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An old-fashioned British favourite, the hot water pie crust is the best type of pastry to use on meat pies. This type of pastry may appear a little unusual, but it serves a very unique purpose: hold in large amounts of liquid. This is ideal for rustic meat pies, where it’s essential to keep the filling juicy with gravy or other sauces. Hot water crust is incredibly easy to make and ideal for large or mini pies alike.
Hot water pie crust is my absolute favourite to use with meat pies, as I love my pies juicy! This quick and easy to make pastry makes a solid shell that prevents the fillings from seeping out. Nevertheless, when eaten, this pie crust is still tender and delicious. And the best thing about it? It only takes minutes to make!
WHAT IS HOT WATER CRUST PASTRY?
Hot water crust is a type of pastry used for making meat pies. Hot water crust is preferred for pies with a more ‘handmade’ or rustic finish. Most types of pie crusts require the ingredients to be very cold to produce a flaky crust. Hot water crust is different as it does not require chilled ingredients. Instead, as the name suggests, hot water crust is made by melting the fat in hot water, then incorporating the flour. In my opinion this type of pastry is similar to choux pastry, although it does not inflate in the oven.
What it’s used for
Originating from England, this pastry has been used for centuries to make hand raised meat pies. Some of the favourite types of British pies with hot water crust are pork pie, steak & kidney pie or game pie. Although traditionally used for meat pies, this pastry is very versatile and can be used with any type of savoury pies with a liquid filling. I like to use it for my Moroccan Chicken Pot Pies or British Pork Pies with Leeks and Apple.
HOT WATER CRUST VS SHORTCRUST
Shortcrust is different from hot water crust in texture, rigidity and pliability. Shortcrust pastry is typically quite crumbly and flaky, as the pockets of fat make the flour rise when baked. By contrast, hot water crust is less flaky and crisp, as the fat is perfectly integrated with the rest of the ingredients. Hot water crust is also much more stable, meaning that it can be baked without needing a mould. Conversely, shortcrust pastry needs to be baked in a pan or dish to prevent it from collapsing.
There are different types of shortcrust, but they all require very cold ingredients that you should never overwork. Overworking shortcrust makes the gluten develop, which will ruin the soft crust of the pie or tart. Conversely, hot water crust is very different, as it’s much more forgiving. You can handle this type of pastry with more ease, without fear of ruining its texture.
Moreover, hot water crust can be handled with more ease when being placed into shapes, as it’s much more pliable when unbaked. Shortcrust pastry, however, need to be handled minimally and may require constant chilling to hold its shape or structure before baking. Also, since shortcrust needs to be very cold before baking, it’s not ideal to be used with hot fillings. Hot water crust pie crust, on the other hand, can safely be used with hot pie fillings.
Lastly, you need to be blind bake shortcrust pastry before adding the filling. Unlike this, hot water crust does not require any blind baking and can be baked directly with the filling. I recommend using hot water crust for savoury pies that need to hold a lot of liquid filling (such as gravy or sauce). Shortcrust pastry is more suitable for tarts, quiches or sweet desserts that can be blind baked.
WHAT YOU NEED TO MAKE HOT WATER PIE CRUST
This pastry is one of my favourites as it’s so easy to make. You do not need any special equipment and you only need basic ingredients. Here’s what you need to make hot water crust:
- Fat – I like to use a combination of 50% butter and 50% lard. Traditionally this pastry is made with only lard, but I like the taste butter gives. You can also use only butter instead for vegetarian-friendly recipes.
- Water – The clue is in the name, and water is the main component of hot water crust.
- Plain flour – Regular white flour is best for this recipe. You cannot use self-rising flour in this type of pastry.
- Salt & pepper – Use to taste to give the pie crust more flavour.
- Optional – I like to also add finely chopped parsley or coriander (cilantro), as it gives a lovely subtle flavour.
HOW TO MAKE HOT WATER PIE CRUST
1. Start by adding the water, fats, salt & pepper and the fresh herbs to a saucepan over medium heat.
2. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil, until you see bubble forming on the surface of the water.
