Lard Pastry Crust
At Leaguefest someone asked me for my lard pastry crust recipe. I don’t remember who it was. I don’t even remember the person’s gender. I spent half of Leaguefest with a martini in my hand and the other half delirious with influenza. But I remembered that I needed to post the recipe, and here it is.
It’s based on a recipe from the Gourmet magazine cookbook of 1950, though I’ve added some finesses and, uh, commentary. Boegiboe’s grandmother gave me the cookbook in 2000, and it remains possibly the best present I’ve ever received. Like maybe half the recipes in the book, this one begins with the instruction “Take a tub of lard.” That’s also what makes it completely awesome. Without further ado:
Lard Pastry Crust
Open your freezer. Put in the following:
Tub of lard
2 1/2 cups of flour
Sifter (if you don’t have one, a strainer and a spoon are okay)
Pastry knife (a fork will work almost as well)
You’ll also need some ice water at the time you make the crust. Cold is your friend.
With all the ingredients in the freezer, wait an hour or so. Then sift the flour with 1 tsp of salt into the mixing bowl. Add 6 tablespoons of the lard and blend thoroughly with the pastry knife. The texture you want is like coarse corn meal. Don’t skimp on the time you’ll need; be patient until it really does have the right texture.
Add 6 more tablespoons of lard. Blend with the pastry knife until the particles are the size of peas. Make sure there aren’t chunks of lard or flour lurking anywhere; a complete homogeneity is what you want.
Now add 4 tablespoons of ice water, sprinkling it throughout. Mix it in with the pastry knife. Do not add more water than this unless it is absolutely necessary to just barely make the dough into a coherent ball. The more water you add, the less flaky the crust will be and the more it will resemble a cracker or a Wheat Thin. This is disagreeable and should be avoided at all costs.
Now the dough should be ready to roll out with a rolling pin and a pastry cloth. You may want to put it back in the freezer and wait a while, however, particularly if you’re working in warm conditions. When you’re ready, divide the dough roughly in half. Roll each half thinly and evenly. Use the slightly larger half for the bottom of the pie. Roll thinly and fit this section to the pie pan. Freeze again for around a half an hour. There should be no need to butter or otherwise treat the lower crust. Fill with whatever you’re using — apples, berries, mincemeat, or whatever. Seal the top section of crust to the bottom using water or egg. At this point you can brush the top with egg or salt water. If it’s a sweet pie, Boegiboe likes crystallized sugar on top. Savory pies do well with herbs or even sea salt (though make sure there aren’t leftovers if you use sea salt; sea salt crusts have a way of going nasty a day or two after they’re cooked). Poke holes in the top to allow steam to escape. Bake as directed by the recipe.
This is the very best pie crust recipe I know of, except for one. The best recipe ever used liquid vegetable oil for shortening. It seems like it shouldn’t work, and my attempts to recreate it have always failed. It was uncanny. The most wonderful thing about that recipe was that you could seemingly use any vegetable oil, and each of them gave it a slightly different flavor. As with so many other things in my life, I’m pretty sure I lost it in a disastrous flood we experienced way back in 1999. The flood took out more than half my library, cookbooks included. If anyone could share this recipe, I would be eternally grateful.