours as a substitute I used my favourite go-to gluten free flour: Pamela’s Pancake Mix. Yes it is meant to be a pancake mix, and it is a very good one, but over the years I have discovered that it can be substituted for any flour in any recipe, so far. However, that plus the ingredients being very cold, led to the downfall of this batch of pasties.

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The filling was potato, carrot, and parsnip tossed in salt, pepper and some dill, just to add a different flavour to the mix. The dough this time didn’t fall apart as easily, which I was very thankful for, and I was able to make the five pasties this time instead of just two. I didn’t make that much dough but I was happy with the five I made. There was some cracking on the dough part that I had to try to smooth back together, but overall better than my last batch. I still didn’t do any fancy crimp on the side because the gluten free dough wouldn’t allow it, but I didn’t mind, it still held its form.  To make things a little more different I even added some Worcestershire sauce to the beaten egg before brushing it over the outside of the pasty then popping them into the oven, this gave them more flavour and made the kitchen smell all the more fantastic.

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I set the timer, but apparently that was too long because they came out a little more than on the golden brown and delicious side, they were more like chocolate brown and dry. And I did check on them periodically throughout the baking process but I was also working on a cake at the time so I was heavily sidetracked too. The filling was perfect, though, and tasted great, but the crust was dry and fell apart way too easily which I think is because of the overcooking and because of the recipe itself. Cold ingredients in a piecrust make it flakier and that really isn’t what you want in a pasty crust; it needs to be strong and able to hold its form.

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So far neither of my attempts at the pasty have been perfect and exactly how I wanted them to turn out, but I do feel that I have enough knowledge now to know how to assemble a great gluten free pasty. It might take a few more experimentations on the crust but I am on the right track and I know I am very close to mastering my own recipe for a gluten free Cornish pasty.

And on a side note: the pasties I was cooking might have been a little burnt but the cake I was making turned out fantastic! Here is a picture of the final product.

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The cake is a spice cake with a simple butter cream frosting. The reason behind the spice cake is because in older times when meat would rot but they couldn’t afford to buy fresh meat, people would add a lot of spices to hid the rotten flavour. Yeah I put some creativity into this.
The skull is made of white chocolate, and brains are homemade marshmellow, the eyes are pulled sugar, the teeth are marzipan, the blood is black berries and cherry tea gelatin, the skin if fondant, and the best part, the ears are chocolate covered marzipan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

-Charlotte

A Very Traditional Cornish Pasty…

 

…with a gluten free twist.

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One evening while my parents were out to dinner with their friends, I had the kitchen to myself and that meant that it was time to make some pasties.

For my first attempt I used a recipe from the cookbook The Ploughman’s Lunch and the Miser’s Feast by Brian Yarvin. It is a cookbook on traditional British dishes and covers everything you can think of from fish & chips to treacle tart, and between the recipes are personal stories and background information on the dishes themselves.

The main thing I learned from Yarvin in regards to the Cornish pasty is the crust; there seems to be am American versus British way of doing things. In America, when making a crust like a piecrust, it is stressed to keep everything cold. All the ingredients are kept cold, sometimes event he bowl and before you roll it out, it has to be chilled for at least half an hour. However, in British cooking, it is stressed that everything be hot. Before mixing the liquids in with the flour they have to be boiled. I have always been told that keeping the ingredients chilled made for a flakier crust but with a traditional pasty, a flaky crust is not what the goal is. So the recipe I used for the crust is the one found in this cookbook for a traditional British hot-water crust.

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The recipe for the crust was easy to follow but I ran into some problems of my own. I am allergic to gluten so I had to substitute gluten free flours in for the all purpose wheat flour that the recipe called for. The flours I used instead were oat and white rice flour and for some reason they sucked all the moisture out of the dough so I had to compensate by adding more water than was called for. In the end, I don’t think I added enough water because when it came to the shaping process, things were going less than smoothly.

The filling came together nicely; I used potato, onion, turnip, and skirt steak, but then it was time to bring everything together before baking. Because the dough was on the dry side, folding it over the filling only made it crack and didn’t create the perfect little pocket I was hoping for. I tried to blend the dough back together the best I could using my fingers, a spatula, anything really, but that was a lot more time consuming.

