A Suet Crust Pastry is similar to a Shortcrust Pastry but it is tougher and more elastic, which means it is great for steamed puddings and pies. It is made using animal fats, normally using 2 parts flour to 1 part animal fat. To read more on what suet is, and where it comes from, read this Suet Explanation. The suet called for in recipes is always classed as ‘shredded’ it can be bought in a packet this way in the shops, or you can buy fresh suet from your butcher, and using a sharp knife, cut (shred) the suet fat into very small pieces. It has become common practice to either use self-raising flour, or baking powder added to plain flour to lighten the pastry – this is to ensure it rises, and it stops it being so heavy – and this is recommended. A vegetarian suet substitute can be bought for when making jam roly-poly or other dessert puddings.
A suet crust pastry is commonly used to make a steamed pudding, often to enclose a filling, like a Sussex Pond Pudding, or for a baked or steamed Jam Roly-poly. In terms of savoury recipes a suet crust is used in a Steak & Kidney Pudding or as a pie covering (a pie lid) instead of short-crust pastry, or as a cobbler (an overlapping scone crust). In terms of alterations to a classic recipe of a suet crust, it can have up to half-butter and half-suet instead of all suet, which makes it a richer pastry, and it can have milk or an egg used to bind, instead of cold water.
CLASSIC SUET CRUST PASTRY
Makes about 700g of suet-crust pastry
- 450g plain flour
- 200g suet (shredded suet)
- – or 150g suet & 50g butter
- 100ml cold water
- 3 level teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon sea-salt (finely ground)
If using fresh suet remove any skin, dust with a little flour, and on a chopping board chop it with a sharp knife until it resembles fine breadcrumbs – as a note it’s best not to grate suet.
Sift (sieve) the flour into a large mixing bowl, sprinkle in the ground sea-salt and baking powder. Mix in the packet or fresh shredded suet. Make a well in the centre of the mixture and gradually stir in the water with a blunt knife. Mix it until it is soft enough and binding enough to come away from the sides of the bowl, leaving it clean.
Turn the suet pastry out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead it gently with your hands until it is free from cracks. Suet Crust can be used straight away, or it can be covered in cling film and stored in the fridge until needed.