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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Can One Still Bake With Lard?

Thumb through any eastern European cookbook and search out pastry recipes. Some of these recipes may actually call out the use of butter, but many will require lard. Nowadays trying to find lard in a mainstream grocery store is not so easy; at least where I live. They do have it at my local Meijer store, but this ancient ingredient is sort of tucked away hidden in a very non-descript location. It is treated like the ugly duckling of the shortening pack. I could not disagree more with this treatment of lard! Give lard its due and position it where everyone can find it. Some of us are old school and prefer to use the bakery ingredients our grandparents used in the old country or on the farm.
 I would certainly use lard long before I would consider using synthetic oils such as oleo or margarine. While the cholesterol levels of these shortening substitutes may be much lower than butter or lard, these products are synthetic. Synthetic means the body will not break it down. Does that sound healthy? I recall several baked pies and assorted pastries I enjoyed as a youngster prepared by my Teta (aunt) and Babi (grandmother) that were created with “lard”. The taste of the flaky pastry was second to none. Can recipes requiring lard be substituted with other shortening? Butter.. I would say yes. Crisco, margarine, and other synthetic oils will fall short of expectations in my opinion, though you will probably not find a more anti margarine proponent than me. Sure it costs a heck of lot less than animal based fats, but the taste and flakiness is absent. My message is simple, more as a reminder to myself and to any fellow eastern European recipe hunters out there; don’t deviate or substitute from the recipe…..especially when it comes to the shortening.

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