In the end I only made two, but they had the shape and after some egg wash and time in the oven, they had the perfect golden brown crust and looked absolutely delicious. Neither of them had the traditional Cornish pasty side crimp but they were together and looked like a pasty and, more importantly, they tasted like a traditional pasty.

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The ingredients inside blended their flavours together nicely while cooking and the potato added some moisture to the turnip and onion. The steak, being baked, was a little chewy but that is how it is properly done for a Cornish pasty and that is why they are small-diced pieces. There isn’t much seasoning that is involved, I just tossed the filling with some salt and pepper to help bring out the earthy potato and turnip and to add some depth to the steak. Yarvin explains that to make a traditional Cornish pasty the ingredients have to be raw before being cooked, instead of cooking the filling beforehand, because that allows them to mingle and create their own flavour while baking inside the pasty crust. I agree wholeheartedly with this; I have never tasted a filling quite like this one and although the ingredients are a bit mundane, being mixed together and cooking them the way that they were created something new.

The smell was also quite amazing and it lingered in our kitchen at least until breakfast the next morning. It smelled of home cooking and comfort food, but not a traditional comfort food we come across in America, it is a British comfort food smell of earthy tones, a buttery crust, and just a hint of spice from the salt and pepper coating the steak. Even my parents fell victim to the pasties smell and couldn’t resist having some when they came home from dinner.

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Now, I did only make two pasties, and the recipe supplies ingredients to make way more than two. A great way to use any leftover filling and dough, because you were like me and didn’t have enough patience to deal with persnickety pasty dough, is create another British classic: the meat pie. I took some mini muffin tins, and some regular sized ones, and pushed dough along the edges. I filled them with as much filling as I could then for the larger pies I put a layer of crust on top and I baked them. They didn’t quite have the same flavour as the pasty, but it was similar and if just shows how versatile these ingredients can be.

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Crust Recipe:

4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more if needed

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 cup whole milk

1 cup shredded beef suet, lard, or shortening

1/2 cup water, plus hot water if needed

1. Sift flour and salt together into a large heatproof bowl. Bring the milk, suet, and water to a simmer in a small saucepan. Watch it carefully to make sure it doesn’t boil over, and give it a stir to keep things evenly distributed. once the mixture comes to a boil, immediately pour it over the flour and mix until a dough starts forming, using a wooden spoon at first, but then, as it cools, your hands.

2. If the dough is too dry to roll out, add hot water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it is workable. if it’s too soggy, add more flour, again 1 tablespoon at a time, until you can roll it. Divide the dough into 2 equal parts, form each one into a ball.

*For my pasties I used half of this recipe and instead of 2 cups of flour I used 1 1/2 cups of white rice flour and 1/2 cup of oat flour.*

Pasty Recipe:

2 Recipes of crust (Hot-Water Crust)

2 cups chopped potato

2 cups chopped onion

2 cups chopped turnip

1 lb. skirt steak, diced

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. If you have two balls of dough, divide each one into six equal portions, for a total of 12, and roll each into a ball. Dust a work surface with flour and use a rolling pin to roll each ball into a circle about 6 inches in diameter and a scant 1/8 inch thick. (Use a bowl or a very large cookie cutter as a template if you like.)

2. Leaving a 1/2 inch border for folding and sealing, cover half of each circle with a layer of potato. In layers add the onion, turnip, and beef, so that each layer covers the one below it. Sprinkle the filling with salt and pepper.

3. Fold the border of dough over the filling and pinch the dough repeatedly to create a seam that runs from end to end across the side of each pasty. If you want something a bit fancier, you can roll the seam or even try a twisted edge. Place the pasties on a well-oiled baking sheet, use a fork to poke a few holes in the top so steam can escape, and brush the pasties with the beaten egg.

4. Bake the pasties until the crusts are well browned, about 1 hour. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

-Charlotte

A Little History

Dickens Christmas Fair Food

(The lower right corner is the pasty. Photo taken from a blog post on the Great Dickens Christmas Fair: http://tinytinyfork.com/566/story/merry-christmas)

The Cornish pasty originated in Cornwall, England, and it is the iconic dish of the region. It is available with many different fillings but without a doubt, if you go to Cornwall then you are bound to find a pasty. I love England and having traveled to many, many cities all over the world, I can safely say that London is my number one favourite city. In addition to travel, I have a passion for food, which seem to go hand in hand, and I will admit that I do feel sorry for the British cuisine. It has such a bad reputation, so I wanted to do it justice and make on dish shine that would change a few minds on how we feel towards this traditional cuisine.

