Monday, 29 October 2012

Quark "Ruff Puff" Corned Beef and Sweet Potato Pasties

Pastry is something which eludes many people but if certain rules are followed it is incredibly easy to make at home and a far superior product, plus rolling pastry is very cathartic and a job I would very tentatively part with.

Ruff Puff Pastry

Things to consider;
1) Handle it lightly
2) Keep it cool
3) Bake it in a hot oven

Cool hands, a cold working surface and cool liquid make the best pastry. This is why we are constantly reminded to use only the finger-tips when combining the ingredients together as these are the coolest part of our hands. You don't want to get the dough stuck to your warm palms! Adding liquid should be gradual as common sense should tell you, you can always add more but you can't take it out. A classic mistake is to try adding more flour to bring it back from sticky death which is a recipe for disaster.

A standard "Ruff Puff" pastry is made by adding small cubes of cold butter to plain flour, and then utilising a knife to cut through and break up the lumps of butter, before binding it together with a liquid (usually cold water).

I recently heard about a Scandinavian version which uses quark cheese instead of water to bind the pastry together and it resulted in a very moist, silky pastry which had a sour cheese flavour and an extra-light flakiness. The basic quark pastry recipe deals in thirds of flour, fat and cheese. Lean quark is a virtually fat free curd cheese made from soured milk and is runny like fromage frais or cottage cheese.

I tried using 100g of each and combined them using the ruff puff method (adding a pinch of salt into the flour). Once the dough comes together you then roll it into a long thin piece before folding it into thirds; bringing the top third down onto the second third and the bottom third over the top third as in the picture. You then repeat the rolling and folding 3-4 times to trap air into the pastry. You should always take care to roll away from you to avoid squashing the bubbles you have worked so hard to create. Once it has been rolled and folded to your desired specification, it should be rested in the fridge for 30mins, guess why? To cool!

quark pastry

So what to do with this pastry? Well I have wanted to use corned beef in an interesting way for a while now but although corned beef and pickle sandwiches worked well as a child, the thought of eating it cold now is a little unsophisticated shall we say. I saw a recipe for Cornish pasties in a newspaper and thought a version of that could work well. The soft texture of corned beef and the flaky quark pastry create the ultimate feel-good comfort food as the nights grow darker.

Corned Beef and Sweet Potato Pasties in Crispy Quark Pastry

Makes 4 large pasties

quark pastry makes crispy pasties


1 large onion thinly sliced
olive oil
1 can of corned beef
1 large sweet potato peeled and cubed
1 tbsp tomato puree
dried parsley and thyme
half a glass of red wine
Chilled quark pastry
whisked egg to glaze


1. Preheat your oven to 180C. Lightly fry the onions in a little oil and salt until translucent and golden brown.
2. Add the tomato puree and allow to cook off on the bottom of the pan for a couple of minutes until the puree begins to brown.
3. Add the red wine and reduce by two thirds.
4. Add the sweet potato cubes and stir occasionally for a couple of minutes.
5. Stir in the corned beef, breaking it up into lumps.
6. Season well with salt, pepper and a pinch of the dried herbs. Set aside while you arrange your pastry.

Corned beef and sweet potato pasty filling

7. Roll out your pastry and use a tea plate to cut out a circle. Turn out onto a floured surface

quark pastry rolled and cut to make pasties
 8. Place a couple of spoons of your filling into the center of your pastry dish and neaten it into the middle.
9. Brush a little egg wash around one half of your circle and bring both sides of your pasty together. Use your thumbs to pinch the edges together. Brush over with more egg wash to create a golden brown glaze.
10. Place in the oven for 35-40 minutes.

corned beef and sweet potato pasty - quark pastry

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