Harriet Ells is the Supervising Producer of KCRW’s Good Food.
Time for me to get into the pool. The pie-pool, as it were. I’ve baked pies before, but I usually use store-bought crust. I know, for shame. So, for the Pie-A-Day project, I decided to go all out. I made a Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with an all-lard crust.
First, you have to understand my position. As the producer of Good Food, I listen to every single interview we record. By this point in time, I’ve heard many, many people declare that all-butter is the way to go. Or was it lard and butter? Maybe butter and Crisco? Who knows!? Since Lindy & Grundy sell sustainably produced leaf lard, I thought I’d try just lard.
Next, what recipe do I use for the crust? I asked Evan, who told me to use the Michael Ruhlman Ratio guidelines: 12 oz flour, 6 oz fat, 4 oz water. No recipe? No way. I needed written instructions. So I turned to Google where I found this all-lard pie crust recipe from Boston.com. For the filling, I went to the masters of precise recipes: America’s Test Kitchen’s The New Best Recipe.
I had the leaf lard from Lindy & Grundy. I bought rhubarb and strawberries from the Santa Monica Farmers Market. At first I couldn’t find arrowroot, which ATC wanted me to use as a thickener. Silly me – I thought I could buy it at Top Valu, where I buy my tortillas, chips and salsas. But no, Albertson’s was where I ended up finding it. Later, I had to go back to Albertson’s to get more rhubarb (I hadn’t bought enough). Honestly, the amount of shopping I had to do for this pie was at little much.
I followed the instructions to a T. The result was a really good pie, if I do say so myself. It was tart, which I like, but Evan thought it needed more sugar. And the crust was good (Evan liked it!). The consistency of the crust was nice, but it needed a little more flavor. Next time, I think I’ll go with a lard/butter combo for the crust. Wait… did I just say next time? I think this pie thing is catching.
All-Lard Pie Crust (From Boston.com)
Makes one 9-inch double-crust pie
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup cold lard
1/3 cup ice water
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
Extra flour (for sprinkling)
1 recipe mixed blueberry filling (see recipe)
1 tablespoon milk (for brushing)
1 tablespoon sugar (for sprinkling)
2. Add the lard and with a blunt knife, cut the lard into small pieces. With 2 blunt knives or a pastry blender, work the lard into the flour until it forms tiny crumbs. (I used a Cuisinart)
3. In another bowl, mix the water and vinegar. Sprinkle the water mixture over the flour mixture. Use a rubber spatula to cut the liquid into the dry ingredients until the mixture forms large moist clumps.
4. Turn them out onto a floured board and knead lightly until smooth. Divide the dough in half so one piece is slightly larger than the other. Shape each into a flat round cake. Wrap in foil and refrigerate for 30 minutes. (I split the dough into 2 pieces, shaped them into disks and wrapped them in wax paper. Then I put the disks in the freezer.)
(I stopped at this point, but I’ll leave the rest of the recipe here for your reference.)
5. Set the oven at 400 degrees. Have on hand a deep 9-inch pie pan. Set it on a rimmed baking sheet.
6. On a floured counter, roll the larger piece of dough to round slightly larger than the dish. Lift it onto the rolling pin, and ease the dough into the pie pan. Use scissors to trim the excess around the edges. There should be a 1/2-inch overhang. Turn the overhang under to form a hem all around.
7. Fill the pie with berries; refrigerate.
8. On a floured counter, roll out the second round of dough. Lift it onto the rolling pin and ease it onto the filling. Tuck the edges of the dough all around to make them even with the bottom edge. With your fingers, crimp the edges. Or press them evenly all around with a fork. Brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar. With a paring knife, make 5 vent holes.
9. Bake the pie for 40 to 50 minutes or until the filling is bubbling through the vents and the crust is golden. (If the crust seems too brown, turn the oven down to 375 degrees for the last 15 minutes.)
Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
2 tsp vegetable oil
1 1/2 lbs rhubarb, ends trimmed, peeled if the outer layer is especially fibrous, and cut into 1-inch pieces (5-6 cups)
1 cup plus 1 Tablespoon sugar
Flour for dusting the work surface
3 Tablespoons arrowroot
1 1/2 lbs strawberries, hulled adn quartered (about 5 cups)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsps grated zest from 1 orange
1 large egg white, lightly beaten
1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until smoking. Add the rhubarb and 1/4 cup of the sugar and cook, stirring frequently, until the rhubarb has shed most of its liquid but is still firm, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a large plate and refrigerate until cool. (I put it in the freezer)
2. Remove one piece of dough (one of the disks). Roll the dough on a lightly floured work surface or between 2 large sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap to a 12-inch circle. Transfer the dough to a 9-inch pie plate by rolling the dough around the rolling pin and unrolling it over the pan. Working around the circumference of the pan, ease the dough into the pan corners by gently lifting the edge of the dough with one hand while gently pressing it into the pan bottom with the other hand. Leave the dough that overhangs the lip of the pie plate in place; refrigerate until needed.
3. Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position, place a rimmed baking sheet on it, and heat the oven to 500 degrees.
4. In a small bowl, mix together 3/4 cup of the sugar, the arrowroot and salt. In a large bowl, toss together the strawberries, cooled rhubarb, vanilla and orange zest (if using). Sprinkle the sugar mixture over the top and stir to combine. Spoon the fruit evenly into the pie shell and pack lightly. Roll out the second piece of dough to a 12-inch circle; place it over the filling. Trim the edges of the top and bottom dough layers to 1/2 inch beyond the pan lip. Tuck this rim underneath itself so that the folded edge is flush with the pan lip. Flute the edge or press with the tines of a fork to seal. Cut 8 slits in the dough top. If the pie dough is very soft, place in the freezer for 10 minutes. Brush the top of the crust with the egg white and sprinkle evenly with the remaining 1 Tablespoons sugar.
5. Place the pie on the hot baking sheet and lower the oven temperature to 425 degrees. Bake until the top crust in golden, about 25 minutes. Rotate the pie from front to back and reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees; continue baking until the juices bubble and the crust is deep golden brown, 30-35 minutes longer. Cool the pie on a wire rack until room temperature, 3-4 hours, before serving.