Monday, December 7, 2015

Apple Butter Pinwheels with Pastured Lard Pastry

My grandmother remembers when margarine (Oleo) came with yellow color beads she mixed into the fat before using. Because margarine was first made primarily from beef fat and skimmed milk its color was white, more like lard. But after World War II when there was a shortage of animal fats, margarine became mostly vegetable oil based. It still looked bland and as a substitute for butter, totally the wrong hue. So the industry began dying the hydrogenated oils yellow to mask it's unappetizing natural color and to seem more like the real thing.
Since, we have learned how very dangerous margarine and other hydrogenated oils are to the human body. Increased heart disease being the biggest one. So we've gone back to butter, except not grandma (the campaign for margarine was so successful even today's science doesn't convince this generation otherwise), but we can take it a little further than butter even.....or back that is.
Lard is pretty spectacular for many reasons. Our bodies are able to process it seamlessly, (unlike most vegetable and seed oils) and if you get it from pastured hogs, you can glean healthy amounts of vitamin D, essential fatty acids, good cholesterol and saturated fat. These things are essential for good physical and mental health. You can read a whole lot more on why we should be using pastured lard if you snoop around. But I want to get on to the recipe.
My folks recently brought me a jar of kettle cooked apple butter made during a annual church function this fall, and it is just what apple butter should be: dark, thick and nicely spiced. Apple butter is excellent in pastry because unlike fruit preserves, it is not too sweet.
I was able to use some local leaf lard for a nice flaky pastry to go with it. This lard is special since I know the folks who carefully raised and rendered it. Leaf lard comes from the soft fat surrounding the loin and kidney areas of the pig which makes for the highest quality lard. Most store-bought lard is from all areas of the pig and often hydrogenated to make it shelf stable.
Conventional lard is actually not comparable to pastured lard and not recommended for eating since these pigs are raised indoors on a poor diet, (often bakery waste and conventional grain). Fat from pastured animals is a different thing all around, full of all the good stuff mentioned above.
All together, this is such a satisfying treat. Some crushed almonds add a good little bit of crunch. A fine holiday gift or great with your morning cup of coffee.

Thanks to those who contributed the special components of this recipe.

Apple Butter Pinwheels with Pastured Lard Pastry:
*2 1/2 cups high quality flour
*pinch sea salt
*1/3 cup cane sugar
*8 Tablespoons cold pastured lard
*1 stick unsalted butter
*3-4 Tablespoons ice water
*1 1/2 cups apple butter
*1/2 cup crushed toasted almonds

Pulse flour, salt and sugar in a food processor fitted with a blade. Add lard and butter. Pulse until well combined. With blade running, add just enough ice cold water until dough begins to from, but make sure not to add too much. Turn out onto a floured work surface and flatten dough into a disk. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes. 
Return dough to work surface and roll out into a rectangle to about 1/4 inch thickness. Spread apple butter over entire surface of dough leaving a 1/2 inch border free on one lengthwise side.
Sprinkle apple butter evenly with crushed almonds. Using both ends, roll entire rectangle lengthwise to resemble a log. Carefully transfer to a large piece of wax paper and place in freezer for at least 30 minutes, up to one hour. 
Preheat oven to 350. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. 
Remove pastry from freezer. Using a serrated knife, slice pastry roll into 1/2 inch rounds and transfer to baking sheet leaving 1 inch spaces between each pinwheel. 
Bake for about 20 minutes on center rack, until bottoms of pinwheels are golden. Transfer to a wire cooling rack and cool before enjoying.