So, apparently it’s a British thing… I had never heard of a hot water crust until I started watching the Great British Baking Show. But, in the first season, the contestants were challenged to do a 3-tiered pie and I was amazed to see them unmold pies from springform pans and stack them on top of each other for service, so I figured I’d give it a try.
I’ve got to say, I was somewhat uncertain about trying the hot water crust based on what Cook’s Illustrated has to say on the topic of this kind of crust: “When we compared a hot-water crust in several recipes…with our Foolproof Pie Dough… we understood why it might not have been eaten in the past. …[S]ome tasters called it “mealy”…. While a hot-water crust is simple to prepare and easy to work with, stick with our Foolproof Pie Dough if you want pastry worth eating.”
Having taken their opinion into account, though, I checked out a few British sources for an authentic recipe and settled on one from the BBC, though, of course, I didn’t follow it precisely.
- I rendered beef suet to use in the crust, because I was out of fat back to render for lard and also because I was making a beef pot pie.
- I cut the amount of suet used in half and substituted butter for the other half because I was concerned that 100% beef fat would be too much.
- I added some salt, hers, and spices to the recipe to add some flavor in (and perhaps battle against the shortcomings that Cook’s Illustrated perceived).
- 100g Beef Fat (or Lard)
- 100g Butter
- 220mL Water (I measured in grams on my scale)
- 575g All Purpose Flour
- 1 tsp Kosher Salt
- Herbs (oregano, marjoram, thyme)
- Spices (Aleppo Pepper, Garlic Powder, Paprika)
- 4 quarts combined leftovers from a roast beef and roasted vegetable dinner, including about a cup of croutons, and moistened with a bit of tomato juice.
- Next time I do this, I am leaning toward using braised, shredded meat instead of roasted meat. Either will work just fine, though.
- Preheat oven to 375.
- Combine butter, animal fat, and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil.
- Meanwhile, measure dry ingredients into a large bowl.
- Pour hot water and fat mixture into the flour mixture. Combine with a wooden spoon and then turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth.
- Cut 1/4 of the dough off for the top crust, then roll the rest out into a large circle. It will not roll like a normal pie crust, but rather has an almost bready consistency. I had a bit of an issue getting it to pick up and transfer without tearing; I might try putting down a bit more flour before rolling next time.
- Transfer the bottom crust to a 24″ springform pan. Lift the edges and fit it into the bottom of the dish all the way around. Cur some scraps from the edges and press in to patch any holes that develop.
- Press your 4 quarts of filling into the pan. Roll out the top crust, place on top, and fold the bottom crust up over the top and crimp closed to guard against leaks (Paul and Mary don’t want the pie to have any leaks). Cut some vent holes in the top. From what I can tell, one centrally placed hole is typical for the Brits; sometimes they will use a cinnamon stick as the vent (and, one would assume, to impart flavor into the pie as it bakes)
- Bake for about 30 minutes at 375, then drop the temperature to 350 and bake for another 60.
- When the crust has developed an attractive golden brown and the pie is baked all the way through, set it on a raised surface (such as a jar) and release it from the springform pan. Slide onto a plate or cutting board for service.