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To live a self-sufficient and organic lifestyle for the next half century. With the Grace of God and the power of prayer, we will succeed. Nothing is impossible with His help. It wouldn't be us without laughter and joy at the Cockeyed Homestead.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Cooking with Chef Jo: Hand Pies and Mini Pies with a Lard Crust

When I had a houseful of people (children, spouse, and assorted friends) over it was full fledged pies for dessert.

Now,  we are just a small homestead of two sexagenarian widows. We really don't eat that much. Baking a full pie is wasteful because we can't eat the whole thing before it goes bad. This is the bad thing about making everything from scratch without preservatives. It just doesn't keep very long. But I think of all the desserts I make and fruit pies rank #1.

So what's the smarter option? Hand pies and mini pies that are baked on demand. I'll make a full recipe lard pie crust and freeze the extra portions. Yes, I said lard. Hands down, it's the flakiest pie crust I make that's oven baked not fried pie. I swore off frying pies after my husband's first heart attack. I still used lard pie crusts, but I picked my battles with cholesterol. They are portion controlled by their nature of being three to four bites. You really don't need more than that after a full meal or even as a snack. I do tend to roll my crust thinner to allow for more fruit in each pie also.

A word or two about your flour choice...

The difference between regular, all purpose flour and pastry flour is the gluten and texture. I never worried about the gluten content because you really have to knead the dough to activate it, but the texture is another story. Have you ever felt cake or pastry flour?  Yes, it's sold at the grocery stores under several brand names like the one shown. It's ultra milled until it is silky. You can't feel the coarseness of the flour. It's texture is like powdered sugar because it's powdered flour. You can achieve the same texture with all purpose flour and a blender. Just grind the heck out of it until it's super powdery. That's what I do.

This is what I use for my pastries and cakes. I may write all purpose flour in the recipe, but when I make it, I grab this as my go to.

My lard pie crust recipe is pretty standard. It can be found in numerous cookbooks already published. My technique may be a little more labor intensive, but well worth it.

Basic Lard Pastry
2-9" pastry crusts
What you'll need

2 3/4 cups of flour
8 ozs of lard
1 tsp salt
2 TBS sugar
about 1/2 cup water, it will depend on the humidity and how long ago the wheat was milled*

Note*- we grind our own sprouted wheat here on the homestead. It is non GMO soft winter wheat we get from Amish country in NC. So the age of milled flour is not in question. We know. If you buy flour elsewhere, the date and conditions it's milled in isn't known.

Putting it together 
  • Break lard into tablespoon sized pieces and freeze about 30 minutes.
  • Sift flour, sugar and salt together in a bowl. Stir it through with a whisk to deflate the mixture a bit.
  • Mix the lard into the flour mixture. Squeeze each TBS of lard into the flour breaking it into about four pieces. Each piece is thoroughly coated with flour.
  • You should end up with pea shaped pieces and some loose flour in the bowl. This is the most labor you'll do to this crust. Refrigerate covered for 30 minutes to allow the fat to harden up some again. This will make the fluffiness/layers in your crust as you roll it out.
  • Add 1/4 cup of water and toss the flour mixture with your open fingered hands. Scrap your fingers and hands when needed.
  • Continue to add water until the dough begins to form a small balls of dough form.
  • Bring the dough together into two balls equal sized. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. 
  • Take one ball out of the refrigerator and place it on a lightly floured board or counter.
  • Press your rolling pin vertically across the top of the ball to flatten the ball to about half to 3/4 of the thickness.
  • Lift the dough and give it a quarter turn and repeat the vertical press.
  • Now you can easily roll the dough to 1/8th to 1/16th inch thick without over working the dough.
  • If I need to reroll my scraps, I return the dough to the refrigerator for 30 minutes, but I rarely have to reroll my pastry dough. I prefer to use once rolled dough for optimum flakiness.
  • For making mini pies, the ring of a wide mouth canning ring is the perfect size for the bottom crust for a standard muffin cup. For hand pies, cut a 6" triangles (you'll use 2 for each pie) or a 6x9 inch rectangle.
  • Add 1-2 TBS of your fruit filling.
  • For hand pies, brush the edges with water and fold in half. Crimp the edges to seal the filling inside the pastry.
  • For the mini pies, I usually cut a second wide mouth canning ring sized top to give me ample dough to make a pretty crust edge or lattice the tops.
  • Cut two to three slits in the top of your pies for steam to vent while baking.
  • Place the remainder of your pies on a parchment lined baking sheet and freeze for an hour.
  • Place the frozen pies in a freezer bag to pull however many you want to cook later.
  • Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes in the oven, or 320 degrees for 15 minutes in your air fryer.
  • You may egg or milk wash your pies and sprinkle sugar on top before baking.  
  • Wait 5 minutes before you eat them or you risk burning your mouth badly. Done that, OUCH!
I follow the Amish Canning Cookbook method of making fruit filling while each fruit is at its optimum ripeness. I pick my Clear-jel up from Amish country when I go as one of my bulk staples. I'm assured of its non GMO status. I usually  get 2 dozen hand pies or 2 dozen lattice topped pies out of one recipe of crust and 2 pints of fruit filling. If I do a crumb topping on my mini pies, I'll get 4 dozen. So it's at least dozen desserts for the two of us to enjoy anytime. Or for a savory option, I'll make empanadas, pizza fillings, or meat, onions and meat sprinkled with herbs on top.

Waste not, want not- Above I mentioned not preferring to reroll my dough.  I'll take these leftover pieces, brush them with butter, and stack them 3 layers high. I'll brush them with an egg wash, and sprinkle sugar on top. I'll bake them on parchment paper the same as the pies. I'll save them in a bag as snacks dipped in jam. Enjoy!

Y'all have a blessed day!
Chef Jo


  1. Definitely a fan of lard crust here. Interesting about the flour. I never thought about how the texture affected my pie crusts.

    1. One of my main no-nos is rerolling crusts. The more you work it flakiness is lost. Texture is a major component of this.


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