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In search of the perfect pastry crust


stellabella
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I decided to dig up the very informative pie crust thread because... I have made my first pie crust with lard... and...

Oh. My. God.

Lard pie crust is freaking fantastic! I've never made a crust so flaky in my life. And tender! And rich!

I rendered my own lard from some extra pork back fat that I had left over from the Pork Cake experiment. Thank you fifi for posting the lard rendering process...yours was much easier to follow than many recipe books which tend to make it over-complicated.

The recipe I used was RLB's Flaky Pie Crust recipe, just used 2/3 lard and 1/3 butter (didn't have enough lard as I made a double batch of dough). Let the lard & butter sit in the freezer for a couple of hours before blending, and used the food processor method.

Made myself some apple-currant turnovers with it, and took previous posters' advice to *freeze* the turnovers before baking. Excellent advice that I will always follow in the future. Also, having made turnovers, I could wrap and freeze extras to bake later.

I don't understand the comments that a lard crust tastes "porky". Granted, I made it with an apple filling, so pork & apples pair nicely, but I couldn't detect a pork flavor. Just richness. But then, I am the one that made the Pork Cake, so clearly I have certain proclivities.

I'm a permanent convert to lard. The guys working the carniceria butcher counter better get used to me, because they're the only ones that carry pork fat within a reasonable distance of my house.

:wub::wub::wub:

...wine can of their wits the wise beguile, make the sage frolic, and the serious smile. --Alexander Pope

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Others have pointed out and it's worth reiterating - the typical lard one finds in a grocery store will be of the hydrogenated variety and won' offer the same advantages as the lard that you made Viva. For those of us who are time challenged I'm told that it's worth seeking out a market that sells Amish food goods as they'll often have non-hydrogenated lard.

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The local groceries near me don't even carry lard, so that's probably a good thing, otherwise I might have been tempted to try the commercial and been disappointed.

Plus, rendering your own lard gives you cracklings, which cannot be beat.

...wine can of their wits the wise beguile, make the sage frolic, and the serious smile. --Alexander Pope

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My co-workers just ordered in a huge case of leaf lard from Dietrich's Meats. They gave me a tub to try and I can't wait. There was a big article in "Saveur" magazine about making the best pie crust, and they went on to describe leaf lard which is fat that is located around the pigs' kidneys.

"Saveur" listed the sources for leaf lard in the back of the mag, so my co-workers immediately got on the phone. It's supposed to make the flakiest pastry ever. We'll see!

I'm going to try it as soon as my hand gets out of this cast.....!

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Ok, kids......cast or no cast, I just couldn't stand it any longer. Had that leaf lard sittin' in my fridge, and it was cold and yukky outside and I was bored to death. Hence, the one-handed pie crust experiment! According to "Saveur" magazine, leaf lard is supposedly the best thing around for flaky pie crust. I set off to find out.

Made a miniature apple pie. Followed pie crust directions to the letter. Here's the pie right out of the oven......looks pretty good......

pie.jpg

Here it is cut in half......look at the flakiness!

oooh.jpg

But what does my cat think?

spikey.jpg

No one knows.

Here's the REAL test......my husband. He loves me enough to tell me when my stuff really sucks.

tenderyes.jpg

sayright.jpg

Here are the flaky remnants of the taste test.....

woohoo.jpg

And finally, my opinion. OH. MY. GOD. It truly IS the flakiest crust (and tastiest) I've ever made. I'll be ordering leaf lard from here on out. I'm converted. I'm amazed.

Here's the details for those of you who want to try leaf lard. I got mine from:

Dietrich's Meats (610-756-6344) A 1 lb tub is $1.00.

Here's the recipe I used:

2 tsp. white vinegar

apprx. 1/4 cup ice water

1 1/2 cups a.p. flour

3/4 cup cake flour

2 Tbsp. sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. baking powder

12 Tbsp. chilled butter, cut into pieces

6 Tbsp. (3 oz) leaf lard, chilled

Mix dry ingredients....put in freezer for 20 mins or so.

Mix your vinegar with ice water.

Cut your chilled butter and lard into your chilled dry ingredients with a pastry cutter or a couple of knives til most of it looks like small peas.

Add your ice water/vinegar a little at a time until dough comes together.

Split your dough in half and press into disks on plastic wrap.

Wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes or up to 8 hours.

Make your pie.

I can't say enough how awesome this stuff is. Hope you can try it! :smile:

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Thanks for posting that Annie.........it's sort of an eye opener for me. It seems to explain similar crusts I've come across and never been able to duplicate. I haven't had a frozen mass produced pie in a long time, but I'm thinking that some of those large manufactors might know that lard secret.

