Hot water crust pastry – vegetarian style

In which Claire cements her reputation as a pastry geek and gets all Mrs. Beeton on you.

I’m fascinated by hot water crust pastry! (Also called raised pastry.) I’d thought of pastry as a chilly, hands-off affair, with everything ice cold, touched only by fingertips, and laid out on a cold marble slab. Well, hot water crust pastry is made with boiling water and melted fat, you get your hands right in there and knead it, and then you mold it as if it was play-doh! It really can put some childish fun in making pies. It’s also a bit of a challenge, and it took me a while to find the right proportions. The idea behind this dough is that it makes a pastry so strong that you can pour gravy inside and it won’t leak out. So strong that you can put it in your pocket, and it won’t crumble. So strong that Rogue Riderhood can make it into plates…

Remarkably, it’s very tasty, too. And though I’ve just made it sound like it might crack your teeth, it has a lovely texture. Typically, it’s a crust for a meat pie, and it’s made with lard. I’ve read that you can substitute vegetable shortening, but I just don’t like the idea of vegetable shortening. Flavorless, colorless fat does not appeal to me. So I use a mixture of butter and olive oil. I’ve had good results – it might not be exactly like the original, but it’s very tasty and sturdy enough for anything I’ve ever made. The idea is to mold it by hand, or to mold it around a large jar, and then tie parchment paper around it, or let it cook free-standing and expect the middle to bulge out a bit. I’ve molded it around cups to make small pies, but for anything larger I cheat and cook it inside something with a tall straight edge, and then turn it out impressively at the end.

If you want to make a vegan version, use margarine instead of butter.

I’ve used this pie crust for many pies! It works well with Deep Mushroom Pie, and Vegetarian Pie, Mash & Liquor.

UPDATE! *I’ve changed the proportions a little bit in the recipe. It never made enough, for one thing, and it was more difficult to work with than it needed to be. The recipe now should make a delightfully moldable dough, but still hold its shape when you want it to.*

I’ve got a couple of songs about pork pie hats, because this crust is known for its pork-pie-usage.

Here’s Charles Mingus – Goodbye Pork Pie Hat

and here’s Pork Pie Hat by Lauren Aitken

2 1/2 Cups flour
4 T butter (or margarine, if you’re vegan!)
2 T olive oil
3/4 cup water
white pepper or black pepper (optional)

1. In a large bowl, mix your flour, salt and white pepper. I seem to always put white pepper in any kind of pastry I make. I love the flavor of it, and I like the crust to be tasty on its own, not just a bland canvas for the filling.

2. In a sauce pan over medium heat, warm the water, butter and olive oil til it just starts boiling.

3. Take it off the heat and stir in the flour mixture.

4. Form it into a ball and knead it a few times. It should feel thick and a little sticky. You can add a bit more warm water if you’re having trouble bringing it all together. You can let it cool slightly, but you have to work with it while it’s warm or it will become tough and crunchy and very unwieldy.

Then you roll it out – leaving it quite thick (1 cm, even!). And then you mold it into a straight edged-bowl shape. Either by hand, over a floured jar or cup the desired size, or, if you’re a cheater like me, inside a straight edged (greased and floured) dish. Save some for the top of the pie!

You can use this crust to make the DEEP MUSHROOM PIE!


29 thoughts on “Hot water crust pastry – vegetarian style

  1. A good hot water crust is a wonderful thing. The town I was born in (and didn’t escape until I was 18) is well known for a hot water crust product – possibly the ultimate hot water crust product: . Not terribly vegetarian friendly, though.

    I once made a vegetarian Christmas Pie using hot water crust… let me see if I can find the recipe… yes, here it is, Raised Chestnut and Mushroom Christmas Pie (in a book called Neither Fish nor Fowl). It was delicious, and huge, but the pastry wasn’t stong enough. I blame the cook, not the recipe, which used “vegetable margarine”, expressing a preference for the block variety.

    • Hmmm.. I’d like to try something with chestnuts. Did you use butter? Sometimes you have to go for taste over steeliness. Right?

      • I think I used block margarine, because I would have had some in for short crust. (I would probably have had butter in, too, but I usually use marg. for pastry. And that vegetable lard that you were decrying). Agreed on the taste thing – there are some recipes when only butter will do.

