26 Mar2011

Pie Crust with Lard…

by Marketman

Half homemade tampalen pork lard and half unsalted butter. That’s the proportion of fat that I added to my pie crust and it was wonderful. I learned how to bake pies from Sister, and have used a version of her filling and crust for decades and it has never failed to satisfy family and friends. I even have two roommates from COLLEGE who drop by every so often and they are totally destroyed if I haven’t baked an apple pie for them. One guy can still eat half of an entire pie in one sitting! :) I think I was baking apple pies before I knew how to cook rice.

For years, my default pie recipe used butter and crisco, that vegetable shortening that is white and comes in cans. The pie crusts were always pretty good, so why mess with it? But the availability of homemade lard has had me re-trying all kinds of recipes using the lard and I now know why our ancestors use to swear by it. For the most part, it’s TERRIFIC. The one area it falls a bit flat on is that rich buttery flavor we have become so partial to… so the best solution is a bit of both butter and lard…

I am convinced that to make good pie crusts in the hot humid climate in the Philippines is a bit more of a challenge than in temperate countries. Or maybe it’s just true that if a cook has “hot hands” then pastry is a problem. If you really want to nail the crust, follow these tips and use Sister’s recipe below. You should have a shatteringly good crust on your pies. So here are the combined Marketman/Sister tips:

1. Find the best possible locally available ingredients. Unbleached all-purpose flour if you can find it, if not, American packed all-purpose flour. Seeking out American flour seems so colonialistic, but trust me, the American packed flour, despite having the same brand name and packaging, is somehow different from the locally packed all-purpose flour. S&R sometimes carries the U.S. packed flour. And bizarrely, it is a few pesos CHEAPER than the locally packed flour. Use the best butter you can afford. There are several danish, australian and new zealand butters in groceries these days, buy the best and unsalted if possible. Add some cake flour as Sister suggests, to lighten the crust. I often skip this step as I don’t always have cake flour, and I always regret it. Find good homemade lard. :)

2. Cold, cold, cold. For the best results, you need to work in rather cool temperatures. To simulate a cooler environment, I often chill the flour I am going to use in the freezer for 10-15 minutes before using it. Cube the butter and lard and keep it in the fridge until a few minutes before you use it. Use chilled knives or a pastry cutter to cut up the butter and lard. You do not want the butter to melt. You want the butter and flour to mix, but with small shards of butter throughout. Use only the coldest of ice water when you add that to the mixture and don’t overdo the water. Use a cold fork to mix this all up. Do not “overwork” the dough.

3. Use your hands at the last minute to gather up the dough into a ball and divide into portions just right for the bottoms and tops of your pies. Measure your pans so you know if you have to adjust the amount of dough. I often wing it and end up with too little dough which is utterly infuriating when you are at the “point of no return” and rolling to cover the filled pie shell. Wrap the portions in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before continuing with the dough. In the meantime, you can start to prepare the filling.

4. In Manila, I use the freshest Granny Smith (light green) apples I can find. In other countries, there are lots of interesting apple varieties to use — I think Sister likes Northern Spy in the New England area. The crisper and often tarter, the better. Think about 12-14 medium sized apples for a ten inch pan. Peel, core and cut the apples and place them in heavy enameled or stainless steel pot. Add your sugar (I use a little less than most folks, as I want the tart appley-ness to prevail), cinnamon, nutmeg, butter, salt and cornstarch and put this over a low flame until the juices form a nice sauce, not more than say 10 minutes on the flames. This helps mix everything up and gets a head start on cooking the filling, so the pie doesn’t have to stay in the oven too long… which might result in a nearly burned crust but still undercooked apples within. I cut the apples fairly chunky and don’t overdo the pre-cooking so the apples pieces are still distinct when you cut into the pie, it isn’t all a mush of applesauce.

5. When you roll out your pie dough, you need a cool room (hard when your kitchen is heating up with the pre-heating oven and apples on the stovetop) and preferably a marble or stone counter. I bought a small piece of marble that is roughly 2×2 feet for several hundred pesos a decade or more ago from a marble supplier and I can move this (with some difficulty) into an airconditioned room if necessary to roll out the dough.