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  • 1 year later...
Baking from a frozen state: The filling does come up to a boil to thicken. I don't change my thickener at all.  It takes almost 1 hour in the oven on 375f before it boils in a pie from the freezer. Where as, a fresh unfrozen fruit pie will come to a boil well before then, probably 1/2 hour into baking.

I am resurrecting this thread because it's summer pie season and this thread has probably the best info on general pie baking (that I could find -- searching egullet is not as easy as I would like it, whether google or "regular").

I just baked my first fruit pie from a frozen state. I've baked many pies, and even placed them in the freezer for 20 minutes or so first, but this was the first frozen solid. The crust kept it's shape much better and it's so much easier to put a frozen pie into the oven. I'm sold.

I have a few questions for Wendy (or anyone else).

Do you change the recipe of the fruit filling at all? The recipe I made is a cherry-raspberry one where the juices, sugar, thickener and cherries are cooked on the stove to thicken, then the raspberries are added and poured into the crust and baked. I got more boil-over than expected, but I was scaling up the recipe from 9-inch to 10-inch, so it was probably my mistake, but I was wondering anyway.

If you are not using a glass pie pan, do you still bake at 375 deg all the time? I use glass for myself, but if I'm giving or selling the pie I use the disposable aluminum pans. It seemed to me that the juices were bubbling a lot and the crust wasn't done yet after 1:40. I increased to 400 deg at the end for 10 extra minutes.

Is there a temperature for the filling that would indicate it's done (as long as I like the crust color)?

Thanks!

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I just pulled out my baking school notes and made an apple pie the other night. ("The Best Ever Apple Pie")

The top crust stayed domed, but the Granny Smith apples had cooked down to mush. So...I had a huge air pocket between the fruit and top crust.

I baked the pie 15 min. at 425, then until done at 375. It took between 45 - 60 min. to finish baking (as judged by the browning on the top crust).

Would freezing the pie before baking it have prevented the huge air pocket and the apples cooked to mush?

I'm in pie heaven!!!

Mary

Beaches Pastry

May your celebrations be sweet!

Beaches Pastry Blog

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Would freezing the [apple] pie before baking it have prevented the huge air pocket and the apples cooked to mush?

Mary, on post #37 of this thread Wendy DeBord writes about baking the apple pie without freezing first and the suboptimal results she got. She freezes all pies.

I'm new to the freezing pies, as detailed in my previous post, and I don't make apple pies until the fall, so I haven't tried it yet with apple.

That said, my favorite apple pie filling recipe, from Food & Wine, cooks the apple slices in butter and brown sugar prior to placing them in the dough. This way whatever shrinkage is going to happen to the apples already happens and there is never any pocket between the crust and the fruit. Also, I like to add slices of one raw apple to the cooked ones.

One other variable is the type of apple. I like to use several kinds of apples. Granny Smiths turn to mush to me also, which is not a bad thing if there are enough whole slices from other varieties. My favorite apple is Stayman Winesap (tart) and I usually use half them and the other half a mix. If I ever see Northern Spys I'll try them. Many swear by them, but I can't find them in PA.

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I ordered 12 lbs of Dietrich's leaf lard last year and it is FANTASTIC. I grew up eating my mom's lard pie crust, which she made with store-bought lard, which I think was better 20 years ago. Now, the store-bought lard tastes way too porky. I had been trying to make all-butter crusts, until I found out about Dietrich's. Dietrich's lard has no pork flavor -- the crust is just flaky, flavorful and very easy to work with. I don't bother chilling anything and only use flour, salt, lard and water.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I remade my apple pie last weekend and froze it overnight first. I additionally cooked down the juices from the apples until they were caramelized, and the pie was fabulous. This time I didn't have the large gap between fruit and pie!

I did notice that the granny smith apples cooked to mush again, so I'll be using different apples the next time.

I also made a fresh blueberry pie, froze it, and cooked it along with the apple pie.

Again, no gap betwen fruit and crust, and the flavor was awesome.

The crust was far superior when the pie was frozen first...

Beaches Pastry

May your celebrations be sweet!

Beaches Pastry Blog

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  • 3 months later...

I just ordered 4 lbs. of the leaf lard from Dietrich's. Price is now $2.50 per pound and the shipping to NYC was $8.75.

I can't wait to get it to try my hand at scratch piecrust. I made an all butter one last night and although it was flaky, I think I could get it even flakier. The butter taste was delicious so I think a butter/lard combo would be a great bet.

Does anyone know the ratio of butter/lard I should use?

