I’ve been more or less off dinner duty lately – last night I was in Red Deer teaching a class, and tonight we went to Vin Room (didn’t want to miss out on Dine Out Calgary completely! we ate creamy mushroom soup, braised lamb shoulder and crème brulée, with wine pairings for each, for $50) but I do have something on offer. This morning we talked about lard on the Eyeopener, and I finally made some pastry using my homemade stash, and a third of it came back home with me. And wow.
Seriously-I am pulling up my soapbox and preaching the word of the lard. A little more research on the subject revealed that lard is only (I realize only is relative – but far lower than I would have guessed) 39% saturated fat and 45% monounsaturated fat. (I know! It’s pig fat! How can that be? Is lard really that misunderstood? I think perhaps so.) Comparatively, butter is about 63% saturated fat. So it’s not just a smidge lower – it’s quite substantially lower. In saturated fat. Than butter. Pig fat, that is. My worlds are colliding. My Dad called later in the morning to stress that he couldn’t possibly believe this to be true. But yes, I double and triple-checked, and so far no one has called or emailed to point out that I got my facts wrong.
So swapping some of the butter for lard when making pastry (I usually do all-butter pastry) makes it flakier (lard makes it flaky while butter adds flavour) while reducing saturated fat. Crazy. And it’s an ingredient my Grandma used, and would recognize – which is the whole point, no? The movement back to whole and familiar and real food? And it makes some pretty fab poutine, by the way. (Although canola oil does too, and there’s no question that canola oil is better for you than lard.)
Not Without Salt has a nice little write-up and video on rendering your own lard, although hers is much darker than I like mine to be – the darker it gets the toastier and more intensely flavoured. If you’re gentle and slow, you should be able to keep it pure white and almost flavourless, if you like it that way. Strain it – chill it – lard. I have done a batch in the slow cooker and it works fabulously – it does tend to colour the fat, though – or mine did, anyway – which intensifies the flavour a bit and gives it a pale golden hue. Which is fine, if you don’t mind that – just be warned.
Grandma Woodall’s “Never-fail” Pastry
This will give you enough pastry to line a 9” pie plate; double it to make enough for two pies or a double crust.
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup butter, chilled and cut into pieces
1/4 cup lard or shortening, chilled and cut into pieces
2-4 Tbsp. ice-cold water
1 tsp. vinegar (optional, stir it into the water)
In a large bowl or the bowl of a food processor, stir together the flour, sugar and salt. Add the butter and shortening and use a fork, pastry blender, wire whisk or the “pulse” motion of the food processor to blend the mixture until it resembles coarse meal, with lumps of fat no bigger than a pea.
Drizzle the minimum amount of water over the mixture and stir until the dough comes together, adding a little more a bit at a time if you need it. Gather the dough into a ball, flatten it into a disc, wrap it in plastic and chill it for at least half an hour. If you are making a double crust pie, divide the dough in half, making one half slightly larger than the other. (Your pastry can be prepared up to this point and frozen for up to 4 months; let it thaw on the countertop when you need it.
Maple Hazelnut Pie
Bon Appétit, October 2008
unbaked single pie crust
3/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/4 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. bourbon
1/4 cup butter, cut into bits
1 large egg white, lightly beaten
1 cup hazelnuts, husked, coarsely chopped
3 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
In a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat, combine maple syrup, brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt and bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Continue boiling for a minute, reducing heat if it looks like it might boil over. Remove from the heat and stir in the bourbon, then the butter; whisk until butter melts. Let cool to lukewarm, whisking occasionally, about 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Brush crust with the beaten egg white, and scatter with hazelnuts. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and vanilla; whisk in the cooled maple-sugar mixture. Pour into the crust, over the hazelnuts. Bake for 45-50 minutes, until filling is set and slightly puffed. Cool completely on a wire rack.