My husband and I went to Michigan for our summer vacation this year. In honor of his Michigan heritage and our trip, I wanted to post a Michigan favorite – pasties. It’s pronounced past-ee, not paste-y, a mistake this non-Michigander has made several times.
I’ve read that pasties were brought over to Michigan by Cornish miners who needed a portable lunch for their work in the mines. Rumor also has it that the original pasties were boiled, and the dough may not have been eaten but torn aside to get to the sweet and savory fillings within.
That last one sounds unsavory to me, so I’m sticking with baked pasties. Pasties also range in size from small, handheld versions to the size of dinner plates. The filling also changes from ground meat to diced meat, depending on whose recipe you use. I like to keep it simple – ground meat, diced veggies, and a little salt and pepper. Pasties are hearty and filling, so I keep mine on the smaller side. I dice the veggies small and precook the filling so the pasties don’t take as long to bake, and I can make sure all the sturdy root vegetables are tender. I make no claims that this recipe is “authentic” – I’m sure I’d get a lot of flack for the butter crust instead of using the traditional lard, and the veggies casually whirled in a food processor and then precooked. But this is works best in my kitchen, so I’m sticking with it.
This recipe makes a little extra filling than you’ll need for the amount of dough. I like to freeze the leftover filling as a reminder to make pasties again. If you want to eat like the miners, consider making fruit-filled hand pies to serve alongside the pasties and enjoy a meal you only need your hands to eat, plates and napkins optional.
To make the dough, combine the flour and pinch of salt.
Cut the butter into small cubes. Using your fingers, rub the butter into the flour until pea-sized pieces of butter remain and all the flour is coated with butter. If you grab a handful of the flour and squeeze it, it should stay together in a clump.
Add most of the ice water, and stir the dough together. Add more ice water as needed until a dough forms. I find that on humid days I need a little less water, and on dry days I need more.
Divide the dough in half, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to use. The dough can be made ahead and refrigerated for a day or two or frozen for a few months.
For the filling:
Peel the carrots, potatoes, and rutabaga.
Cut the vegetables into small dice. Or, if you want to save time, cut them into large cubes, and give them a quick whirl in your food processor like I did.
Brown the ground beef in a skillet. Season with salt and pepper.
Add the veggies and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the veggies are just becoming tender. Season with salt and pepper and taste filling. Adjust seasonings.
Allow the filling to cool while you prepare the dough.
When you're ready to use the dough, remove it from the fridge and let it warm up on the counter for a few moments. You can also give it a few hard whacks with your rolling pin to soften it. Sprinkle both sides of the dough with flour and roll out to 1/4-inch thick.
Trace a circle 5" in diameter in the dough (I usually trace a small plate). Cut as many as you can, then gather the scraps and reroll the dough. Trace and cut more circles. I only roll the dough twice, because it gets stiffer and less tender the more you handle it.
Repeat the rolling out and cutting circles process with the second disk of dough.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Put two to three tablespoons of filling on one side of the dough round. I use my 1/8 cup and heap it up a bit. Dot the top of the filling with a bit of butter if you desire. It's optional, but it tastes good.
Moisten the outer edge of the dough round with a bit of water, then fold the dough in half, covering the filling.
Crimp the edge closed with a fork or roll it up with your fingers.
Cut a few slits in the top of pasty. (Alternatively, you can use a small cookie cutter to punch out a design in the top part of the dough before folding it over the filling.)
Transfer for a parchment lined baking sheet. If the dough is hard to handle, or the pasties are difficult to move, put the dough rounds onto the baking tray and fill them there.
When all of your pasties are filled, crimped closed, and steam vents are sliced in the tops, put them in the oven.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the they are golden brown.
Let them cool a few moments, because the filling will be very hot. Enjoy!
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