In preparation for our self rendered pastry tasting, I made the pastry!
The last day I was at City Market I met Christan. I wrote about my awkward response to her telling me she read my blog at one of the local Farmer’s market stands and she read my words to her in that post and responded. She suggested we go out for dinner some time; I suggested we cook together, instead. She said she made a “mean apple pie” and I was really happy about that because I had volunteered to make a bevy of them. Thus, our pie-making bee was born! But, first, I had to make the pastry.
Do you recognize these packages? You would only if you read Kevin’s blog. If you don’t you should. He is a hard core lover of good food. He walks his talk and has actually provided and produced almost all of his family’s food for the winter. Those of you that read regularly know that I had dinner at his house and met his family when I asked to have a personal garden tour after reading about his garden last summer and about his herb preserving.
He butchers his own animals and renders his own fat. I decided to render my own fat after eating the amazing pork belly I had at his house: pork belly confit. That led to a discussion about leaf lard and rendering one’s own fat for pastry. He made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. I could have some of his rendered leaf lard, if I made him some pastry and pies. It went further than that, though: I rendered my own leaf lard and made 1 and 3/4 pounds of each lard into pastry: his, mine, and Tenderflake’s so that we could have a pastry tasting sometime later in the fall.
Above is my pastry lard. Below is mine, left, and his, right. This image (on my computer, at least) captures the colour of each perfectly. His was whiter than mine. Mine had an eggshell hue. His had a greyish hue it was so white. His was also harder than mine. Not significantly, but noticeably. They both smelled almost exactly the same: meaty. Remember, each was rendered from melting the fat. In my two packages of fat, I had mentioned that one smelled very bad when it was being rendered; the other smelled good. The bad smelling one was a significantly darker colour when in liquid form, yet barely noticeable in solid form. Kevin suggests gender as a factor. I bought mine from Allan Irvine, so the pigs are all fed the same. Feed would not have been a factor. Age or fat may have also been a factor. In any case, both turned out wonderfully. Kevin’s is whiter and harder. He did his slower. His pig also came from a different farm.
Below, the egg and vinegar have been placed in the measuring cup; combined well together, and then the cup is filled to 8 ounces with water.
Beavie says, “Remember to measure from eye level!” (We all know that, but he just wanted to get into the photo!)
Below, from left to right: Kevin’s lard, mine, and Tenderflake.
Below, from left to right: in the same order: each of the three lards worked into the flour. Though the colour and texture may appear different here, it was similar. The Tenderflake lard was a much greyer colour than Kevin’s His was white white. The Tenderflake was a grey white beside his. Mine was warmer, but still very white. The texture of the Tenderflake was even softer than mine. The scent was remarkably different than ours. It had no meaty aroma; according to Christan (when she came to make the pies) it smelled sweet. To me, it had almost no oder. Certainly, you would not have any idea it came from an animal; yet, with mine and Kevin’s the smell was unquestionably meaty. Christan’s comment, “That pastry would make a really great meat pie!” Oh, yes, it would!
Time to add the liquid: I have just started, below.
I mixed the liquid into the drier ingredients with two forks until it was clumpy and clearly ready to form into discs. I tried not to use all the liquid, but each time I did, except with the Tenderflake lard. I had a little liquid left.
I have a complete slide show in my gallery of my mother teaching me how to make pie pastry. It would be a really good idea to watch it and read the captions under each picture if you haven’t made it before. It isn’t very intimidating once you get the fat mixed into the flour properly. After that, it is easy: however, that part does take some practice. The only other danger zone is forming the moist pastry into discs. You do not want to handle the pastry too much. It will get tough and will not be flaky. The least amount of handling, the lighter and flakier the pastry. Once they are rolled into discs (six per pound of lard) and wrapped in plastic wrap, they will need to be refrigerated before rolling. I freeze mine and make the pies another day. I usually make a huge batch and have my pastry last all winter long: pumpkin pies, apple pies, Saskatoon pies, and butter tarts are guaranteed recipes for this pastry. Sometimes I make Tourtiéres or mincemeat tarts, too.
After I had all discs weighed and wrapped, I had a small amount of pastry left. A childhood memory came to me that I have long forgotten. I have never even made this for my own children, but my mother used to make it for us all of the time. What is the difference? Time. The era. History. My mother made a lot of pies. I didn’t. I probably make more now, that my children are gone than I did as a single mother at home. In fact, I know I do.
Mom would roll the left over pastry cut from her last pie and fit it into the last rickety pan she could find. Here, I am using virgin pastry: unheard of in the roly-poly world, but as the idea had come to me, I had to make it after all these years!
I would be using all my pie plates, so into a round cake pan it went. Not enough for the edges, but that is OK. As a matter of fact, that is the point: this is what mom did (and her mother before her) with left over ends of dough. Up the side of the pan it went in spots; they all got rolled over a bit to catch the filling.
“Rolly-polly puddin’ and pie, kissed the girls and made them cry!” my dad used to sing to us as this delectable sweet treat wafted through the kitchen. (That is, of course, because his name was George….Georgie-Porgie!) Oh, the memories flooding through me! The pastry was sprinkled with brown or white sugar and cinnamon. I used white sugar.
Then it was topped with lovely farm cream, if you had it. We always did. Those were the days of the milk man. (He is not a myth; there really was such a thing!) The bottles had a paper pull off cap and were layered: cream at the top. Many shook it into the milk. My mom usually poured it off. If you didn’t have cream, you could add milk with some bits of butter.