        It was a long time ago. I made a not in the book: “Christmas 1999”.

        It’s funny, but cookery books are the only ones that I feel comfortable defacing. Probably because they are practical books that might require notes and that, er, sometimes get a bit messy.

      • Note. I made a note in the book. And the pastry wasn’t strong enough. It collapsed. It still tasted nice, though.

        If you’re interested, I could scan the recipe and get it to you somehow…

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  4. Help! What does ‘2 T cup olive oil’ mean? 2 Tablespoons, 2 cups? And how much in a stick of butter?
    I’m making your fantastic looking mushroom pie in Australia and just want to make sure I get all the amounts right.

    • Oh, for heaven’s sake! What a silly typo!! It’s 2 tablespoons of olive oil. (2 cups would be some greasy mess!!) I’ll fix it right now. Thank you so much for pointing that out!!

      A stick of butter is 1/2 cup. (4 oz, 113 grams)

      Let me know if you have any other questions!! I wish I had the time(or the mathematical prowess) to go back and convert everything to more convenient measurements for my English and Australian friends.

  5. Just used this to make pies – fantastic stuff! Filled it with white beans, shallots, swede, potato and mushroom gravy. Have always had a soft spot for pies, both savory and sweet, so very glad to find all these recipes.

    • Thanks so much for taking the time to let me know it worked out for you. I’m always a little nervous about this one, because it’s not what people are used to. It’s fun to work with though, I think. Your filling sounds absolutely delicious!

  6. Your hot-water pastry — can it be mixed, then cut in portions, wrapped immediately, then refrigerated or frozen?

    I recently learned that such a thing as ‘hot-water pastry’ existed when watching ‘The Great British Baking Show’ on PBS. I’ve recently bought myself some small pie tins (about the size of a Banquet pot pie) so I can make/freeze pot pies for quick meals. This denser pie crust seems to be just the thing. So I’m wondering if I can make your recipe and freeze portions of dough for future use.

    I’ve been reading for 2-3 years now, and became aware of your work through your comments there. I love your combinations of foods & flavors! Regrettably, I have some rather tricky digestion issues, so I usually can’t use your recipes ‘as is’ (and they are large for one person), but I often save your recipes out to use them as a basis for using your combos prepared in ways I can use them (lots of pureeing, for example — regrettable, since your texture-combining sounds great!)

    Thanks for your work!

    • Thank you for your kind words! What are your digestion issues? I might be able to come up with different versions of things.

      I’m not sure it would work to freeze the hot-water pastry. It gets hard to work with even at room temperature. It might work to form it in your tin in the shape you ultimately would like it to be in, and then freeze it. I’n not sure!

      I think you can definitely freeze a regular pastry, (the kind with butter, flour and water) I’m sorry I don’t have a better answer. I’ve never tried it!

  7. That sounds a great way of making one of my favourite pastries. I have a question about measurements though as I’m English and we use different measures. What is a ‘T’ as in the butter and oil measurements? And do you know how much a ‘cup’ equates to in ounces please?

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  9. I’ve used this recipe a number of times … really love the crust it creates for pies! I often replace most of the flour with wholemeal flour so it gets some extra texture. And I agree with you that having tasteless pastry is awful – so I also add a dash of smoked paprika!
    Really easy and non-fuss recipe to prepare which create excellent tasty crusty pie shells that cope with liquid fillings and still turn out wonderfully! Thank you.

  10. I have been curious to try hot water crust pastry but haven’t because I don’t cook with lard. Thanks for this alternative!

    By the way, most recipes for HWCP call for strong flour exclusively or a mix of regular and strong (or “bread flour” or “high gluten flour”) which would make the final product more sturdy and structural. I mention this because for thirty years of my life previous to the last couple, flour was either self rising or all purpose as far as I was concerned. As a result my cakes were always too heavy and bread-like and my breads always too light and cake-like. I had no idea about high gluten strong flour or low gluten cake flour which bakes up more light and airy.

    I also had no idea that there were so many flours based on substances other than wheat- like almond, chickpea, rice, etc. The more I learn about baking the more I realize I don’t know anything about anything!

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