6. After filling the pie pan (apples should be 2-3 inches higher than the rim of the pan in a mountain like arrangement with the highest point at the center of the pan), carefully lay the dough over the apples and seal the edges well. Sister suggests an egg wash on the edge of the bottom crust to ensure a good seal. Place some slits or fork holes on the top crust to vent steam. Once cooked, the apples will shrink and you should have a fully packed pie, up to about the rim of the pan. Sometimes the domed crust will remain standing proud with air between the crust and the apples, but other times, specially in humid weather, the dome will deflate or collapse…

7. Brush the top of the crust with an egg wash and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake at a higher starting temperature and bring the temperature down after 10 minutes or so. Also, bake the pies on the lowest rack in your oven, to ensure the bottom crust of the pie is crisper, and not a mush of dough and applesauce. Sister sometimes cooks the pie on the floor of the oven I think. But beware of molten applesauce that tends to ooze out of the pies… if it drips onto the oven floor and burns your home fire alarm will almost certainly go off. I use a pan under the pie pans to catch the droobles.

Here is Sister’s latest pie crust posted recipe:

4 c. all purpose flour plus 1 c. cake flour (not self rising) unsifted
1 1/2 c. cold unsalted butter
1/2 c. cold lard
1 tbsp. fine salt
9-10 tbsp. cold water
Mix flours and salt in a large bowl.
Cut in butter and lard until you have lumps like corn kernels.
Sprinkle with cold water, tossing mixture with a fork or your fingers.
Push into 4 equal shaggy balls, flatten into fat discs and refrigerate for at least 1 hr. before rolling out between 2 sheets of lightly floured wax paper into 11? circles 3/16 thick.
Makes 4 single crusts for 9″ pie pan or two double crusts, top and bottom.

I also have an old post for the instructions on the filling.

As for the lard infused crust in these photos, it was brilliant. A bit thin because I didn’t make enough for two large pies, but the texture and flavor was memorable. Will definitely be making more pies with 1/2 lard, 1/2 butter. :)

P.S.

Some trivia from Alton Brown’s book “Good Eats” with regard to pies:

1. “Humble Pie” goes back to medieval times, when the scraps of meat were cooked into pie, thus meaning to eat the most lowly of ingredients.
2. “Pie” is derived from the word “Magpie” as cooks believed pies were a place to throw in all the odds and ends in the kitchen. A Magpie (bird) collects all kinds of bits and pieces and stores them in their nest.

 

COMMENTS:

  1. Au says:

    Looks delish MM! Reminds me of how my Grandma used to make crust with lard. Will definitely try making this recipe! Merci!

    Mar 26, 2011 | 11:22 am

     
  2. Maria Isabel Rodrigo says:

    super sarap naman!

    Mar 26, 2011 | 11:41 am

     
  3. ness says:

    MM, please open a resto already so we can sample your creations. :)

    Mar 26, 2011 | 12:08 pm

     
  4. Maria Isabel Rodrigo says:

    By the way Mr. Marketman, we were so intrigued by the goodness of your Zubuchon as per the feedbacks that we read from your previous posts. That made us long to have a taste of your wonderful lechon anytime we feel like splurging. Wish it is readily available in metro manila stores.

    Mar 26, 2011 | 1:47 pm

     
  5. Paul Dough says:

    Your trick of partially cooking the pie-filling for 10 minutes is quite unconventional. Most pie recipes instruct you to put raw apples inside the pie. I believe that adjusting the thickness of the raw apple slices will allow you to have a satisfactory just-cooked-enough tenderness without the “apple-sauce” effect and torching the crust. I use a mandolin for slicing and I think it makes great, uniform slices (about 3-4mm) perfect for pies. I love your blog and miss Cebu a lot. Can you please do a piece on “Kikiam”?

    Mar 26, 2011 | 2:24 pm

     
  6. Ryan says:

    Apple pies! I thought you’re gonna try the vodka pie crust that you commented on. http://ryanwantstobeachef.wordpress.com/2011/03/01/4/
    I love apple pies! But if I’m cooking for my self, I don’t add any sugar since I have diabetes (maybe some agave?) They’re the type of desserts that doesn’t rattle my veins after 2 slices. When I do pie crusts, I make them with just lard, no butter. I find that easier to work with since lard (I think) holds better in our temperature :D

    Mar 26, 2011 | 2:30 pm

     
  7. jo anne says:

    this is my biggest frustration, apple pies. I’ve actually given up on it. But bec. of this post, I might just try again. It looks really yummy, It’s making me crave. “Praise the lard”, indeed.

    Mar 26, 2011 | 3:43 pm

     
  8. present tense says:

    Just really curious if you’ve ever done puff pastry. Seem to recall a previous post somewhere. If so – any tips ? The first few steps seem almost the same. Tnx

    Mar 26, 2011 | 5:07 pm

     
  9. kitchen says:

    wow nice trivia. i love the pie, thanks for sharing the recipe.

