Jamaican beef patties are loaded with flavor, history, meaning, and opportunity. For many Jamaican immigrants, patty-making is a connection to home, while for others, opening a bakery or "patty shop" abroad can be a path to financial independence and even citizenship. When the pandemic closed borders and businesses, many dove into sourdough baking. I found comfort crimping golden dough around boldly spiced beef. Inspired by patty pros and perfected during lockdown, this step-by-step guide will show you how to make Jamaica’s favorite pastry at home.
Before you begin
The trick to making perfect patty crusts is cold fat, cold tools, and ice water. Heat is the enemy of laminated doughs, so chill your mixing bowl, paddle attachment, and rolling pin in the freezer.
Step 1: Make the dough.
A standard patty crust gets its flakiness from beef suet and shortening in equal measure, but you can swap in cold butter or coconut oil if desired. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, blend together 3 cups of flour, 1 tablespoon of Caribbean-style curry powder (or 1 teaspoon of turmeric), 1 teaspoon of baking powder, and 1 teaspoon of kosher salt. With the mixer on low, work 1 cup of your fat of choice into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles peas or coarse crumbs. Gradually add ¾ cup of ice water, a tablespoon at a time, mixing continuously until you have a smooth dough that comes together in a ball, with visible flecks of fat. Flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for at least 1 hour.
Step 2: While the dough chills, make the filling.
In a large skillet set over medium-high heat, fry 12 ounces of ground beef in a tablespoon or so of oil. Stir occasionally to break up any lumps. When no pink remains, add ¼ cup of finely chopped onion, 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 chopped scallion, 2 teaspoons of fresh thyme, 1 teaspoon of minced Scotch bonnet pepper (no seeds, just flesh!), 1 teaspoon of allspice, and a few grinds of black pepper. Feel free to up the chiles or spice according to your preference. Turn the heat to medium-low, cover the pan, and cook the mixture until everything’s soft and fragrant, about 20 minutes. Add enough breadcrumbs to absorb the liquid and loosely bind the mixture. I usually wind up stirring in around 1 cup—enough for a juicy filling without creating a "soggy bottom" situation (hat tip to Mary Berry). Once the mixture is cool, it's time to get to work.
Step 3: Roll out the dough.
The warmer your counter is, the faster you need to work. Tear off half of the dough and place it on a floured surface. If you’re concerned about turmeric stains, slide a piece of parchment under the dough. Roll out the dough to a thickness of about ⅛ inch, then punch out rounds with a bowl with a 5-inch-diameter lip. If you want to make daintier patties, go with a 3-inch diameter. Transfer the rounds to a parchment-lined baking sheet and repeat with the remaining dough.
Step 4: Fill and seal the patties to ensure no liquid escapes.
Fill each dough round with ¼ cup of the filling (or 2 tablespoons for mini-patties), mounding it in the center, then fold the round in half to form a crescent shape. Using the tines of a fork, crimp the edges to seal, then set them an inch or two apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Step 5: Bake until puffed and golden.
Bake the patties in a preheated 350ºF oven for about 45 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through cooking. The crust should be golden and flaky.
Step 6: Serve the beef patties.
You’re supposed to wait a few minutes before taking a bite, but few Jamaicans practice what they preach. Just try not to burn your mouth.
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