The Perfect Flaky Pie Crust

I’ve finally found the perfect pie crust and it’s all about a little pig. Try this Perfect Flaky Pie Crust that combines butter and lard and you’ll be hooked too!

The Perfect Flaky Pie Crust

What does that even mean; The Perfect Flaky Pie Crust. Until recently I wasn’t sure anymore. I feel like I’ve spent years in search of what would be perfect for me and reminiscent of those my Grandma used to bake and yet they all fell short of expectations; it was that ‘flaky’ factor that remained forever elusive.

Believe me, I’ve tried too. There has been Pate Brisée; supposedly the cream of the crop and yet while tasty from all of that butter, it simply did not elicit the exclamation from me that I was so hoping for. There has been butter AND shortening, cream cheese and lemon and vinegar an even vodka in pie crusts that always tasted good but just never did IT! Until I made this Perfect Flaky Pie Crust.

I had decided that my expectations when the word ‘flaky’ was used were just beyond the pale; that I was expecting more than possible. Maybe it was living in Colorado and our high altitude that made my quest so elusive so I settled and most often found I preferred graham cracker or shortbread crusts; they’re not expected to be flaky and are oh so delicious. But for some reason I never gave up. Thankfully.

The Perfect Flaky Pie Crust

Once I decided that the perfect flaky pie crust was a fairy tale and that I no longer wanted to be the heroine who struggles through travail after travail I gave up. True confession time?

In lieu of finding that elusive and wonderful pastry that I was certain did not really exist except in my imagination I found some solace in often letting myself use Pillsbury Pie Dough; the kind that you unroll and fit into your own plate. No one ever complained and it sure was easy and my search for the unicorn of pie crusts became a thing of the past and life moved on.

Still; I must have had something way back in that quagmire of nerve endings we call a brain that never quite let go so I paid attention to experts and the person I found myself paying the most attention to was Kate McDermott. The pie woman, the pie mistress, the Art of the Pie, the woman with a doggone pie cottage even! We bonded over my story of a fence and she gave me the scoop; her secret.

And I’m sharing her secret with you. It’s simple. It’s LARD. Pig fat. Almost banned from our kitchens for eternity but thankfully pigs have lost their association with evil fats and we’re enjoying bacon and ribs and yes, lard in our pies. Poor pig fat even has ugly connotations. Lard Butt. Lard Ass. HA…they must mean that person has a great big beautiful and FLAKY butt!

Wait though. Kate takes it one step further and recommends Leaf Lard. Lard from leaves? No silly! Leaf lard is the highest grade of lard (lard is pork fat, the term is usually used to refer to rendered pork fat suitable for cooking). It comes from the visceral – or “soft” – fat from around the kidneys and loin of the pig. It lacks any real pork or meaty flavor, making it an excellent neutral-flavor for pie crusts.

This was it; what Grandma must have used and I had finally found the Holy Grail on my way to The Perfect Flaky Pie Crust!

The Perfect Flaky Pie Crust

Leaf lard can be tricky to track down. Some small butcher shops make and sell it. I’m SO lucky to have a relationship with 5280 Meats; a Colorado organic beef and pork producer and they knew exactly what I wanted. Check Etsy though; I’ve seen it for sale there too.

Rendering your own is quite simple if you can find the fat and it is worth the effort to research that source. Put the pork fat in a pot and gently heat it on the stove or in the oven until the fat is melted and any bits of meat are rendered out (they will be browned and crisp and delicious, by the way). Transfer the lard to a container with a sealable lid and store, chilled, for up to a month or freeze it if it needs to last longer.

Making me even luckier? My friends Rachel and Ty sent me fat that was already rendered. SIX pounds of it! I’ve already promised some to friends but I have to tell you…I might be making a whole lot of pies! That first bite; that flaky thing that I had never known since Grandma; there it was. Amazing.

A recipe without sugar or any special accoutrements and it was the best I had ever had. (If you can not find a source for leaf lard, Kate recommends using 1/2 butter and 1/2 Crisco).

.Homegrown tomatoes

Since it is summer time and I moved during the winter, I’m sharing a photo from my backyard that has nothing to do with pies but everything to do with my new yard, my plethora of potted plants and a little cherry tomato plant that seems happy. I rescued another one from someone’s trash and it’s starting to thrive along with basil, thyme, rosemary and mint…all in pots this year. My first gardening since 2012 and it’s reminded me of how much I love it. Loved it even more with a bunch of kids scurrying around eating pie!

It’s summer, I think it’s time I made another of these Homemade Fresh Cherry Pies using this crust. It is absolute nirvana!

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The Perfect Flaky Pie Crust
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Perfect Flaky Pie Crust

Serve with either vanilla ice cream or this Amaretto Whipped Cream from Jessica at How Sweet Eats. Divine!
http://www.howsweeteats.com/2014/07/sweet-cherry-pie-with-amaretto-whipped-cream/
Prep Time15 mins
Total Time15 mins
Course: Pastry and Pie
Author: Creative Culinary

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 8 Tbsp cold butter 1/2 cup, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 8 Tbsp cold lard (1/2 cup) separated into several chunks
  • 6-8 Tbsp ice water

Instructions

  • To Make the Pie Crust
  • Mix flour and salt in food processor fitted with metal blade.
  • Cut in butter cubes with five 1-second pulses. Add cold lard and continue cutting in until flour resembles coarse cornmeal with butter bits no bigger than small peas, about 4 additional 1-second pulses. Turn mixture out into a medium-sized bowl.
  • Use your fingers to quickly sift through the mixture and if you find any really large chunks, just massage with some flour with your fingers to break it up.
  • Sprinkle 3 Tbsp of ice water over mixture. With a fork, fluff to mix thoroughly. Squeeze a handful of dough — if it doesn’t stick together, add two more tablespoons of water and repeat. Continue adding 1 tablespoon at a time until a quick squeeze of the dough shows it is sticking togeether
  • Divide dough into two and then flatten into 6-inch discs. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before rolling. I had better success using a pastry cloth than trying to roll it on my granite top but in either case, make sure you sprinkle counter/cloth with flour and flour your rolling pin.
  • Proceed with your recipe!

