Friday, November 29, 2013


For our family Thanksgiving feast yesterday I baked two apple pies, one pumpkin pie, one mincemeat pie, and three and a half dozen butter tarts. I also made a creme de menthe pie. Including the pumpkin cheesecake my son-in-law Dane baked, we had plenty of desserts!

So why, then, would I need to bake this apple pie today?

My daughter Karlyn and her husband Ti were taking the leftover apple pie home last night. Set on top of the car while putting other things inside, it slid off and landed top-first on the snow!

So today's pie takes its place.

Lard is Not a Bad Word

Until last year, I always made pie crust using shortening. My mom, an excellent pie baker, always used Crisco, so that's what I used.

I don't really know where my negative associations with lard came from, but I always associated lard with disgusting fat--literally and figuratively.

A few years ago, health concerns became linked with trans-fats, which are present in any hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fat. The amount present in vegetable shortenings has been reduced to the point that they can legally say 0 grams per serving, but there is a trace of it in any hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fat.

I looked into alternatives for shortening in pie crust. I ruled out oils and butter. I knew that lard was used traditionally before shortening. My mother-in-law always made her pie crusts using lard. They were flaky and tender, but my general negative perception of lard persisted, and it took me a long time to try it. This article helped me shift my perception.

About a year ago, I finally tried it. I liked it! My pie crusts were still flaky and tender. They tasted better. And the dough was easier to handle.

The lard that's typically available in the grocery store is hydrogenated. But, according to Wikipedia, it contains half the amount of trans-fat as does shortening. So, my next step is to find lard that is not hydrogenated. A year ago, someone suggested that I go to a butcher shop (there are a few left) to buy the lard they trim from the pork. I put it off, so I have continued to use the hydrogenated lard. Just now, a quick Google search led me to the grocery store Save-a-Lot. That store is not very far from me. But, if it is available there, it might also be available at Price Rite, which is very near me.

Pie Crust Recipe

2 C (8.5 oz.) all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
2/3 C + 2 Tbsp. (6.25 oz.) lard
4+ Tbsp. cold water

Stir together flour and salt; cut in the lard. Add enough water to be able to squish together the dough. Cut the dough in half; roll out each half.

Makes one 2-crust pie or  two 1-crust pies.

Note: This dough cutter/scraper is one of my best baking buddies. Use it to cut up the lard as you add it to the flour. After you have squished the dough together, use it to cut the dough in half. When you are lifting the dough to place it in the pie pan, if it is sticking, gently use this tool to pry it up.

Leftover Pie Crust Dough

Squish together all of the dough scraps from the first rolling out, adding a little--less than a teaspoon--of lard to make up for the extra flour that has been rolled in.

Today I got a dozen tart shells out of the second and third dough rollings. I have a doughnut cutter that is missing the middle part, so it cuts a 3 1/2-inch circle. I set the circles of dough in muffin tins. You may prick the dough with a fork if you like, but I don't bother. Bake at 450 degrees for about 8 minutes. Let set for a few minutes before removing them from the pans.

In Canada, tarts are very common, so they have real tart pans, which are like shallow muffin tins.

You can fill these with just about anything you want, from jam or pudding to lemon cream or chocolate mousse.

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