I think lard use is on the upswing. It's been getting better press and the phone rep I spoke to at Dietrich's to place my order (they don't have online ordering or take credit cards) advised me that the NY Times Dining section is coming out with an article about lard in November.

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Well, I guess everyone's different, but I usually use 1/3 lard 2/3 butter by weight, give or take. So if I am making pastry with 12 oz flour, I'll have 4 oz butter and 2 oz lard. I guess for a savoury piecrust you could increase the lard somewhat.

I'd start by trying 1/3 lard, and then maybe try increasing it to 1/2 or even more until you find what you like.

One other point to remember. If you are used to using salted butter, you need to remember to add a bit more salt than you normally would to the flour to make up for the lack of salt in the lard. Undersalted pastry is dull, I think.

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I thought it was best to use unsalted butter, so the fact that the lard is unsalted shouldn't matter, at least by my way of thinking. From what I've seen most pie crust recipes call for salt anyway.

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I'm a bit tardy with this - this is the thread that brought me to eGullet a couple of months ago when I was trying to find a source for leaf lard.

Partially hydrogenated lard makes crappy pastry. Sorry to use such a technical term. Even shortening does better. But lard is probably better for you than shortening; hydrogenated fat = trans fat. I hear that Crisco is making a 0 trans fat shortening now, but since I believe that lard makes better pastry (and if I wanted a sweeter pastry I'd use butter), I'll stick with good lard. Biscuits and bread, too, now that I think of it.

I ordered it from Dietrich's, and they were very prompt, considering the time it takes mail to get across the moun-tings - when I opened the box I nearly swooned; I had forgotten how great fresh lard smells!

I wanted it for a tourtiere pie (recipe still in development), and it made perfect pastry, which is the way I remember pastry. I may catch up to my mother yet :-)

If leaf lard imparts any flavour to pastry, it's subtle and positive. I wouldn't go so far as to call it sweet, but it's nice if you can detect it.

I just use AP flour, lard, salt and a little water - and I cut the lard into the flour with a fork against a knife. I've tried various devices for this, and that's what works for me. I may give pastry flour a whirl, since people seem to like it here :-)

I did try the food processor, but it's quicker just to make it by hand I think, and more reliable. Or maybe I just haven't got a light enough touch with the FP yet, but I'm not sure it's worth the time to persist with that. It's great for other things.

Anyway, thanks for the link to Dietrich's! I don't make a lot of pastry, but ever since my pastry started to fail and I discovered they were hydrogenating the lard I have been tramping around looking for real lard, and grilling every grocery store for miles around and was beginning to despair. But now my pastry is respectable again!

(edited to break paras, I hope)

Edited by Hawthorne (log)

Lynn

Oregon, originally Montreal

Life's journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting "holy shit! ....what a ride!"

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  • 3 months later...

I've been having this ongoing debate with myself about what constitutes the perfect pastry crust. Some people will only use butter, and nothing else. Others will opt for adding SOME shortening to the pastry mixture in order to ensure a flaky texture. Especially, if you are making pie dough such as pâte brisée or pâte sucrée, you would use only butter.

Here is my quandary. Most recipes for the classic Canadian Butter Tart use a combination of both butter and shortening. By way of background, there is a "raging" debate among Canadians as to what constitutes the perfect butter tart: runny filling vs. firm filling, walnuts vs no walnuts, raisins vs. no raisins, flaky crust vs. firm crust.

Which brings me to the issue of what constitutes the perfect crust. Despite all the "traditional" butter tart recipes I have found that call for shortening AND butter in the crust, I am torn about using shortening in ANYTHING at all. It kind of goes against my principles.

What are your thoughts about making the perfect pastry crust?

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This has been dabated in many threads, but I would suggest first reading Melissa Clark's article in the New York Times: Heaven in a Pie Pan: The Perfect Crust from November 15, 2006. She tests various combinations. Butter with some other fat added was the best (lard, duck fat, shortening, suet, etc). I can PM you the article and recipes. Let me know. I used butter (3 parts) and non-trans fat shortening (1 part) and loooved the results. I've done all-butter a lot and love the taste but I was looking for improved flakiness.

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I've been having this ongoing debate with myself about what constitutes the perfect pastry crust.  Some people will only use butter, and nothing else.  Others will opt for adding SOME shortening to the pastry mixture in order to ensure a flaky texture.  Especially, if you are making pie dough such as pâte brisée or pâte sucrée, you would use only butter.

Here is my quandary.  Most recipes for the classic Canadian Butter Tart use a combination of both butter and shortening.  By way of background, there is a "raging" debate among Canadians as to what constitutes the perfect butter tart: runny filling vs. firm filling, walnuts vs no walnuts, raisins vs. no raisins, flaky crust vs. firm crust.