Notes

One of the MOST important aspects of making a successful pie is keeping everything cold so that the fat in your crust is solid when baking starts and they can do their magic in the oven; that's a big part of creating a flaky crust.
I freeze my processor bowl and blade and put the mixing bowl in the fridge. When it's time to test the dough after mixing with ICE water...make it quick; same when you pat it into those disks.

Nutrition

Serving: 1grams

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34 Comments

  1. That is one stunning looking pie and you can’t imagine how I’m looking forward to seeing the recipes and pictures of all the other pies you served at your party. A pie party! I love it 🙂

    P.S. Happy to hear that you are happy to be gardening again…your green thumb is clearly visible!

    1. Cheery Pie and peach pie and a blueberry lemon I have to work on…but sure tasted good.

      I am so loving getting my hands in dirt again; didn’t realize how much I’ve missed that.

  2. What a stunning cherry pie!! And gorgeous crust but then you went to the Pie Queen! Yay! I love seeing Kate’s video on your post! But I have to say using lard in pie crust kind of flips me out, maybe because I’m Jewish… but I really need to try your filling since my last attempts at cherry pie came out rather watery. Just a gorgeous pie!

  3. I love your back yard and your pies. The crust sounds very good. We can buy lard here but it’s not leaf lard. I’m going to put my searching cap on and see what I can find. My mother always used half lard in her pie crusts.

    1. The leaf lard is extra special but lard is next, then shortening. I loved the pies but those pie crust cookies were so telling…amazing little bites!

    1. That’s what was recommended by Kate if the lard can’t be found. Keep looking; it’s a prize when you do find it!

  4. Beautiful pie! I do make my own leaf lard and agree it makes the very best pie crust. It is now cherry season where I live so I can get fresh cherries to make a pie. I would like to point out one thing, all the different cherries do not taste the same when baked into a pie. Black cherries are sold around here mainly for fresh eating. Sour or “pie” cherries, including Montmorency and Morello varieties, are tart in flavor and bright red in color. I mention this because so many people have an expectation of the true cherry pie flavor, which they are not going to get, if they make a cherry pie using other varieties. Big difference.

    1. I actually prefer the sour cherries but they are almost impossible to come by but Bing and Rainier are readily available…which is why adjusting the sugar content is so important too!

  5. Your cherry pie is a beauty! I’m always torn between peach or cherry as my favorite pie, what a wonderful thing your pie party sounded, Id have had to try them all!

  6. Barbara, you outdid yourself with this posting! It is absolutely beautiful and although cherry pie is way down on my list of favorite pies, I surely would not pass up a slice of this delicacy if you invited me to your pie-party. 🙂 Leaf lard is hard to track down and I just use butter but when I was a kid my mom would render pig fat and we would get to eat the ‘cracklings’ that was left.

    1. I liked this pie but wait til next week when I share the peach pie with a brown sugar crumble. I LOVED it…cried when the last piece was gone!

    1. All butter tastes so good; I’ve made plenty of them but this? It’s the texture, the crispy, flaky texture that only came once I tried the lard. I’ll be making more…head on over. 🙂

  7. I have never in all my years in the kitchen mastered pie crust. It is my nemesis. One of these days I’m going to just make them over and over until I get it right! I’ll be using this recipe when I do that 🙂

    1. Lana, this was so easy; even if you can’t find the lard, try it with Crisco. I made 3 batches and every one came out perfect. Kate’s directions were to mix in all the fats with the flour and salt by hand; I used a Cuisinart and it was perfect. COLD everything is sure part of it but I just KNOW you can do it!

  8. Barb, your pie looks divine! I, too, am finicky with pie pastry… I really don’t like most of those I taste… glad you have perfected the recipe for your own tastebuds. It sure sounds yummy.

    1. The ingredients are so mundane but the coming together of them is so perfect. More about the texture than the taste but that butter in the mix does not hurt. 🙂

    1. Could not have done it without you Kate…great information and I’m so glad I could find it too. Now my pies really are like Grandma’s!

  9. Although I’m a big fan of Pate Brisee, nothing beats a pie crust made with leaf lard. Nothing. It’s totally the best, difficult to find these days, as you point out. The “lard” they sell in most supermarkets isn’t worth buying, IMO. I really do need to make an effort to find a good source for lard. And tallow (rendered beef fat), another fat that we rarely use today. Anyway, great pie crust, great pie. Thanks.

    1. I like it fine John it just doesn’t have the flaky texture I have so wanted to discover. This one is so simple yet still nirvana!

  10. Oh what a pie! This is beautiful and I love the idea of your pie party for the neighbors. They have hit the jackpot living next to you! I am curious about the lard leaf and hope to be lucky enough to taste one of these beauties of yours!

  11. Oh how I love a cherry pie. This one looks stunning. Love the sound of the crust (I’ve never been afraid of lard, especially in tamales). I’m a believer of vodka in my crust. I bet the combination of leaf lard and vodka would be great.

    1. Oh yes, vodka…I’ve tried that too!! You should test it; I’ve got plenty of the leaf lard to share if you want some.

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