Pie crust is one of my favorite things to make, so I decided it deserves its own post. Making your own crust takes a bit more time than buying store-bought crust, but nothing beats a super-flaky, homemade pie crust. Once you get the hang of it, making your own crust doesn’t take long at all. Also, I find that the crusts in the store are usually made with hydrogenated oils, which increase shelf life but contribute to high cholesterol.
My crust is a mixture of butter and lard. If you’re not already on the lard bandwagon, consider jumping on. You might be surprised to learn that, besides being delicious, lard is a surprisingly healthy fat! Lard is considered heart healthy because it’s lower in saturated fat and higher in monounsaturated fat than other animal fats. Lard is also full of vitamin D, a big bonus because most of us are vitamin D deficient during at least part of the year. Just make sure you use pure, unadulterated lard, not the hydrogenated lard on the shelf of the grocery store. Stay tuned for a post on how to easily render your own lard using fat purchased from your local pig farmer.
If you don’t have lard, you can make this crust with all butter and it will still be fabulous. You can also make the crust entirely with lard, but you’ll need to keep your dough cold as you work with it. Lard has a lower melting point than butter and will liquefy around 85 degrees Fahrenheit, causing your dough to fall apart. I find it easier to work with a crust that is at least part butter, especially when the weather is warm.
This particular recipe is made with whole wheat flour, which makes the dough a little trickier to work with. Whole wheat crusts don’t hold together as well and can be challenging to transfer into the pie pan in one piece, but I love the hearty consistency of whole wheat for savory recipes such as my Goat Cheese and Tomato Pie. If you want a more delicate crust, omit the whole wheat and use entirely all-purpose flour. You can also easily substitute with gluten-free flour blend in this crust recipe, but you’ll need to roll it out between two sheets of waxed paper.
Start out by cutting cold butter into your flour. You can use a pastry cutter for this, but I use my grandmother’s method of cutting the butter into chunks and working it in with my fingers. Keep working the mixture until it’s evenly mixed and crumbly in texture.
Once the butter is cut in, add the cold lard. You want your lard to stay nice and firm so leave it in the freezer or fridge until you’re ready to measure it out. Mix it into the dough until evenly crumbly. Make sure not to over-handle it or it will melt.
Sprinkle cold water onto the dough and gently mix so all the dough is lightly moistened. The goal is to not “work”, or knead the dough at all with your hands, because this will build up gluten and make your crust tough. Repeat with another tablespoon of cold water. At this point, if the dough seems to be evenly moistened all over, try gently forming it into a ball with your hands. Depending on the humidity of the air you may need another tablespoon of water before the dough will form a cohesive ball.
Let the dough chill thoroughly in the refrigerator for at least an hour. When you’re ready to roll it out, put your dough ball on a lightly floured surface and give it several good thumps with your rolling pin to soften it up a bit and make it more pliable. If you don’t thump the dough enough it will just crack when you try to roll it out.
Sprinkle a little flour on your rolling pin and roll from the center out to the edges without actually rolling over the edge. Rotate the dough after each turn. Aim for a reasonably round shape, about 11 inches across. It doesn’t have to be perfect.
Eeevverrr so carefully, transfer your dough to a greased pie pan. This is the trickiest part! Don’t worry, if your dough falls apart a you can press it into the pan in pieces and no one has to know. I like to slide a flat plastic cutting mat under my dough and slide it into the pan that way. Some people fold the dough up and unfold it in the pan. My mother drapes hers over the rolling pin.
Press the dough into the pan and use a knife or kitchen shears to trim the excess dough from around the edges. Roll the edge of the crust under and, if you like, use your fingers or a fork to give it a pretty fluting. Poke the crust all over with a fork and pre-bake before adding the filling.
Lard and Butter Pie Crust
- 1/3 cup whole wheat flour or gluten-free flour blend
- 2/3 cup plus 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour or gluten-free flour blend
- 3 Tablespoons cold butter
- 3 Tablespoons cold lard (or butter)
- 2-3 Tablespoons cold water
- In a large bowl, whisk together flour and salt.
- Use a pastry cutter to cut in butter, or cut into small pieces with a knife and use hands to mix until crumbly.
- If using lard, add the cold lard and mix briefly until evenly incorporated and crumbly in texture. Take care not to melt the lard by handling it too much.
- Sprinkle cold water onto the mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it’s wet enough to form into a ball.
- Cover and put in refrigerator to chill for at least 1 hour.
- Roll the dough onto a lightly-floured surface until a roughly 11-12 inch circle is formed. If using gluten-free flour, roll out between two sheets of waxed paper.
- Transfer the dough to a greased 9-inch pie plate.
- Press dough into the pie plate, trim excess dough from the edges, and crimp the edge.
- Poke the crust all over with a fork and pre-bake for 10 minutes at 375 degrees F.