Which brings me to the issue of what constitutes the perfect crust.  Despite all the "traditional" butter tart recipes I have found that call for shortening AND butter in the crust, I am torn about using shortening in ANYTHING at all.  It kind of goes against my principles.

What are your thoughts about making the perfect pastry crust?

I don't use shortening in anything (although I experimented with it in tart shells for quite a while). In the end it's going to come down to what flavor and texture you like most. Personally, even when I follow the conventional steps for a crumbly pate brisee crust, I end up with a fair amount of flakiness that I like quite a bit. If I wanted super flaky, I'd just go get some puff pastry and see what I could do with that. !00% flaky, and 100% buttery goodness.

Here's an intetersting article by Melissa Clark of the NY times on her quest for the perfect pie crust. Good insight on alternative fats:

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/15/dining/1...serland&emc=rss

Notes from the underbelly

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I've been having this ongoing debate with myself about what constitutes the perfect pastry crust.  Some people will only use butter, and nothing else.  Others will opt for adding SOME shortening to the pastry mixture in order to ensure a flaky texture.  Especially, if you are making pie dough such as pâte brisée or pâte sucrée, you would use only butter.

Here is my quandary.  Most recipes for the classic Canadian Butter Tart use a combination of both butter and shortening.  By way of background, there is a "raging" debate among Canadians as to what constitutes the perfect butter tart: runny filling vs. firm filling, walnuts vs no walnuts, raisins vs. no raisins, flaky crust vs. firm crust.

Which brings me to the issue of what constitutes the perfect crust.  Despite all the "traditional" butter tart recipes I have found that call for shortening AND butter in the crust, I am torn about using shortening in ANYTHING at all.  It kind of goes against my principles.

What are your thoughts about making the perfect pastry crust?

I don't use shortening in anything (although I experimented with it in tart shells for quite a while). In the end it's going to come down to what flavor and texture you like most. Personally, even when I follow the conventional steps for a crumbly pate brisee crust, I end up with a fair amount of flakiness that I like quite a bit. If I wanted super flaky, I'd just go get some puff pastry and see what I could do with that. !00% flaky, and 100% buttery goodness.

Here's an intetersting article by Melissa Clark of the NY times on her quest for the perfect pie crust. Good insight on alternative fats:

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/15/dining/1...serland&emc=rss

In order to get a tender AND flaky crust, you really have to use butter and shortening. I believe it's the shortening that makes it tender and the butter that makes it flaky, because the moisture/water content in butter steams the layers of flour and fat to fluff them up, so to speak. Alton Brown on "GOOD EATS" devotes an entire show to this debate, and based on my experience, he's right. I am from the southeastern U.S., and we love our pies. I have used my mother's recipe all of my life for sweet and savory recipes, and it rivals any french pastry I've ever tasted. There's also a myth-busting technique that is used to get the desired results. I know that I'm not stealing a copywritten recipe. so I'll share in the forum:

MAMA'S PASTRY CRUST

3 cups All-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

FOR SWEET CRUST ONLY ADD 1 TABLESPOON SUGAR

1 cup chilled shortening

1 stick plus 2 tablespoons chilled but not refrigerator-cold

unsalted butter

1/2 cup - 3/4 cup cold water- add a little at a time

Mix flour and salt and/or sugar in bowl.

Add shortening a tablespoon at a time and coat with flour.

Add butter a tablespoon at a time and coat with flour.

HERE'S THE MYTH-BUSTING PART:

We've always been told not to handle pasrty crust because we

will make to dough tough. True enough, unless you use this method:

After the fats are in the bowl, use a fork to mix until the balls of fat

are half the size you started with. Then lay down your

fork, and scoop up with one hand a handful of the mixture.

Using your thumb, gently mash and then rub the pieces of fat

across your other four fingers. Do this until the pieces of fat

are pea-sized. What

this does is erobe the fat in flour, creating hundreds of layers

that produces the flakiness we all want.

Then add the water at little at a time until well-mixed, but not too wet.

Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 10-15 minutes.

Roll out as usual. Fill and bake at 450o until crust starts to turn

a little dark- say 25 minutes, then reduce to 375o until done.

I promise you will have great results with this recipe, and people will rave.

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I make wonderful pie pastry the kind people go nuts over and wonder just what it is I do that makes it so perfect top to bottom ..

it took me years and years to get down but in the end ...

the recipe is similar to the "Mamas" but I never ever use shortening I always use chilled lard in its place ..that and the unsalted butter make it just wonderful ...

why am I always at the bottom and why is everything so high? 

why must there be so little me and so much sky?

Piglet 

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