The first minds to change belonged to several of my family members. When I first announced this project at dinner one night, there were a few differences of opinion. My aunt began listing other dishes that I could make instead of the Cornish pasty, which I think were just dishes she was hungry for at the time. My grandfather said, ‘I’ve been to Cornwall and never heard of the dish before.’ I did not know how to respond to that, I just reassured him that they do exist and that they so come from Cornwall, but that got him started on listing other British foods I could focus on instead; ones he has heard of. My cousin was too engrossed in his dinner, and not eating it, to know what we were talking about while my uncle just replied with, ‘send us the recipe when your done.’ Clearly there are many things my family had to say in regards to my dish choice, but I stand by my pasty and prove that it can be just as good as coq au van and that they do exist for when I am done I shall send them the recipe and they make their own.

Now I am sure you are all wondering what exactly a Cornish pasty is and today we see all sorts of variations on it that you might have seen one before and have not realized it. A pasty is a little personal pie that is made up of two parts: crust and filling. The crust isn’t too flaky but isn’t bread either, and the filling is an assortment of root vegetables and traditionally steak, but when steak wasn’t available it could be fish or even just a vegetarian version. They are placed on the rolled out dough raw so the flavours can cook together and created their own flavour then the dough is folded over the filling, crimped on the side, a sweeping of egg wash over top to make it golden and then it is cooked. The ingredients to a pasty are commonly found in many British dishes because of the limited agriculture and farming in the cloudy country and traditionally a lot of these dishes come from the working class being that these were the ingredients that they could afford.

Historically, the pasty was something that workers brought for lunch because it was easy to eat and did not require any utensils. Their wives would make it and often times it would be a lunch and dessert in one: one side would be filled with meat and vegetables and the other side would have a fruit filling.

There use to be a British food store by my house but recently it closed, but they would have freezers full of different pasties. Yes they were frozen but they were quite delicious and they allowed me to have authentic British pasties without having to spend money on an airplane ticket.

As of right now the only place I can think of that sells pasties is at the Great Dickens Christmas Fair in Daly City (shown above). I am a caroler there and often find myself walking by the different food shops to see what they sell. On Saturday I saw that one place, The Roasting Beef Inne, had a lot of pasties in the window when the fair opened at 10, they must be good because by noon they were all gone.

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(London, England 2005. Pasty shop at a train station. Don’t remember if we actually got any pasties at the time though)

-Charlotte

The Challenge

Hello.
My name is Charlotte and this is my project. Some might know me from my other blogs (http://disney-eats.blogspot.com/ and http://lotso-cupcakes.blogspot.com/) but this is something different….despite it still being a food blog.

I was assigned the task to find where I was in my ability to cook and what would be the next step that would challenge my skills. I thought about and to be honest I did pick the cuisine before I figured out the food. I feel the British cuisine is always getting teased and picked on with how people say it is bland and everything is just boiled, and while that might be somewhat true, there are some gems within it. One of my favourite dishes is fish & chips, and that is British so  it can’t all by bad, but that I’ve made hundreds of times so that wasn’t new and challenging.

I did a little research to find what I wanted to cook that I hadn’t already cooked and that would be challenging and I found the dish.
The Cornish Pasty.
I love a good pasty and I am excited to make this and get it right. But there is a speed bump here. I am fairly good at following recipes so making a pasty and having it turn out sounds fairly simple, but my speed bump is the fact that I am allergic to gluten and soy. Gluten, or wheat, is found in pretty much all British dishes but being allergic to it for close to six years now I know how to work with gluten free flours. What is challenging about this particular dish is that it is free standing, there is no bowl or cup that helps the dough keep its shape, without it gluten free doughs tend to just flatten out or not turn out right. But I am determined to develop my own gluten free recipe for the Cornish pasty and, of course, to pass this assignment.

So please follow and keep coming back to see where I am in this process. When the recipe is done I will post it on here.

-Charlotte