I discovered the Cornish pasty while living in England when wheat was still a staple of my diet. A Cornish what? Most Americans have never even heard of this British delight. And it rhymes with “nasty” by the way. Please do not pronounce this like an accessory worn by burlesque dancers.
The pasty is a simple, practical, inexpensive, delicious and filling meal. It is quintessentially British: comfort food done well. The traditional pasty is a chunky stew of beef, potato, rutabaga and onion all tucked within a portable pastry package. There are many other popular variations: vegetable pasties, chicken curry pasties, lamb pasties, pork and apple pasties. You get the idea–take any stewy, one-pot dish and you’ve got the perfect filling. Unlike Americans, who prefer sweet dessert pies, the British tend to make savory pies. But I think the pasty could also be the perfect vehicle for a personal apple or berry pie.
I would like to point out that British food has an ill-deserved bad reputation. It may be straight-forward and hearty, featuring a plethora of potatoes, but I see no fault in that. There are some foods that the Brits do exceedingly well: anything with gluten or dairy. They make delicious breads, pastries and cakes. If you if you’ve never spread thick clotted cream over a fluffy scone or savored a crumbly hunk of blue Stilton, then you haven’t really lived.
The great baking tradition of the Brits isn’t very helpful for those of us who don’t eat gluten. Fortunately, I developed a pasty dough using one of my favorite all-purpose gluten-free flour blends, Gluten Free Mama, Mama’s Almond Blend Flour. You can buy it on Amazon in two-pound or four-pound packages.
While I’m a fairly decent cook, my baking can be hit or miss. Sometimes what I make works, sometimes it doesn’t. Most of the time, I just eat food that is naturally gluten-free. Still, there are days when I get the urge to recreate gluten-free versions of my favorite gluten-containing baked goods. At the urging of my British husband who had been craving a good pasty, I decided to give it a try. I consulted a few recipes online and then came up with my own. It worked perfectly on the first try.
Pasty dough is unique. It is similar to short crust pastry, but has a bit more heft. It needs to be sturdy enough to carry around without crumbling and falling apart. Still, it should be tender and flaky. This recipe captures those features. The crust is rich and flaky without a hint of toughness, but absolutely will not fall apart. It is also incredibly easy to handle and nearly impossible to overwork.
I have not included a filling as part of this recipe. There are so many delicious things you could stuff in a pasty, so be creative and come up with your own sweet or savory version. Consult the internet if you’d like. There are plenty of pasty filling recipes out there.
If you think you’ve created a winning filling, please leave a comment with your recipe under this post!
- 265 grams of Mama’s Almond Blend Flour
- 1/4 tsp of salt
- 2 tsp of xanthan gum
- 3/4 stick of unsalted butter (6 tbsp)
- 2 eggs
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup of cold water
Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Meanwhile, mix the flour with the salt and xanthan gum in a large bowl. Next, cut the butter into small chunks and rub it into the flour using your fingertips. This recipe isn’t too fussy so you don’t need to worry about keeping the butter ice-cold. In a separate bowl, whisk together one of the eggs, vinegar and water. Pour this into the flour-butter mixture and combine first with a spoon, then using your hands until a dough ball forms. Knead the ball for a couple of minutes until it is stretchy, pliable and even in texture.
At this point, you can refrigerate or freeze your dough, or if you are ready to use it, roll it out and cut into circles about the size of a small corn tortilla. I use a lid to a Pyrex bowl as my template. You will have a lot of scraps left over. Simply scoop these up, form into a new ball and re-roll. I promise, it won’t get tough!
Put a dollop of filling on each dough circle. Now take the second egg and lightly beat it. Using a pastry brush, brush a bit of egg on the inner edges of the dough circle, fold it in half and crimp the edges. Brush more egg over the top. Poke a couple of holes in the pasty with the tines of the fork. Once all pasties are similarly prepared, pop them in the oven on an ovenproof dish lined with parchment paper and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve hot and enjoy!