Monday, November 27, 2006

The crust report

Have you (and your kitchen) recovered? I still have a dusty sprinkling of flour under my dining room table but otherwise all traces of last week's baking marathon have been devoured.

The only problem with bringing pies to other people's houses is that it's a bit gauche to ask for the leftovers back--meaning that, like last year, I didn't get to have any leftover apple pie with my coffee the next day. Oh, well. Jane had a houseful of family guests in town for her swell day-after-thanksgiving dinner, so I don't doubt that the extra apple and cranberry pies (and whipped cream) were appreciated over the weekend. And I've still got some scraps of leftover dough in the freezer, waiting to be transformed into apple turnovers just for me.

Now, the lard crust report you've been waiting for! Much to my cute-little-piggies chagrin, that free-range, pastured-pig rendered lard from Flying Pigs farm produced the best crust I've ever made in my life. Using about 10 TB butter to 6 or 7 TB lard in a mix of 2 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1 TB sugar, it had a disconcertingly meaty aroma when raw and smelled like a roast beef in the oven. On the plate, though, it was beautifully light and flaky, with a rich, buttery flavor. While my crusts have always been pretty tasty and tender, this was the first that was stunningly flaky, with the pastry gently shattering into long flakes and shards under the fork. So now I'm hooked. Leaving out the sugar and possibly reversing the butter-lard proportion would made a fabulous crust for a savory pie. Should I ever get the impulse to whip up a steak-and-kidney pie or something like, this is the crust I'd use. It was a little tricky to get an exact proportion on the lard, as it was very cold and firm as I was chipping it out of the tub with my tablespoon measure. Just don't be stingy-- it's good stuff.

Marvellous Lard Crust

2 1/2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 to 2 TB sugar
10 TB (6 oz) unsalted butter, chilled
6 to 7 TB rendered pork lard
1 TB cider vinegar mixed with 5 - 7 TB ice water

Sift flour, salt, and sugar together. Cut in butter and lard to a mixture of oatmeal-flake and pea-sized bits. Drizzle in about half the water, tossing with a fork. Add more water as necessary, until a handful of dough just sticks together when squeezed lightly. Divide into two portions, flatten into rounds, and wrap tightly or put into zip-loc bags. Refrigerate for 2 hours before rolling out. Because of its high fat content, this is a pretty sticky dough, so be patient.


Now, some caveats. Yes, ordinary commercial packaged lard (manteca, in Spanish) is available in some supermarkets and grocery stores, especially in places with decent-sized Hispanic/Latino populations. However, this stuff is often jacked up with preservatives and additives, and can have off flavors, I'm told. I haven't used it, and can't vouch for its effect in your crusts.

If you do find a source of good fresh lard, be sure to check whether you're getting rendered or unrendered lard; although I got the rendered (meaning ready-to-use) stuff from the Flying Pigs' farmstand at Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn (they also sell at the Union Square Greenmarket), their website seems to imply that the lard they sell online does require at-home rendering. Although rendering is a long, slow process (basically, you're liquifying the lard for a long time over low heat to render out any impurities), you do get those extremely tasty cracklings (put 'em in your cornbread!) for your trouble.


k. said...

Just so you know, the comment screen I'm filling out is all in German. Hinterlassen Sie Ihren Kommentar. Your blog post is signed Veröffentlicht von Stephanie J. Rosenbaum um 11:18 am 27.11.2006. Ok. On to what I wanted to say.

Looks like we may yet have to start the no-kill pig farm with liposuction lard. I can't wait to try your best pie crust ever. And it's true, those pigs at the Flying Pigs farm are terribly cute.

Billigflug New York said...

Hej Stephanie, are you German or do you have German relatives? Kind Regards