The Great Ongoing Pasty Experiment

The Finished Product:

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Ingredients:

1c brown rice flour
3/4c bean or chickpea flour (I used garfava)
3/4c arrowroot, corn, or potato starch (I had my best results with arrowroot)
1/2c tapioca starch
4.5 tsp xanthan gum
1/4c Earth Balance, melted
2 tbsp cooked oatmeal
3/4c + 2 tbsp water

extra rice flour for rolling surface
rolling pin
parchment paper
damp tea towel
cookie trays

Method:

  1. Prep your fillings.  Maybe in a later post I’ll post some filling suggestions.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 F.
  3. Thoroughly mix flours, starches, and xanthan gum.
  4. Mix in the melted Earth Balance.  I use a stand mixer to mix my doughs.
  5. Whisk together cooked oatmeal and water, then add to dough and mix.
  6. Dough will be somewhat crumbly.  You will need to remove it from the stand mixer and work it by hand for the rest of the process.  If the dough is too crumbly, carefully drip very small amounts of water onto it until it holds together.
  7. Lightly flour your rolling surface and begin rolling out your dough.  You want the dough to be fairly thin, between 1/16 and 1/8 of an inch.  Gluten free dough can get quite sticky, so make sure you are picking the dough up and turning it frequently so it doesn’t stick to your surface.
  8. Cut out roundels of dough to your desired size.  Something like the lid of a small saucepan is a good size.
  9. Cover cut roundels with a dampened tea towel until you’re ready to work with them.
  10. Prepare one pasty at a time.  Spoon filling onto half of the roundel, leaving at least an inch border around the edge.
  11. Using your finger or a pastry brush, wet the edge of the roundel and fold the pasty closed.  Pinch the edges carefully to seal them.  Gluten free dough doesn’t stick to itself quite as well as wheat dough, and it tears more easily, so watch carefully for breaks in the dough.  You may want to ensure the pasty is sealed by either rolling the edges or pressing them together with a fork.
  12. Create vents in the top of the pasty with a knife or the tines of a fork.
  13. Place constructed pasties on a sheet of parchment paper on a cookie sheet and bake for approximately 25 minutes or until they feel solid and sound hollow when tapped.  Gluten free dough does not brown like wheat dough.

Level of Authenticity: I used modern materials and techniques to create a version of a dish I believe to be period that is responsive to modern food sensitivities.  I did research on the modern techniques I would need but I haven’t done any real period food research.

Who: Basically I’m piggybacking on the research done by Mistress Coryn of the Wode.

What: This year at Quad War I took a class from Mistress Coryn on pasties.  They are a filled, baked pastry and they can have a savory or sweet filling.  At the class, we used two different kinds of jams for sweet fillings and a combination of chicken, bacon, egg, cheese, and raisins for the savory filling.

When: I didn’t pay attention to the exact dates because I was too excited about playing with the wood fired oven.  I’m going to guess they might have been made any time after about the eleventh century, but maybe they go back to Roman times or even further.

Where: Another thing I didn’t pay attention to.  I got the impression they are from Western Europe but I don’t know if they are also made in other parts of the world  (like, say, dumplings, which seem pretty universal).

Why: Mistress Coryn suggested that pasties are a good travel food because they are self-contained and, if sealed properly, don’t necessarily need refrigeration.  Based on this I thought they might be a good camping food for me because I don’t like to cook and I don’t like to carry a cooler, so I decided to experiment.  I have relatives and SCA family members who are celiac, and others who are allergic to casein (a milk protein) and/or eggs, so I always try to make gluten-free and dairy-free versions of foods.

How: When we did Mistress Coryn’s pasties, we used a pastry dough of 3c wheat flour; 1/4c melted butter; salt; and one egg whisked with water to make up to a cup of liquid.  We rolled the dough out, cut it into circles, filled it, sealed the edges, and poked a few holes in the pastry to let the steam escape.  Then we baked them in the wood fired oven on the Quad War site for about 20 minutes total.  We didn’t use a thermometer in the oven but Coryn and Alice thought that it was probably significantly higher than 350 F.  The pasties came out a nice golden brown color.

Having been involved in the whole process, I had the chance to observe how the wheat flour dough behaved when worked and what the finished product looked like.  It was then time to try to replicate the results at home.  I had several substitutions to try to make:

Gluten Free substitutions

There are a variety of 1-for-1 gluten free flour substitutes out there, but I prefer to mix my own because different flours and different proportions have different properties, depending on what you need your flour to do in your recipe.  Here I relied on the “High-Protein Flour Blend” from Gluten Free and More, which they recommend for baked goods that require elasticity, like wraps and pie crusts.  Conveniently, the master recipe adds up to 3c of flour, which is what I needed to replicate the original recipe.  Gluten Free and More also offers guidelines for how much xanthan gum to add to your baking.  Xanthan gum is a key ingredient in gluten free baking because it prevents your product from crumbling.  For pizza dough or pie crust, the guideline is to add 1.5 tsp per cup of flour blend.

Dairy Free substitutions

There are two dairy ingredients in Mistress Coryn’s pasty dough, butter and eggs.  Again when making substitutions, it’s important to look at what the ingredient is doing in the recipe.  Butter is a fat that’s solid at room temperature, but it’s melted in order to mix into the dough.  I’m familiar with two vegan fats that are also solid at room temperature, coconut oil and Earth Balance (aka margarine).  If you weren’t worried about using animal products, you could maybe also try lard, but I’ve never used it so I don’t know how well it would work.  Of the two options I was willing to consider, coconut oil has a much less neutral flavor, so I decided to use Earth Balance.

Eggs are a lot trickier to substitute, because they are often performing more than one function in the same recipe.  They can be a binder, they can be a setting agent, they can provide elasticity, or they can provide leavening, and in each case you need to use a different sort of substitution.  Once I saw how the original pasty dough behaved, it seemed like the egg was being used mainly for binding and elasticity, so I needed to choose a substitution that would give me the same characteristics.  A couple years ago, Gluten Free and More had a recipe for toaster pastries that used 2 tbsp cooked oatmeal in place of an egg to provide binding and elasticity in the dough, and I thought that would be the right approach here as well.  Note that although oats can be certified gluten free, some celiacs also have a problem digesting oats, so in that case a different egg substitute would be needed.  If there’s interest, I might try this in a future blog post.

 

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