    Mar 26, 2011 | 5:35 pm

     
  10. Marketman says:

    present tense, no, I haven’t made puff pastry… I buy it frozen in the chilled section. :) But Artisan has offered it from his bakery where they make it from scratch… Ryan, I made this pie before I read your post… Paul, sorry, I have never made kikiam myself. And as for the pies, yes a thin slice does work and results in a flatter denser filling I think, but I like the mouthfeel of chunky. Also, I find the pre-cooking mixes the ingredients nicely… but I agree, many recipes skip that step. Maria, sorry, no Zubuchon in Manila yet. We make the lechons all by hand and in very small quantities, and it’s best fresh… though the feedback we have been getting from our frozen products has been surprisingly good… Actually, selling Manila at PHP650-700 a kilo compared to the less than PHP500 price in Cebu might improve our profit margins… :)

    Mar 26, 2011 | 5:42 pm

     
  11. Footloose says:

    Shatteringly flaky is the accurate description of a well-made pie crust. Tender Flake, the Canadian lard brand which also now taunts the “no trans-fat” slogan featured for the longest time a short clip of a fork poking into a slice of pie that explodes into tiny bits of flakes in their TV ads.

    And I agree too that replicating certain specialties in the heat and humidity of the Tropics is not only a bit of a challenge but more often an insurmountable obstacle. One tries to leap over this by quick and decisive movements (and refrigeration), two qualities (attainable with experience) that when lacking constitute the so called “hot hands” that you mention among certain pastry newbies and I fear, a fatal flaw equivalent to not having a “green thumb” among eager gardeners.

    Rose Levy Berenbaum of Cake Bible renown also advocates partial cooking of pie filling to reduce excessive shedding of juice. Piling up of filling reduces the empty cavern effect under the top crust. Plentiful and affordable apples are now coming out of China, learning to deal with any apple(s) available in your area can minimize the effects of both these problems.

    Mar 26, 2011 | 6:03 pm

     
  12. shalimar says:

    ah pies… love them made one.. but here is one real story… saudi guests on board fell in love with Mallorcan ensaimada as you know made with lard… opps how can we explain it!

    Mar 26, 2011 | 6:23 pm

     
  13. sister says:

    Bravo! Pie looks absolutely scrumptious. Crust looks like it shatters at the touch of a fork, “long” as opposed to “short”. Nicely browned- but apples are tender with some bite and in distinct pieces, and oozing spiced goodness, not packed like a cement wall.
    Half cooking the apples, then COOLING the filling before filling the pie crust means you can bake the pie at higher temp- 425 F for the first 15 min so the crust seals and browns without your worrying about whether or not the apples are going to be done. And yes, definitely do chunky. I do place the pie on a cookie sheet and then on the floor of a gas oven at 425 F for the first 15 min. transfering to a middle rack for the rest of the baking time at 375 F so the bottom crust browns slightly and does not get soggy. If that’s too persnickity for you bake on the lowest rack.
    Note that lard is almost 100% fat and butter is only about 81-83% fat so if you use all butter add 2 tbsp. more butter and use a tbsp. less water. For all lard simply use a tbsp. less lard for the recipe given above. Recipe can be easily halved for one 9″ pie with a double crust. For 10″ pies use 2 1/2 c. AP flour, 1/2 c. cake flour, 1 3/4 tsp. salt, 2/3 c. butter, 2/3 c. lard and 6 tbsp. cold water. Do not be tempted to use less salt or the crust will taste flat. The contrast between the slightly salty flakey crust and the tart, tender filling is what makes apple pie so delicious.
    In the Phil if you cannot obtain Granny Smiths try Yellow Delicious, not Red, and add a tbsp. of lemon juice. In the US there are many good cooking apples available from October through January like Northern Spys, Granny Smiths, Greenings or Winesaps.
    Now if only people would follow instructions…

    Mar 26, 2011 | 7:09 pm

     
  14. millet says:

    am not too fond of apple pie but this is apple pie just the way i like it..beautiful crust and chunky pieces, and not slices glued together. vanilla ice cream, where are you?

