It seems like that somewhere around 9 times out of 10, whenever I make up a pie, people often ask me what kind of paste I used...
To be honest, when it comes to events, I mostly just bother with a basic short paste, also often when I am playing around with testing new fillings for different period pies.... However, it is not the only edible paste and not all dishes cooked in a paste are meant to be eaten with one.
so... why fudge around? An inedible paste (or at least one you would not want to eat) would surely make a prettier container than a disposable aluminum roast pan... it's just something people could reconsider when serving a baked dish.
Here are a few pastes recently gleaned from two late period English cook-books...
from the book of cookerie (1591) and Good Housewifes Jewel (1596), basically because they have some great instruction on paste
Not all pies are alike however and there is more to a pie than just "open" or "closed", cooked before or after, (though all usable options) within these books.
For one, a "coffin" referring to a paste that is usually closed or meant to encase the contents, these can be either edible or not-really edible. These are not cut with vents, though I posses that nasty habit... if a hole is added, it is for the addition of ingredients through the cooking process and then it is filled up again with the same paste.
Chewits are little individual coffins while Florentines were thinly rolled pastes set on buttered dishes, filled and covered and cut with vents.
Most pastes were baked, however short pastes made for peascods or shaped/moulded fritters were fried in hot fat.
Also, a common treatment for pies of many sorts through this period was to butter them before they were finished cooking and then wet them with rosewater and sprinkle them with sugar before returning them to the oven.
Pastes for deer:
--Sifted meal, boiled good broth and suet (chopped and beaten) made into a stiff and very thick paste.
(These pastes are usually heavily worked.
More fat will make it shorter, less will make it stiffer, use just enough water to make it workable and have it hold together.
A paste with hot water needs to be worked rather than cut.
Though hot water pastes with butter usually have the butter melted, because suet is grainy/dry, it's easy enough to work it in dry.
These are usually formed/worked into shape rather than rolled out, though they can be with work, I like to beat it with a heavy pin first)
--Flour, butter, eggs to make a stiff paste.
(This paste is "driven out" with a pin and bares similarities with common pastes we use commonly today except it is likely worked more and not made so short)
Rye and Brown Pastes-- no real recipe for these, however the rye paste should be very thick and left in the oven until it is almost cold and then when it is taken out it is stored upside down. These are not meant for serving fresh and likely meant as storage rather than food.
--Pastes tabled as such are thus:
A fine paste made with fine flour, egg yolks and butter (sometimes with sugar or a little hot broth) which is rolled thin and laid down in a well buttered pan (dish/plate/platter), the filling is then placed on top and another thin cover is rolled and placed on top, this is then sealed and vented (in a decorative way) and baked. (and treated with the butter/rosewater/sugar combo as mentioned earlier)
-this pie much resembles our thinly made pies
Puff and leafy pastry as their own dishes
--made with flour, 7-8 eggs, cold butter and fair water (or rosewater) and spices (of desired)
--Beat the paste upon a board and divide into 2-3 parts
--with the pieces, drive out a piece with a rolling pin
--dot it with the cold butter and fold the paste over it and drive it out again
--repeat 5-6 times
This is baked and served with sugar on them.
--fine paste made with egg yolks, sweet butter and sugar (it does not mention flour but am guessing it should be assumed?)
--drive then thin and fine with a rolling pin making 6-7 cakes
--Spread molten butter layered between the cakes and bake
--serve with sugar on them
Variations one could expect to find
--Pre-cooked pie shells (some say baked while other have them "dry" in the oven first.
--pies with very fine and thin pastes
--pies with thick and heavy pastes
Many pies typically have a paste of flour, butter and egg yolks
--with or without: broth (hot), water (hot), rosewater or water and or sugar, spices/saffron
-did come across one for peascodds which was meant for lent that was only (flour), water and oil (warmed) and, of course, meant to be fried in hot oil. The non-lent version having flour/butter/yolk and fried in butter.
If anyone wishes to know my personal formula for a hot-water pastry (this one with butter), here it is:
For a very heavy/stiff paste:
--4 cups flour to 1/2 lb butter and hot/warm water to make pliable
For a good stiff (but shorter) paste:
--4 cups of flour to 1 lb butter and hot/warm water to make pliable
So... anything in-between 1/2lb and 1lb of butter should work with 4 cups
Note: eggs can be added, it just then takes less water