Tender Lard Crust

makes one double crust pie

275g               AP flour
4g                    salt

25g                  sugar
200g               lard, straight from the refrigerator

75-100g          ice water

Lard is one of the best fats for pie crust, hands down. The lard available on the grocery store shelf has been hydrogenated similar to shortening, and it’s worth seeking out leaf lard from your local butcher or farmers market pork purveyor. Lard is 100% fat, unlike butter which contains just under 20% water. Becasuse of this, the dough doesn’t expand as much as a butter crust. This makes lard crust my favorite for blind baking bottom crusts when I am making pumpkin pie, or a chilled pie like chocolate cream pie. It stays put when baked, and is fork tender under delicate fillings.

I employ the 5-tined pastry blender for this method, it breaks up the fat into pearls rather than petals, and it is strong enough to cut the lard, which isn’t as firm as cold butter. The fat is broken down finer than for a butter crust, making this crust so tender it almost crumbles when forked.

If you are vegan, this is also the pie crust for you. Simply exchange the lard for vegetable shortening, which will behave in the same manner. Because shortening is usually stored in the cupboard, I recommend taking the extra step to chill your shortening before you proceed.

  1. Place the flour, salt, and sugar in a large work bowl at least 12 inches wide across the top. You’ll want ample room for your hands to work with the dough without being cramped. For this recipe, I like to use a pastry blender to cut the fat into the flour. Cut the lard into 1 inch pieces and add them to the bowl with the flour. Begin cutting the fat into the flour by pressing the multiple tines of the pastry blender into the fat, then tapping the pieces off if necessary back into the flour. Continue pressing the pastry blender into the large chunks of lard until they are all broken down.
  1. Now you can use the round edges of the bowl, and the round tines of the pastry blender collaboratively. Begin cutting the fat into the flour by using a swiped cutting motion from one curved edge of the bowl to the other by rocking your wrist. Pause to tap any fat that is building up between the tines from the pastry blender, and toss the mixture with your hands to encourage even fat to flour distribution.
  1. Continue cutting the lard into the flour until you have a very crumbly looking mixture with very small pieces of fat, no larger than a tart-n-tiny. The mixture will resemble couscous. In your efforts to thoroughly cut the fat into the flour, resist the urge to cut it so small it begins to clump, meaning the fat and flour are beginning to blend together.
  2. Begin adding the ice water by dripping two soup spoons of water over the surface of the lard-flour mixture. Toss the mixture with your hands to distribute the water evenly. Do this by plunging your hands to the bottom of the bowl and pulling the flour mixture at the bottom of the bowl upward and vigorously tossing the entire mixture. Continue, two spoonful’s of water at a time, until you have 75g of water in the mix.
  3. Grab a handful of the dough and compress it by squeezing it with about ¾ of your strength. If it falls apart, add two more spoonful’s of water and check again. If it holds together, but falls apart when pressed with your thumb, add more spoonful  of water and check again. You’ll know you have enough water when you can press your fistful of squeezed pie dough and your thumb leaves an imprint without any crumbles falling off. It should hold together like a dough, but beware of over moistening the dough, the flour will continue to soak up the water in the refrigerator for the next couple hours.
  4. When your dough holds together when squeezed, begin compressing the dough into two evenly sized spheres. Gently press each sphere of dough into a disk about 1 inches flat. The more evenly you press the edges of the disk, the less likely they are to crack and split when you roll your dough. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and chill them in the refrigerator for a minimum of 2 hours. The dough will keep in your refrigerator for 2 days, or your freezer for up to a month.