    Mar 26, 2011 | 7:20 pm

     
  15. sister says:

    Bravo! Pie looks absolutely scrumptious. Crust looks like it shatters at the touch of a fork, “long” as opposed to “short”. Nicely browned- but apples are tender with some bite and in distinct pieces, and oozing spiced goodness, not packed like a cement wall.
    Half cooking the apples, then COOLING the filling before filling the pie crust means you can bake the pie at higher temp- 425 F for the first 15 min so the crust seals and browns without your worrying about whether or not the apples are going to be done. And yes, definitely do chunky. I do place the pie on a cookie sheet and then on the floor of a gas oven at 425 F for the first 15 min. transfering to a middle rack for the rest of the baking time at 375 F so the bottom crust browns slightly and does not get soggy. If that’s too persnickity for you bake on the lowest rack.
    Note that lard is almost 100% fat and butter is only about 81-83% fat so if you use all butter add 2 tbsp. more butter and use a tbsp. less water. For all lard simply use a tbsp. less lard for the recipe given above. Recipe can be easily halved for one 9″ pie with a double crust. For 10″ pie use 2 1/2 c. AP flour, 1/2 c. cake flour, 1 3/4 tsp. salt, 3/4 c. butter, 1/3 c. lard and 6 tbsp. cold water. Do not be tempted to use less salt or the crust will taste flat. The contrast between the slightly salty flakey crust and the tart, tender filling is what makes apple pie so delicious.
    In the Phil if you cannot obtain Granny Smiths try Yellow Delicious, not Red, and add a tbsp. of lemon juice. In the US there are many good cooking apples available from October through January like Northern Spys, Granny Smiths, Greenings or Winesaps.
    Now if only people would follow instructions…

    Mar 26, 2011 | 7:22 pm

     
  16. Artisan Chocolatier says:

    MM, looking forward to when you will start selling lard to the public. =;-)

    I macerate the chunky granny smith apples in sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon, before I cook them. Cool them and then bake them.

    Mar 26, 2011 | 7:36 pm

     
  17. natie says:

    beautiful pies!

    Mar 26, 2011 | 8:29 pm

     
  18. sister says:

    I just cam back from Union Square and the current price for rendered lard from Flying Pig is $6.50 for 8 oz or 1 c. No quarter lbs. were available. Tampalen or unrendered fresh leaf lard could be ordered for $5. a lb.

    Mar 27, 2011 | 1:42 am

     
  19. Mila says:

    I started hearing the nursery rhyme “4 and 20 blackbirds baked in a pie” while reading this :)
    Can’t find pork lard here, but there’s a place that sells Crisco and another store sells organic vegetable lard. I’ve used it to make tortillas, but I might spend some time making apple pies this week. It’s gotten cold here again. Perfect pie weather!
    Maybe I shall macerate the apples in some bourbon.

    Mar 27, 2011 | 11:20 am

     
  20. Marketman says:

    Mila, then you might be most amused to read this tidbit, also from Alton Brown, from whom I quote extensively:

    “Ever hear of ‘four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie’? Well, I bet you didn’t know the birds were supposed to be alive, did you? And I don’t mean going in…I mean coming out. You try finding some blackbirds and getting them into a pie…”

    Mar 27, 2011 | 11:26 am

     
  21. isabel says:

    hi MM! have you tried making guapple pie instead?

    Mar 27, 2011 | 5:56 pm

     
  22. Marketman says:

    Isabel, no I haven’t tried making guapple pies, but I have tasted both a guapple and sayote pie and they were pretty horrible. If you are going to go through the trouble of baking a pie and using good ingredients for the crust, why scrimp on the apples? At most, good Granny Smiths would cost about PHP250 for one pie, so if one’s budget couldn’t handle that, best to make another more economical dessert like banana turon or bananaque instead…

    Mar 27, 2011 | 6:32 pm

     
  23. Ruth Bandera says:

    MM, your apple pie looked scrumptious, I should try out your recipe one of these days when am off my low carb diet. Would the results be almost the same if I substitute Crisco for the cold lard? I bake French apple pies, mostly during the Christmas holidays to give to friends and for the noche buena. The recipe was taught to me by Chef Joey Prats a long time ago when he was just starting out to teach baking. My family (bless them!) and friends say my pies are very good that in case I get tired of being an investment banker, I could probably turn to baking as an alternative career.
    .

    Mar 27, 2011 | 7:01 pm

     
  24. Marketman says:

    Ruth, I think the difference between lard and crisco is noticeable. But without any good lard, crisco and butter are the next best thing I suppose…

    Mar 27, 2011 | 7:33 pm

     
  25. present tense says:

    Like Artisan C, i look fwd to the time your lard becomes publicly accessible. Cheers !

    Mar 27, 2011 | 7:46 pm

     
  26. Nicole says:

    To die for! They look so scrumptious! I want to go home now and start making my own lard and make this delectible looking pie.

    Mar 28, 2011 | 9:18 am

     
  27. The cute Pie Guy says:

    Hi Marketman and all pie lovers,
    Do not be fooled that there is a perfect pie crust. It all depends on the type and kind of pie you are baking.

