What you need to get started
First, do not freak out. Yes, Art of the Pie's Kate McDermott spent 2½ years perfecting the following recipe. Yes, it looks long and complicated and you’re wondering what the heck is leaf lard.
Forget all that. “Use what you have! Just bake!” McDermott says.
No leaf lard — which is rendered from fat around a pig’s kidney — at the local specialty market? Go with all butter (14 tablespoons total). Any butter works, salted or unsalted, imported or not.
Many fine bakers — and vegetarians — use Crisco or other all vegetable shortening, not leaf lard. The classic Crisco double crust recipe follows.
There’s no need for fancy gear as long as you can measure a cup or a tablespoon, stir with a fork and mix with your fingers.
A pastry brush is helpful, however.
Bake the pie in any pie pan you like. But if your pie is going over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house in a thin disposable aluminum tin, bake it with tin set in a Pyrex pie pan, then lift it out when you arrive.
Kate McDermott's Art of the Pie Crust
For a Double Crust Pie
- 2 1/2 cups unbleached white flour, kept in the freezer
- 8 Tbs. chilled leaf lard (or all-vegetable shortening)
- 8 Tbs. chilled butter (Kate likes high-fat foil-wrapped European butter. Option: Skip the leaf lard and use only butter, 13-14 Tbs. total.)
- 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
- 6-8 Tbs. ice water (more if needed)
Chill a large mixing bowl for the dough for about 30 minutes or until cold to the touch.
Combine all ingredients but the ice water in a large bowl.
With clean, cold hands, blend the mixture together until it looks like coarse meal with some lumps that look like cracker crumbs, peas and almonds. The lumps make flaky pies.
Sprinkle ice water over mixture and stir lightly with a fork.
Squeeze a handful of dough together. Mix in a bit more water if it doesn't keep together.
The dough should look a bit incompletely mixed before it is pulled together into the ball.
If you are using a food processor, use 15 pulses to incorporate the fat. A pulse is the length of time you'd tap a hot potato, she says.
Then use 10 pulses to incorporate most of the water and 5 additional pulses if you add more water.
But you still have to get your hands in the dough for a squeeze test and to make the ball of dough.
Divide the dough in half and make two chubby disks about 5 inches across.
Wrap each disk tightly in plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes (or up to two days). Make your filling during this time. Kate McDermott suggests a recipe for Any Fruit Filling.
Take out one disk of dough and put it on a well-floured board (or parchment paper, pastry cloth or counter). Sprinkle flour on top.
If the dough is too cold and sturdy before rolling, let it sit on the counter 5 minutes. If it’s too soft, put it back in the fridge until it chills back up a bit.
Start in the center and roll away from you to about 1 inch away from the edge. Then lift the pin back to the center and roll towards you and stop about 1 inch away from the edge. Turn dough and repeat. Work fast: You want it to stay cold.
When it is an inch or so larger than your pie pan, brush off the extra flour on both sides. Fold the dough over the top of the pin and lay it in the pie pan carefully.
Don't worry if the crust needs to be patched together; just paint a little water where it needs to be patched and “glue” on the patch piece.
Put the filling in the pie and repeat the process with the other disk.
Note: You can wrap the unbaked pie tightly in plastic wrap and freeze if you want to bake it another day. Bake as directed for the filling.