3. Once the mixture is boiling, add the flour in one go and reduce the heat. Mix vigorously with a wooden spoon until you get a lumpy dough together.
4. Take the dough off the heat and place it on the work surface. If the dough feels too hot, let it cool down for 2-3 minutes. Press the dough with your hands to make it stick together, and knead it gently. Keep kneading it until it becomes smooth. Wrap the dough in some plastic film and let it cool down to room temperature.
5. Once the hot water pie crust has cooled down, roll it out to approximately 2-3mm thickness for mini pies and 4-5mm for large pies. Remember, this type of pastry is very stable, so you can make it quite thin.
6. Use either a knife or cookie cutter to cut out the shape for your pies.
Once the pastry has been cut to size, you can either hand shape it or place it in a tray. I prefer to make mini pies, so I always use a muffin tin to get the perfect individual hand pie size.
Baking time depends on the size of your pie, so make sure you follow the instructions on your recipe.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Hot water crust has very little flavour, unless if extra spices are added to it. When made only with lard, the crust has no flavour at all, since animal fat is flavourless. This is why I prefer to use 50-50% lard and butter, as the butter will add flavour to the crust. I also always add fresh parsley or coriander (cilantro) to give it more flavour.
Yes, hot water crust is suitable for freezing. However, I do not recommend freezing the uncooked pies filled with meat, as this can cause contamination. Instead, freeze the dough by itself and only fill once thawed. To freeze hot water crust, wrap it in a few layers of plastic film, then one layer of aluminium film. Ideally also place it in an airtight container, as this will protect against freezer burn.
Yes, hot water crust can be made up to 3 days in advance. Once cooked, place it hot in some plastic wrap, then add it to an airtight container and store it in the fridge. If you need to store it for longer than 3 days, you can also freeze it.
Yes, hot water pie crust can be made with butter instead of lard. Simply substitute the required amount of lard with butter. Personally, I prefer using 50-50% lard and butter as it gives the best flavour.
In its traditional form, hot water crust is not vegan because it uses animal lard. However, this pastry can be made vegan by substituting the animal fat with vegan butter. For the vegetarian version, you can replace the lard with butter.
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Hot Water Pie Crust Recipe
- 300 g plain flour (2 ⅓ cups)
- 40 g lard* (⅕ cup)
- 40 g unsalted butter (3 tbsp)
- 160-170 ml water* (¾ cup)
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp pepper
- 1 handful fresh herbs, finely chopped*
- Place the water, butter, lard and spices in a medium saucepan. Heat up the mixture over medium heat until it starts to bubble.
- Once the water is bubbling, add all the flour in one go and reduce the heat to low. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until a dough forms. The dough should not appear too sticky or too crumbly, so if needed add either 1 tsp of extra water or flour. (See notes)
- Tip the dough onto your work surface and let it cool down for a few minutes. Knead the pastry gently until it all comes together into a smooth dough.
- Cover with plastic wrap and set aside until it cools down completely. Shape and bake as directed in the recipe.
- I recommend using a kitchen scale in grams for more accuracy. The cups used for the conversion are standard US customary cups (1 cup flour = 136g). There are many different types of cups across the globe, which is why I strongly recommend using grams instead.
- Lard is produced from pure pig fat and is great for baking, roasting or frying. This product has no flavour, but it can have a fatty smell when melted – don’t worry, it won’t smell once baked. Please note that lard is not halal and cannot be used for Muslim diets. If you want to make this recipe halal, please replace the lard with butter.
- The amount of water required can depend very much on the type of flour you use and how much protein in contains. You may need to adjust by adding more or less water by 1-2 tsp. The dough needs to hold together, but not be overly sticky or too crumbly.
- Adding fresh herbs is entirely optional and can be adjusted to fit your recipe of personal preference. I like to add either coriander (cilantro in the US) or flat leaf parsley. You can also add thyme, oregano or basil.