    Most decorative pies with intricate designs and patterns do not work well with crusts that are flaky. Once the crust hits the heat, the crust grows in size and erases much of the handy work like leaf edges or braided trims.

    Your crust looks exactly the way I like it, golden brown all over. I have tested various pie crusts just like you. I even rendered my own lard from pig fat.

    Rendering lard is not hard, but it is time consuming and a little challenging finding good quality leaf lard to render. Lard is the original shortening before Crisco came out.

    Many believe 50%-50% butter and lard is the best crust which I did try and posted the recipe. It has been around for a long time, way before our time: The Almost Perfect Pie Crust Recipe made with Lard and Butter

    Your butter to lard crust is 75%-25% which make it more of an all-butter crust. If you remember, fats have different smoke temperatures. Butter’s temperature is lower than lard’s. What this means is that an all-butter crust will brown before an all-lard crust. Also, it means a lard crust will fair better in your climate where it is warmer, the fat will stay harder at lower temperatures.

    The bad news is that a lard crust is not as flavorable as a butter crust, and if you know what you are doing, an all-butter crust is just a flaky as a lard crust.

    Always remember the most important ingredient: love.

    Mar 28, 2011 | 12:24 pm

     
  28. The cute Pie Guy says:

    Sorry my link got broken for the Almost perfect pie crust:
    http://www.everythingpies.com\pie-crust-recipe-lard-butter.html

    Mar 28, 2011 | 12:33 pm

     
  29. tonceq says:

    Whoa! the crust looks like it’s going to melt in my mouth! I tend to stay local when I bake apple pies (not to say that Granny Smiths aren’t locally available). I usually go with Fuji’s but I might just go with Grannies next time! have you ever used fuji’s before MM? :)

    Mar 28, 2011 | 7:54 pm

     
  30. sister says:

    To the Cute Pie Guy:
    Yes, crusts are not created equal for all fillings. But pie is a rustic, diner, or home made dessert at best and better simple than overdone with leaves and roping which requires a more stable dough that remains as stamped out, and ergo, a harder consistency and strength. Good looks, lousy eating.
    True, as you say, lard and butter crust recipes have been around for decades, if not centuries, but how many people have mastered the simple techniques used to produce a decent crust? Certainly mass produced pies can never achieve the flakiness and taste profile of a hand made crust because a pie crust stamping machine used in bakeries require a much more moist formulation using only vegetable shortening.
    I applaud the person who makes an effort to produce a good home made pie. It isn’t difficult at all which you know but few attempt to ever make a decent one.
    Best,
    The crowned, unchallenged, reigning Apple Pie Queen of Union Square

    Mar 29, 2011 | 3:49 pm

     
  31. MIT says:

    Thank you so much for posting the recipes. Last Sunday, I switched on the airconditioning in the kitchen and made the most delicious apple pie, following your recipe. I used Crisco and butter. It was heavenly. Even my kids remarked it looked gorgeous while it was baking. And the texture of the crust was so flaky. They could barely wait the couple of hours to let it cool before cutting into it. Needless to say, it lasted less than 24 hours. Excellent! Thanks again!

    Mar 30, 2011 | 10:37 pm

     
  32. caroline says:

    thank you for posting your wonderful recipe. i followed your instructions on the pie filling but encountered a problem. my pie was watery. despite adequate cooling the juices just flooded out when i cut the pie. can you make any recommendations regarding this problem? any pointers would be greatly appreciated since i always seem to have this problem. thanks.

    Apr 6, 2011 | 10:29 am

     
  33. betty q. says:

    …I totally agree with Sister…it is hard to compare the hand made or hand rolled dough than machine rolled. In my apprenticeship days, one of the places I used to work at was this dessert restaurant in Vancouver. I hand rolled the pie crusts for all the pies that were sold. As the restaurant became really busy, the owner decided to go high-tech and bought a sheeter. Needless to say, there is a marked difference in the final product. I for one, though it made my life easier did not particularly care anymore to eat the pies.

    My greatest compliment for my hand rolled pies came from someone who became the Executive pastry chef of one of the Hyatt Hotel some 15 years ago. He was based in Europe. We became friends and I got a call one day from him asking me how I make my Apple Pie (I won Blue Ribbons with it). I couldn’t believe my ears!

    Apr 23, 2011 | 1:17 am

     
  34. The cute Pie Guy says:

    Hi betty q.
    I would love to know the recipe and steps in making your blue ribbon apple pie. Can you share it with me?

    Thanks

    Jul 13, 2011 | 1:52 pm

     
 

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