Following Fannie Farmer's recipe for Plain Pastry [portions and instructions available at link] yesterday morning, we cut the butter into small pieces and sliced butter and lard into the flour until the mixture was "in even bits about the size of peas," then sprinkled ice water over the mixture and stirred with a fork "until just enough has been added so that you can pat the dough lightly into a ball":
Mixing equal parts of butter and lard into the flour using the two-knives method.
We wrapped it in wax paper and chilled in the fridge a couple of hours before rolling it out and assembling our Apple Pie (See "Pie Making" and "Apple Pie" -- on pages 407-8 and 412 in our venerable 1967 Eleventh Edition pictured here -- in Miss Farmer's chapter on "Pastry and Pies" for easy-as-pie instructions on rolling out the dough, preparing the apples and baking at 425° for 50 minutes). Fannie notes that "old-fashioned cooks use their fingers and work very quickly so that the shortening does not soften." Our sis adds to the mix with her own flaky lore:
You can't mix it with your hands, like a meatloaf. You have to get that ridiculous mixture into a recognizable ball, without touching it with human hands. HAND HEAT is the enemy of a flaky crust.
I use two dinner knives to cut, set at cross purposes, but, if you have a pastry blender doo-hickey, it would probably be awesome.
Williams-Sonoma Stainless Steel Pastry Blender
Close-up of the chilled ball shows butter (golden yellow) and lard (pure white) bits maintaining their separate identities within the dough, the secret to sublime flakiness. Instead of forming a spherical ball, next time we will flatten the doughball -- as our sis does -- to allow easier breaking apart for upper and lower crust and a head start in rolling, as well as quicker chilling (and thawing if dough is to be frozen for later use).
We cut the chilled ball into two pieces for upper and lower crust but were informed later by the Mother of All Pastries that you NEVER cut your dough. You break it apart. 'Course that would require the forbidden "touching with human hands." At any rate, it didn't seem to compromise the finished product (see finished pie above and detail of crust and diners' comments in previous post).
Why on earth didn't we take a picture of the bottom crust (above) filled with the awesome mound of sliced Cortland apples from the Randall Orchard & Cider Mill in Standish, Maine "since 1906" -- recommended by Hannaford's produce man for their firmness and tartness, ideal for baking -- sprinkled with brown and white sugars, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and lemon juice and then dotted with butter? It was gorgeous. We had planned to use our Progressive Apple Peeler to prepare the apples but succeeded only in turning a test pome into a pile of apple scrap. Running out of time, we turned to Goomp's old-fashioned vegetable parer, followed by the apple corer/slicer, which gave us 8 medium slices per apple. We further sliced each of those into three, giving us a total of 24 thin slices per apple.
It's the sincerest form of flattery. When we asked Goomp and Tuck about supper, perhaps a few leftovers from our midday cookout of the usual suspects -- grilled beef and dogs, potato salad, corn, cauliflower soup -- they skipped formalities and both went straight for the pie.
Update: The News Junkie at Maggie's Farm links, pairing a photograph of his "New Hampshire chipped beef on English muffins" and home fries with our own "perfect apple pie":
As our mornings get cooler, it seems like time to begin to think about hot, heart-warming and artery-clogging All-White Breakfasts (food white in color - nothing racial). And speaking of comfort food, SISU makes a "perfect apple pie," with lard, of course. In Yankeeland, Apple Pie is traditionally for breakfast, not dessert.
If only there were some pie left over for breakfast. The first seven pieces were gone before sundown the first day. The eighth we saved for dessert the following evening. We did scrape off every last bit of crust clinging to the pan and set the bits of flaky goodness aside in an airtight container in preparation for the coming monsoon season. Waste not, want not.