Monday, April 4, 2011

Suet Pastry Dough

 Oh, my god. Did I just make Hot Pockets? That's crazy. I don't think I've ever even had one. I just remember that comedian saying "Hot Pockets" in a high voice and it made me laugh. Well, Hot Pockets weren't the original idea. They were born of pasties (not the ones for nipples, people!). Little pockets of pastry filled with savory goodies, like meat and cheese. I think most cultures have them. In this instance it was ham and monterey jack cheese. And the pastry dough? Made from grass-fed local suet, baby. Yes, it's not just for tallow anymore, folks! Actually, it never was, but that's besides the point.

I'm super excited about this because I haven't had or made such an incredibly tasty pastry dough in a long time. Or maybe since I made pop tarts...Anyway, when I went in on a split of a steer I was offered some suet and not one to turn down anything free and vaguely edible, I accepted. It took me a while to get to it, but it all came together the other day.

I based my recipe on the Beyond Nose to Tail cookbook and this recipe from Epicurious. The dough was very dry and crumbly, maybe because I used the suet straight from the freezer. To prepare the suet, which by the way, is the thick, hard fat that surrounds the kidneys of a cow, I picked through it and removed what little bits of meat I could find. Then I put it in the food processor and pulsed it to a consistency like coarse cornmeal.

Suet Pastry Dough

1 1/2 cups of flour
1 tablespoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of cold, finely chopped beef suet (I used a little extra)
1/4 to 1/2 cup of cold water

Combine all the ingredients, holding the water. Then, add the water 1/4 cup at a time, slowly, until you get the desired pastry dough consistency. After the dough is formed, let it sit, covered in wax paper, in the fridge for up to two hours. Let it come to room temperature before rolling.

My dough was very tough to work. It isn't, in my limited experience with suet pastry dough, very elastic dough. I used a large circular lid I had to press out circles. I didn't roll them very thin. I filled them with chopped ham and grated cheese---about 2 cups of ham mixed with a cup of cheese. I didn't add anything else! Bake these in a 375 degree oven for about thirty minutes, until light golden brown. They were stellar right out of the oven. This recipe made eight large pastries that will probably disappear by the next morning.


  1. generally you don't want short crusts to be elastic (they're called "short" because the gluten strands are short, vs. long in things like bread dough), otherwise they come out tough. that's why they tell you when you're making pie crusts to work the dough as little as possible.

    PS - they look YUMMY.

    Hoooooot pockettttsss.

  2. How interesting! So our local chicken supplier also sells suet and lard and so far I've only ever bought lard from them. I haven't heard raves about suet (or anything about it...) and the only time I ever saw it growing up is when my dad bought it to somehow make bird feed. Does it have a "beefy" taste? Or I wonder if the fact that it's hard to work is why it's not popularly used? This makes me want to go take another gander at that book I got for Christmas a while back, "Fat" as it definitely talks about suet. I will see what the author has to say!

  3. Brilliant! I bought leaf lard in my last Flying Pigs order and lard pastry dough is on my list (for the first time as well).

    And I can't believe you made the pasties joke. Now I have this vivid image of naked strippers with hot pockets hanging off their ta-tas. "Um, Miss? You're going to give yourself a nasty burn, there."

  4. OH oH, This looks so good. I need to find some suet, before I implode. BEst tasting dough I have ever had was a suet crust made by Fergus Henderson. Got to make some now!

  5. Melissa - Aha! Thank you for that little bit! They were so freaking good.

    Sara - I almost used it for bird feed, but I couldn't bear to give them something I might be able to eat. It didn't taste beefy in this savory application, but I assume it might if I tried it with a sweet filling. Unless of course it was a suet based mincemeat, that is. Tell me more about what you read on suet in your book! This was the flakiest dough. So. good.

    Kaela - Can't wait to see what you make! I've been meaning to get leaf lard. And yeah, I couldn't resist!

    Ken - Oh, oh, it WAS so good! I'll bet that suet crust was a fine one. Specially made by Mr. Henderson himself?? Cool! I'll bet the one you make will be right fine as well.

  6. I really wish I could have eaten one of these...warm. Wow, way to go.

  7. The only time I have used suet is in James Beard's Christmas Plum Pudding..Devine and not one bit beefy, just rummy.

  8. Sub-T - I only had one, because I'm trying to be good, but it was amazing and I ate it in like ten seconds. Steve ate ALL the rest.

    Pat - Indeed. I have a Christmas Pudding in the fridge as we "speak." Not beefy at all, but I found it to be a tad grainy. Not sure why.