Friday, 19 April 2013

Making Healthier Pastry

 We've been transitioning to a healthier diet over the last few years ~ one that includes organic, non-genetically modified food, loads more vegetables, true whole grains, healthier fats and far less sugar.  In an effort to totally ditch the conventional white all purpose flour (which we rarely used, but still kept on hand for occasional pastry and light cakes), we invested in a flour sifter attachment for our Bosch Mixer.   In seconds, I can place this attachment on top of my Bosch and have freshly milled organic whole wheat flour sifted to remove some of the germ.  While we generally strive (and WANT) to eat the entire grain in our flour on a daily basis, for certain delicate baked goods (such as pastry), a lighter flour is desirable.  The resulting sifted flour is a little lighter than 100% whole wheat, and still contains some of the germ.  It is NOT like "white" flour that you may be accustomed to buying.

First up was a chicken pot pie inspired by Rhonda's Chicken casserole post.  Our family LOVES chicken pot pie and I had 2 carcasses on hand to use up from a roast chicken dinner the other day.  On went the pressure cooker this morning to create a rich gelatinous broth which formed the base of this meal.  To that, I added plenty of veggies and seasoning plus some barley (I usually add diced cooked potatoes, but as we have used the last of our garden potatoes, I substituted barley).  Back up to pressure went the cooker and while it cooked for 20 more minutes, I salvaged lots of meat of the cooling chicken bones.   Soon, it was ready to be put into the baking dish and topped with pastry.

I follow the pastry recipe from the Tenderflake box because it was the recipe that my Grandma always used.  Now that we have leaf lard, I use that exclusively for pastry (in place of Tenderflake lard).  I am thrilled with the results!  If you look at the picture below, you can see the darker colour of the pastry ~ that's from the sifted wheat flour.  It has a lovely (almost) nutty flavour and is very flakey.  I bake my pot pies at 425F until the pastry is browned and the filling is bubbling in the centre.  

While the oven was on (and because I had leftover pastry), I decided to make use of some freezer burned strawberries.  They look pretty miserable don't they?  I found some chopped, frozen rhubarb and combined the two to make a delicious strawberry rhubarb pie for the weekend.

Both pies cooked together to make good use of the electricity and pastry... oh boy, did the house ever smell good!

And now for the leftover bits...  my Grandma always used to make cinnamon sugar pastry or jam roll ups with her leftover pastry so I've followed suit.  Today, it was a little overdone thanks to me vacuuming when it was cooking and not hearing the timer!  Doesn't matter, it will be devoured in short order anyway...  a little cinnamon, and a sprinkle of organic cane sugar makes for a yummy after school snack with a glass of milk (just like I used to enjoy as a girl).

***** Edited to add recipe for Rose :)

Tenderflake Pastry 
(taken from the box of Tenderflake lard)

5 1/2 cups all purpose flour (I use fresh milled whole wheat that has been sifted but I used to use white all purpose)
2 tsp salt
1 lb cold lard from the fridge (I use leaf lard but used to use Tenderflake)
1 Tbsp vinegar
1 egg
cold water

1) Put flour and salt into a large bowl and mix well.  Preheat oven NOW to 425F
2) Add lard that has been cut up into equal"ish" pieces for easier blending.
3) Blend with a pastry blender or "cut" with 2 knives until mixture roughly resembles course crumbs.  Don't use your hands or it warms up the dough too much.
4)  Crack an egg into a 2 cup liquid measuring cup
5)  Add 1 Tbsp vinegar to the egg.
6)  Fill cup to the one cup measurement with COLD water (which will include the egg and vinegar)
7)  Mix liquid well with a fork until evenly blended.
8) Pour liquid mixture over the flour mixture relatively evenly.  I am not too picky about this step I just dump it in all over.
9)  With a table FORK, begin to blend it all together until it sticks together to form a ball"ish" shape.  You may need to add a little bit more water but do it in small increments so as not to over wet.  When it gets close to the ball shape, I abandon the fork and use my hands for the last bit.
10) With your clean hands, gently manipulate the pastry until it is in a loose ball shape.  You will need to roll the ball around to get the dry bits off the bottom of the bowl.  It's ok if it's not totally blended and smooth.  That's good and it's what makes your pastry tender and flaky.  It should look really rough and NOT evenly blended.  You will see bits of unblended lard and clumps of flour.  That's ok!  Overworking pastry can cause it to be tough, so err on the side of NOT working it enough.
11)  I hear that you're supposed to put the pastry in the fridge before rolling but I'm rarely organized enough for that so I usually just roll it out right away on a floured surface.  Sprinkle a small amount of flour on the rolling pin to prevent sticking.  As you roll it out, it blends further but will still look a little rough.
12)  I like to seal the top and bottom of my pies with a tiny bit of milk run around the edge with my fingers.  When you crimp the bottom and top pieces together, it will seal nicely.  
13)  I also cut vents in the top of my pie to let steam out and also it's easy to tell if it's cooked all the way through as the filling will begin to bubble up in the centre.
14)  The last step is to brush a little bit of milk gently all over the top of the pie JUST before it goes in the oven.  Don't drown it!  Then sprinkle a little bit of sea salt on top if it is a savoury pie or a little bit of sugar if it is a sweet pie.  This step helps with browning and it makes a nice crust.

