When it's good to get into hot water

 hot water crust

When my husband and I were traveling through England on our anniversary trip last month, we enjoyed a few meat pies. My husband remarked that the crust was interesting and very different from the flaky pot pie crusts that I made. He wondered if I could learn to make something like the sturdy yet tender package that we experienced. At first I was stumped, but then I remembered hot water pastry. 

I had only used hot water pastry once before, but not because it was difficult or time consuming. It's quite the opposite, in fact, as Sam Worley of Epicurious explains in an article about the history and uses for hot water crusts. Instead of cutting the fat into flour and using ice cold water as in pâte brisée, in these crusts, the fat, whether "lard, shortening, butter, or beef suet...is emulsified in boiling water as it's incorporated into the flour, meaning this is much more uniform throughout, less flaky, and better able to stand up to chunky or wet fillings than other kinds of pie crust. It's especially good wrapped around free-form pastries," notes Worley. 

Unlike its cold-loving cousins, hot water pastry isn't delicate. In fact, you really need to work the dough vigorously, says Worley. Another advantage of the pastry is that you don't need to let it rest before working it - it's ready to roll out as soon as it is made. While Worley's recipe calls for you to work the butter into the flour briefly before adding the boiling water, I've also used recipes where the fat is boiled along with the water and this emulsion is added to the flour, like the Food52 recipe shown above. Use whichever method makes you more comfortable. 

2 Comments

  • anightowl  on  11/1/2016 at 8:04 PM

    Interesting. I have seen a recipe for hot water pastry it in my Great British Cooking book, https://www.eatyourbooks.com/library/15633/great-british-cooking-a-well but have never made it as it is for a cold meat pie, and its not something I have considered making. Now that I think on it though, it may be quite good for a cool weather picnic this fall. Hmmm...

  • FJT  on  11/12/2016 at 3:41 PM

    Yes, we use hot water pastry for many of the iconic English pies that can be eaten hot or cold - like a really good pork pie. You can also make a gluten-free hot water crust and you've reminded me that I really must make a gluten-free pie for the holidays.

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