Cornish Pasty – I’m sorry Cornwall

These poor pasties didn’t stand a chance.  The world…or really just me….was against them from the start.  Something about raw meat going into pastry put me off.   I was cavalere in ingedient assembly and I didn’t do my homework.  Usually I’ll rewatch the episode of the bake I am doing to get some tips and an idea of what I’m going for and generally to get excited to make the recipe.  I dropped the ball on this one and my pasties suffered.   For this I must apologize to you, people of Cornwall, who I know are all reading this with baited breath…maybe not.

Step one was pastry.  I have to admit I am very ignorant when it comes to pastry.  As much as I say things like “rough puff” and “short crust” in a fancy British accent I don’t really understand the different methods or ratios used to create the things.  Or really when one is used over another.  I kind of wish the recipes I am using had a bit more of an explanation in them but I guess I should be thankful for what little I do get considering a true technical doesn’t even have a picture or sometimes a method of the bake itself.

So without knowing exactly what I was making I forged ahead and followed the instructions.  Basically put all the pastry ingredients together and mix.  With my pastry dough together I started to knead it.  By now we all know my fear of overworking dough but in this case, I wasn’t concerned.  Something needed to be done to this lump to make it resemble pastry and if Paul says that’s kneading well then I’m going to knead.

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Kneading this dough was actually really tough.  It was just hard and didn’t really seem to get much softer as I went.  The chance of creating something smooth and glossy as the recipe described seemed next to impossible.  I also had the troubling experience of realising that the pastry and my counter were EXACTLY the same colour.  And I don’t love the colour of my counter. It did not look appetizing.

After about 6-7 minutes I’d had all I could take and the dough was as glossy as I was going to make it.  Smooth was way beyond my grasp so the semi-glossy cellulite-y dough went into the fridge to recover from it’s traumatizing start to life.

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I thought of this challenge in two parts.  Part one was the pastry and part two was the filling.  I have to admit I went off the rails with the filling.  I didn’t want to have to go out a buy a bunch of different stuff for the bake so I substituted chicken for the beef and sweet potato for the waxy potatoes.  That being said I did get a rutabaga, or swede as Paul calls it.  Mainly because I didn’t know what a rutabaga was and this seemed like as good a time as any to find out.

I chopped up my radical filling ingredients and got the dough back out of filling.  Rolling out this dough was not an easy feat.  It had rested for about 40 minutes and did not want to be disturbed.  As I rolled the pastry kept shrinking back on itself.  I had to put all my weight into it to get a somewhat circular shape.  I have since been googling pastry like mad and think this might have something to do with the gluten developed during kneading, which is needed for this pastry since it is meant to be super tough.  With a furrowed brow and tight grip on the rolling pin I persevered and got something capable of holding the filling.

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At this point getting 20 perfect crimps around the edges as tradition dictates was the furthest thing from my mind.  I wanted these things in the oven and out of my life.  So I twisted them closed and threw them in the oven.  45 minutes later I check the cooking progress and there was no browning in slight.  The pasties remained the same counter colour as ever.  I cranked up the heat and waited another 15 minutes.  After an hour in the over, they were passably golden so I took them out.  Things quickly went from bad to worse.

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Have you ever seen a soggier bottom?  This was after an hour in the oven.  My only theory is that it was because I baked them on a pan with a Silpat, the recipe warned against using greaseproof paper but my Canadian self thought Silpat would be ok.  Clearly, something went wrong.  The upside of this disaster though was that I could confirm the filling had cooked.  The surviving pasties went back in the oven in a rather unconventional position.

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Cut to 30 minutes later when our hunger overpowered the need for crisp pastry, I took them out for one last time.  All in all, they were in the over for almost an hour a 40 minutes and they did not look like the nice golden pasties I’m sure you find in Cornwall.  My very kind husband still made a meal of it and said they weren’t too terrible.  The filling was cooked and there was pastry, all be it pale and kind of soggy.  One pasty remains in my freezer for when we are desparate for a quick meal but for now it’s a sad reminder that I need a lot more education and patience when it comes to pastry.

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8 thoughts on “Cornish Pasty – I’m sorry Cornwall

  1. Oh my, not the best looking pasty, but the filling cooked! I don’t think I could bring myself to knead pastry, it just seems anti pastry. Keep on baking 🙂

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  2. I’m of Cornish descent on my mother’s side (her parents emigrated to Canada from Cornwall in the early 1900’s) so I grew up on pasties (when my mother could find them in the bakery, anyway — she didn’t make them herself) and Saffron Cake (which she DID make herself, and which I now make every year at Christmas). Silly me, who has never baked a successful pie crust in her life, had the idea a few years ago that I was going to make homemade Cornish pasties as a treat for my mom and dad.

    Happily I found a good recipe and they DID turn out well, or at least my mom said so. But I found the filling a bit bland, despite using the right cut of beef and the right amounts of potatoes and turnip. Apparently the secret is to be really bold with the salt and pepper, but next time I’d be tempted to cheat on the authenticity and add some real flavour to it with Montreal steak seasoning or some other spices.

    A truly good Cornish pasty is a fine thing, though. I had a great one when I visited Cornwall back in 2012, and I’ve been thinking wistfully of them ever since.

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    1. Saffron Cake sounds so interesting! What a great tradition. I haven’t given up on the Cornish Pasty, on my next attempt I will stay true to the recipe and be very liberal with the seasoning. I’m sure the real thing is delicious! If only I could manage to travel around and try all these bakes as they should be before I make my attempt 🙂

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      1. Depending on where you are, it’s not too hard to find pasties at local bakeries and such. I live in Stratford ON and our little downtown bakery sells quite good ones. That led me to do a bit of curiosity Googling, and I discovered this place in the Ottawa valley, which I may just have to check out when I go on vacation…

        As for Saffron Cake, it’s quite different from any other fruit cake or bread I know of and my German-born husband says it “tastes like medicine”, so it may be an acquired taste! But I love it and look forward to making it every year. Warm from the oven with a fresh cup of tea, it’s heavenly… even if the cost of the saffron and other ingredients does work out to something like $15 a loaf (!!!).

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      2. Thats good to know. I will be on the look out next time I’m in Stratford. I should know what the end result should taste like before I give them a second try.

        I don’t think I’ve ever tasted saffron so I even can’t imagine the flavour. Sometimes it’s the memories that the tastes envoke that make the experience even better. My sister and I love a strange jello pudding concoction that my grandma used to make mostly because it reminds us of her 🙂 You can’t put a price on those kinds of recipes.

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