This PieDay I am going to mix things around and post a Tenderflake recipe for pie crust today instead. In all my internet travels eyeballing delicious delights by other creative cooks, I sometimes have the feeling that pie pastries using lard are presented as almost passé. So very many now use butter – and I am a butter lovin’ gal! – with various methods of combining ranging from food processing to stand mixers. Everyone seems to almost be chanting “the taste…the taste…the taste!!” while singing the praises of butter.
Butter is great. I love butter. I love the taste, what it does in cooking and that it’s natural compared to margarine. I even like pie pastries that use it.
But when it comes down to what your gramma made?
Baby, it’s lard. And getting your hands dirty.
My grandmother’s recipe is her adaptation on the Tenderflake recipe that’s right on the box, or as one of my favorite chefs here in Edmonton, Chef Stanley Townsend once wrote in his description of his last meal: “tennerflake”. He too, insists that the pie made for his last meal would be pure lard. (on a side note, go and read what he wrote. That man needs to write his memoirs.)
Tennerflake is a Canadian prairie institution. Yes, I’m singing the praises of lard. The original Tenderflake recipe has the added zing of vinegar which is unique to it. There’s just nothing like it, at least to me. Lard pastry combines the taste and the flake in a combination that I think is perfect.
I made this the other day to play around with pie dough and hone my skills. It also topped my chicken pot pies that night – recipe soon- and they were out of this world.
I baked up a rolled and cut out piece of the dough, just to show everyone what this pastry is capable of when gingerly handled and done right.
Look at the rise and flake.
I bit into a piece and almost teared up, thinking of my Grandma Marion and the pies she used to make. That vinegar tang with Saskatoon filling…there is no other taste in this world that has such tangible, instantaneous memories for me. Summers at her place, exhausted from playing the creek, running around her farm, fishing, swimming, you name it, only to tumble into her small kitchen at the end of the day for her dinner of deer or duck, always ending with her Saskatoon Pie.
Yes, there’s quite a bit of bias going on here at my end of things, so forgive me that. Some people wax poetic about butter in their pastry, I tear up over lard and vinegar.
- 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 lb Tenderflake lard
- 1 tbsp vinegar
- 1 egg lightly beaten
- ice water
- Whisk together flour and salt.
Cut in Tenderflake with pastry blender or 2 knives until the lard is pea sized within the flour.
In a 1 cup measure combine the vinegar and egg. Add the ice water to make 1 cup.
Gradually stir liquid into Tenderflake mixture, adding only enough liquid to make dough cling together.
Gently gather the dough into a ball and divide into 6 equal portions.
Wrap the portions and refrigerate for 15-30 minutes (if you are using right away) or freeze for future use.
When you are ready to use and the dough has chilled for at least another 15 minutes, roll out each portion on a lightly floured surface. If the dough is sticking, chill again for another hour or two. The dough must be cold to be flaky!
Transfer the prepared dough to pie plate.
Trim and flute shells or crusts and bake according to your pie recipe. Yield: 3 9-inch double crust pies or 6 pie shells.
The key to the dough is not overworking it. I know, I know, that’s what every recipe says. The truth is, when you think you have it mixed enough, you have probably gone too far. Combine to the point where you think it’s not really done. By the time you gather it into a ball and divide, then roll out, that dough is going to be combined enough. I also suggest if you are truly going for impressing people with your pie crust, don’t use the stand mixer or food processor to mix the dough. I can truly say that the time it takes me to mix by hand is a mere 4 minutes, the cutting in of lard about 3 and then barely a minute of mixing.
I’d encourage everyone to make a batch to practice on, like I did. I froze half of it for future use, played with one portion seeing how much “flake” I could get and then topped my chicken pot pies with it.
I’m not a pie expert by any means. PieDay was my challenge to myself to get better at pie baking over the next year, a personal goal.
So knowing I am far from an expert and almost all thumbs sometimes, look at this crust!
If I can do that, so can you. Seriously.
Think of it like children’s play dough. Don’t get stressed out. Practice with your dough, roll it out and heck, make shapes out of it and bake them up. Break it too see how flakey it is inside. Have fun and be amazed at what you can do!
I hope everyone has a fabulous weekend!
The Thinking of Saskatoon Pies Already Magpie0