Monday, December 15, 2014

I love pastry.
Its a hug in food form.

In my humble opinion, the way to get the best flaky pastry is the addition of Lard.  It is an amazing ingredient and is actually getting a little bit of a modern rethink as we explore the fats we put in our food.  Not convinced, lets talk some Lard facts;

So what is Lard?
Lard is pig fat in both its rendered and unrendered forms. Lard was commonly used in many cuisines as a cooking fat or shortening, or as a spread similar to butter.

What can I do with Lard?
It's an extremely versatile fat.
It doesn't smoke at high temperatures so it's perfect for frying. 
It has large fat crystals which means it makes the flakiest of pastries.
Vegetables roasted in lard come out perfectly crisp.
Lard is even good on a piece of bread, in place of butter.

Will is make my pastry taste of pork?
Despite what you may think, it does not impart a pork flavor.  

Is Lard really bad for me?
By any estimation, lard is a healthier fat than butter. Gram for gram, it contains 20% less saturated fat, and it's higher in the monounsaturated fats which seem to lower LDL cholesterol (the "bad" kind) and raise HDL (the "good"). It's one of nature's best sources of vitamin D. Unlike shortening it contains no trans fats, probably the most dangerous fats of all. 

Before the second world war Britons ate lard without guilt or fear. It's worth remembering that the very people who told us about the benefits of factory margarine – which we now know caused considerably more harm than good – were the same who fat shamed us into stepping away from Lard!

Don't believe me?  Well Delia (who is the font of all knowledge in the kitchen, her word is gospel!!), says that a 50/50 mix of lard and butter makes the best pastry and of course she is, as always correct.  Check out her perfect shortcrust pastry recipe here 

Lard is also totally sustainable as more often than not, the leaf fat that gets rendered into Lard is thrown away.  The Leaf Fat is the large mass of fat that surround the kidneys.  It has a different texture than all the other fat on the animal.

Fancy trying to render Lard at home?
Cut the leaf fat into small cubes and put it into a large pan. Add a cup of water to stop the fat sticking to the pan as it heats up- this will evaporate throughout the process. 
Place on a low heat and keep the pan uncovered, stir every 30 to 40 minutes, pressing the pieces against the pan in order to help them melt. 
Cook until the fat has melted, the water has evaporated and the pieces begin to brown slightly, approximately 3 to 4 hours. 
Pour through a fine mesh strainer into a heatproof container and allow the fat to cool completely before covering and storing in the refrigerator.

So consider stocking your fridge with this fabulous fat.  Your pastry will thank you for it, I promise!

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