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British Beef Hand Pies, aka Cornish Pasties

British Beef Hand Pies

This is a meal in dish—and you can make this pie-like, flaky, and tender pastry the day (or night) before and the stew up to 5 days before. I also make mini versions for catered events—and I often add a spicy hot South Indian-style curry. Allow time to chill the dough for at least 1 hour or up to overnight. Keep calm and make pasties!

  • Duration
  • Cook Time
  • Prep Time
  • 10 meal-sized beef hand pies ServingsServings


The Dough

  • 4 cups (520 grams) unbleached, all-purpose flour, King Arthur preferred
  • 3 cups (240 grams) cake flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2 tablespoons (16 grams) cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons (10 grams) baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons (4 grams) kosher salt
  • 1 cup (200 grams) very cold non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening
  • 2 ½ sticks (280 grams / 20 tablespoons / 1¼ cups) very cold non-dairy, non-hydrogenated margarine
  • ¾ cup (6 fluid ounces) cold, unflavored soy milk
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon water

Beef Stew Filling (makes about 4½ cups)

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds rib steak or short rib meat, boneless, cut into 1-inch cubes, all gristle removed
  • 2 teaspoons teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 shallots, peeled and minced
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
  • ¼ cup jarred green peppercorns, drained
  • ⅔ cup Cognac, Armagnac or good-quality brandy
  • 2 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice
  • 2 small (tiny) turnips or parsnips, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice
  • ¼ cup beef stock, low-sodium preferred
  • 1½ teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon roughly cracked black pepper


Make the dough:

Sift together the all-purpose and cake flours, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Transfer to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade.

Add the cold shortening and margarine and process until the mixture resembles pebbles. Add the soy milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, pulsing between additions, and adding just enough to hold the dough together. Once the dough begins to form a ball in the processor, flour a work surface lightly, place the dough on it and shape into a flat, round disk. Wrap in plastic and let rest in refrigerator for 1 hour or overnight.

While the dough is chilling, make the filling:

Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet set over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Pat the beef cubes dry with paper towels and season with the salt and pepper. Place the beef into the skillet and cook, stirring, until browned. Transfer the beef to a platter and set aside, reserving the skillet.

Add more oil to the skillet if necessary. Add the shallots and cook, stirring and shaking the pan, until softened. Add the thyme and green peppercorns and cook, stirring and shaking the pan, for additional 2 minutes. Then, take a small step back from the stove, and facing away from the pan, slowly add the Cognac and scrape up browned bits that are stuck on the bottom of the pan. (The pan might flame up when the alcohol hits it, and that is fine—just back away for a moment to let the alcohol burn off. (See Kitchen Tip.) Add the potatoes and parsnips, and cook, stirring and shaking the pan for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the Cognac has reduced in volume by half and the vegetables are coated and thoroughly combined.

Return the beef to the pan, and cook until the potatoes and turnips or parsnips are semi-cooked (not tender, but the edges are clearly softening and browning a bit). Add the stock. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper if necessary. Remove from the heat.

Shape and bake the pasties: Preheat the oven to 400°F. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let stand about 15 minutes. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Dust a work surface with flour. Position a small bowl of water nearby (in case you need to repair the dough). In another small bowl, beat the egg yolks and water lightly and position that bowl nearby as well.
Divide the dough into 10 pieces. Roll each piece between your palms to form a ball slightly smaller than a tennis ball. Place 1 ball on the work surface and begin to roll it into a circle about 5 to 6 inches in diameter. If the dough rips, gently dab a little water over the surface, sprinkle with a bit of flour and continue to roll until the dough is about ¼ to ⅓ inch thick.

Spoon about 3½ to 4 tablespoons of the filling on one side of the dough circle, leaving about ½ inch of dough uncovered around the edge. Fold the dough over the filling, into a half-moon shape, and press the edges down gently to seal. Pierce the top of the pasty 2 or 3 times with a sharp knife and transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling to make 10 pasties.

Brush the filled pasties with the egg wash. Place the baking sheets in the oven and bake for 10 minutes, turning the baking sheet 180° halfway through the baking time. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F, and continue to bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes, swapping the baking sheets from one oven rack to the other every 10 minutes, until the pasties are light golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool slightly before serving.

Kitchen Tips
The process of adding a liquid such as wine, brandy, or stock to the bottom of the pan after browning meat or vegetables in it is called deglazing. By doing this, you are rescuing all the caramelized sugars from the meat and shallot that have collected on the bottom of the pan and integrating them into your sauce or stew. Just be a bit careful if the liquid has a high alcohol content (I am sure you like having eyebrows). You can simply tilt the pan away from you or take a step back for a moment.

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