She just called it “Roly.” I knew it was a “roly-poly” as that’s what grandma called it. My grandmother told me that is what her mother used to do with the ends of the pastry. Then you just swirl it around to mix everything up, but don’t go over the edges! Then, bake it at 425°F for 15 minutes and 350°F until done (20- 30 more minutes, depending upon the size).
Depending upon the size! Woops! I burned it. I had set the timer, and then didn’t come when it rang! The pastry is not burned, but the filling started to! (It was still quite tasty… OK, I didn’t eat it, but that missing bite was purdy good!)
This was made with my rendered pastry fat and look at those flakes! The pastry was really delicious and I was very pleased with the flakiness of it. I sure hope the pies we make are as flaky and tasty as this! And, why wouldn’t they be? (I will definitely have to answer the timer! I know!)
I did bake another, after we finished our pies, below.
It is MUCH too fancy for a roly-poly. I even fluted the edges. I did it to show Christan how I fluted mine, otherwise, I am certain I would get kicked out of the traditional roly-poly making institution.
Traditional roly-poly is rustic and only made to salvage pastry that is not big enough for a pie crust. Please forgive me. Beavie was flappin’ his tail, but I was sad that I missed carrying this precious tradition on to my daughters.
Ragan and Lauren, are you reading this? Please try to make this if you make any pies. Please make pies.
No one makes them anymore, and they are an important part of our Canadian prairie heritage. Especially an important part of our family heritage. Everyone that grew up with me, or my daughters knows this! My mom was a Master Pie Maker. A woman used to be measured by the quality of her pastry and her apple pie filling at church fund-raisers. “Oh! That crust is so white, it looks like she hardly baked it!” “Oh, my, she obviously used a canned filling!” etc. My father would often (too often) say to my little friends when they were over for dinner, “Would you like a piece of apple pie for dessert?” That was the quintessential dessert in those days, by the way. Every little friend would wiggle with delight and bob their little pig-tailed head up and down with anticipation. That is when my dad would retort, “Me too! I wish we had some!” and look over at my mom accusingly. She could never make enough pie for him. He would do the same with my daughter’s little friends.
We all thought he would stop the one time a little girl friend cried. That is how disappointed she was. Or, maybe, how embarrassed? I think she was too young to beÂ embarrassed, but it never stopped him. Apple pie is his favourite dessert, but it runs a very close tie with Saskatoon pie. When I was a child, you didn’t go to a coffee bar, or a restaurant without pie on the menu. It was always there. Looking homemade. And, well, by today’s standards, was homemade. It was made in the restaurant by the cook. The apple was always served with a piece of cheese. It was cheddar, then when Velveeta came out, it was Velveeta. Then, pie disappeared. I think it is on the endangered traditions list. If not, it should be. I have never met anyone but me and my mom, and now, Christan that makes them. There is nothing like a homemade pie. Truly. Now, that is a labour of love.
As was the rolly my mom made for us. We were never allowed to eat the pie when it came out of the oven. It was always ear-marked for a special occasion. Usually dinner, or for a bake sale, or for company, but the rolly was ours! …. all ours! And, mom was a little crazy with the rolly. She would divide it into four and give us each one quarter of it. I was incredulous. Every single time! Incredulous. That was probably not a big piece to today’s standards, but it was massive to us. Massive. However, neither of us (my sister, or I ) ever said, “Oh, mom, that is too big!” Nope. We just took it with our eyes as big as saucers. I loved the creamy parts. You can see about how the sugar and cream meld together and create an eggless custardy topping that is really tasty.
So, my quest to make my own pastry lard has taken me through many wonderful pathways. I got to make pastry and pies for Kevin. I was able to invite Christan over to make the pies, and I remembered something I had forgotten for about a hundred years: Mom’s rolly. Mom’s wonderful cinnamon rolly made with her pie making pastry scraps have taken me right back to our kitchen in Red Deer. Standing on the flecked linoleum floor, fingers hanging off the edge of the grey arborite counter trimmed with metal facing, nose just reaching it. I was wearing flannel pajamas. I was always in flannel pajamas before bed. That is usually when the rolly was coming out of the oven. (Or, on a Saturday morning.) A warm, happy at home old fashioned cinnamon scented memory! Yum!
Recipe we used for all three pastries follows.
Tenderflake Pastry Recipe: (This recipe comes right off the Tenderflake lard box. It’s flawless and tastes great!)
Yield: 3 9-inch double crust pies or 6 pie shells at approx. 250g each
- 5 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 lb (464 g) TenderflakeÂ® lard (I did the math for Kevin’s 3/4 pound of lard)
- 1 tbsp vinegar
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- Mix together flour and salt
- Cut in lard with pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse oatmeal (Christan rubs hers with the flour between her fingers to look like oat meal; I now do mine in the Thermomix for 2 seconds from 0-10)
- In a 1 cup measure add vinegar and egg; combine well (see above photos)
- Add water to make 1 cup
- Gradually stir liquid into dry flaky lard and flour mixture (see above photos)
- Add only enough liquid to make dough cling together (it is usually all, but not always)
- Gently gather into a ball and divide into 6 equal portions (I weighed total mass, and divided by 6); you don’t want to overwork the pastry, or it will become tough: handle as little as possible
- If desired, wrap unused portions in discs and refrigerate or freeze (I always do this as I make my pastry ahead of time to always have it on hand.)
- Roll out each portion on lightly floured surface (I use a pastry cloth and a pastry sleeve on my rolling pin)
- If the dough is sticking chill 1 – 2 hours
- Transfer dough to pie plate (I roll it onto my rolling pin to move it; sometimes I just fold it into quarters)
- Trim and flute shells to make the crust and bake according to your pie recipe (There are tips above and in the pie pastry post, to follow, for fluting.)
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