I bake my pastry at 425F so that it puffs up nicely and cooks all the way through.  It should be nice and brownish on top and a bit puffy looking.  I really like to use glass pie dishes because I can then see if the bottom is cooked and brownish.  If you have a convection oven you can place your pie in the middle of the middle rack, but if you have a NON convection oven, you should put your pie on a rack a little closer to the bottom of the oven so that the bottom crust cooks properly.  

You can tell if a pie is done when the vents start to show bubbly filling :)  Also, keep a close eye on the top of your pie.  If it's starting to over brown, place a sheet of foil loosely on top of the pie to reflect some heat.  Continue cooking until the filling bubbles in the centre.

Pies should rest before you serve them to partially cool and set up.  Let savoury ones sit for about 10 minutes and sweet ones should sit for longer (an hour or more).  Do not cover cooling pies or the crust will get soggy from the steam.

Hope this works for you :)  YOU CAN MAKE PASTRY!  Go, Rose!


  1. Sherri it looks gorgeous and I am inspired except I can't make pastry! I've tried the cool hands, chill the dough, don't knead it too much etc etc. One day, when it's not spring fever time, would you write a tutorial on how you do it?

    1. Rose - I think all the stress and anxiety about making it causes it not to turn out. Must be the chemistry in your hands when you are fretting over it turning out! My Mom claims that she "can't " make pastry either but I think that's hogwash! I don't give it any special treatment and I'm not especially gentle with it either. I am convinced that it is all in the attitude of the approach.

      I believed that I couldn't make it for the first 15 years of my marriage. I had never tried, but because my Mom said that she couldn't make it, I assumed that I couldn't either. One day, I decided that my negative thinking was holding me back and I decided to just DO IT. It turned out just fine and so will yours!

      I'll post the recipe for you XO

  2. Im the same way with pasta. I know its not hard, i know how to make it having watched a thousand cooking shows but i fear failure and so my pasta machine has sat in its box unopened for three years. What a Goose! I will make pasta, I will make pasta, I will make pasta ....... and it will be good.

    1. Pasts isn't hard to make and once I got over the fear of messing it up I was surprised how fast it is to make!

  3. Thanks for the inspiration, Sherri - the pie looks wonderful :) And I'd never seen that sifter attachment before - great idea! though I think my own Bosch is waaaayyyy too old to work with it. Have you ever used the hard white wheat? - some people like to keep some in the house for pastry or just for general baking. Rose, do you have a food processor? - I've had some awesome pastry made in one, by people who said they could "never make pastry" - I can find the recipe for it if you'd like.

    1. The sifter attachment comes with a bowl ring and it fits the older bowls, I'm pretty sure :) I have used hard white wheat... just don't have any now. Will see if the farmer has some.

  4. hello,
    both pies look very good!!!!! I can smell here in my part of the world.Thanks for sharing the recipe.
    Wish you a wonderful weekend,

  5. What a nifty little gadget your sifter attachment is! I'm really wanting some chicken pie now!! I usually make double of the chicken casserole and then make some pastry the next night for leftovers in a pie!
    Everything tastes better with other half made a lovely one for a vegetable quiche last night...thanks for sharing your recipe...and I had forgotten all about using the leftovers, my Gran used to do that to!!

  6. very very nice!

    My daughter once asked to make 'snails' and I replied that we didn't have any puff pastry. She quickly replied back 'can't we make some?!' and I said 'mmm I am sure there's a reason people don't make puff pastry' and when I looked up recipes I realised why! lol

    But you know what, she made it anyway. In the height of stinking hot summer which meant much in and out of the fridge and you know what, it worked. Credit to her attitude I think.

    Ditto to you - you can do it if you just figure out the best way how and play with it along the way. YUM! :)