The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Portuguese white bread and LARD

Felila's picture

Portuguese white bread and LARD

A while ago I posted (somewhere in the forums; I can't find it now) about a recipe for Portuguese white bread that called for shortening. I was wondering about substituting oil or butter.

The cookbook author and I (the copyeditor) ended up using the recipe with shortening, but suggesting in the recipe header that you could substitute oil or softened butter. We also gave a scaled down recipe that made 2 loaves rather than 8, and used a stand mixer and dough hook. 

I finally got to meet the author; we'd been working on the cookbook by email. I said something to her about how the bread would have been made pre-1900, before Crisco was invented. She suggested that the bread would have been made with lard, not oil, not butter. 

Wow! Yes, that was probably it!

 I started doing research on the web, re the history of shortening and the use of lard. I discovered that Crisco had done their corporate best to blacken the name of lard and suggest that Crisco was a better, more hygienic substitute. Whereas, recent research has shown that fresh lard (not the hydrogenated stuff they sell in supermarkets) is actually full of good fats and is marginally better for you than butter. Apparently, lard is now making a culinary comeback. I found lots of articles touting the virtues of lard. The Wikipedia article on lard had some good links. Apparently leaf lard is hands down the best fat for pie crust and pastry.  

I'm now interested in baking with lard. Unfortunately, I know of no way to get the right kind of lard. I'd want it to be from free range pigs, not poor tortured feedlot pigs, and fresh. If I lived in rural Hawai'i, I'd probably know people who kept pigs, but I'm a city girl and don't know any pig farmers. If I lived in NYC, I could buy organic leaf lard. But I live in Honolulu, not NYC.

Have any of you ever baked with lard?

foolishpoolish's picture

Lard is a fantastic fat to use in pastry - gives a very delicate flaky pastry.  If you've ever had a good chinese egg custard tart then you'll know what I mean. 

In bread, I've maybe used it once and I'm not so sure that it was the best fat to use flavourwise. I was using supermarket lard (although I'm fairly sure it wasn't hydrogenated - it was just a block of rendered fat).  Kept properly refrigerated, lard should keep very well (pig fat was (and probably still is) used as a preserving medium in much the same way as rendered duck fat for duck confit, etc.)

ejm's picture

I've also used lard in pastry (and it does make great pastry) but not bread. I tend to use either butter or olive oil in bread that calls for fat. We buy our lard from one of our local butchers. It isn't always leaf lard but whatever lard we buy MUST be refrigerated (the lard is kept in the refrigerated section at the butcher shop); it is quite soft even at refrigeration temperatures.

There must be reputable butchers in Honolulu who will sell you lard made from untortured pigs.... I would steer away from boxed lard sold on the supermarket non-refrigerated shelves. Make sure that the lard you buy is in the refrigerated section and not laced with all kinds of questionable preservatives.


(Toronto, Canada) 

This Day's picture
This Day

I have an old community cookbook which includes bread recipes that had been in the families for many years. Some of the recipes call for bacon drippings as the fat in bread. I think home bread-bakers in the 19th century probably used what they had on hand. I save bacon drippings in the freezer and occasionally use the drippings in bread.

proth5's picture

I bake many things with lard.  The most desireable lard to use is "leaf lard" which rendered from the fat around the kidneys of pigs. 

Unfortunately leaf lard is nearly impossible to find.  However, you can often buy the leaf fat and render it yourself (as I do.)  I have a local source for leaf fat from pasture raised pigs, however Heritage Foods USA ( sometimes has heritage breed leaf fat available.  It is not advertised on their website, you must call them directly.  I have spoken to the owner of the company about carrying the lard and if there is sufficient demand he may do this. (I would love to see some clamor for this product.  While I can render the lard - I just would rather not.)  They will ship it to you and it usually arrives in good shape.  It is not, however, inexpensive.

Leaf fat is very easy to render.  Just chop it in small pieces and let it melt slowly in a heavy pot.  As you cook it slowly you will see the non fatty parts turn a golden brown.  you want to stop the process before the fat takes on color.  Skim out the solids, filter the liquid fat (you can pour it through a paper towel) and there you have it.  The solids (or cracklings) are quite tasty.  Once rendered the lard can be stored refrigerated for about a year.  Leaf fat will rot quickly - so should be stored frozen until you are ready to render it.

If you look up the process for rendering lard on the internet, you may see various steps to purify it prior to storing it.  These are more for if you are rendering various animal parts and are not needed with good leaf fat. 

I have family recipes that were made for many years with solid vegetable shortening and when I finally went through the effort to obtain leaf lard the (um) older members of the family remarked how this was the taste they remembered.  I will never go back.

Hope this helps.

Richelle's picture

I live on a 200-years old farm in the rural interior South of Spain and I use lard in almost every recipe that calls for softened butter. Really special lard, obtained from the fatty parts of our own Iberico-pig "Knor" that we raised on our farm for the best part of a year, feeding it all organic food.

Like 'jamon' from a 'pata negra' pig, the lard from one is quite special too. The lard is really a by-product of the whole 'matanza' process, and is the left-over fat when you have made 'chicharrones' (the crunchy bits). We used up lots of nice fatty pieces of his meat in our sausages and chorizos and we dry-cured his cheeks and a nice piece of his belly (pancetta) so in the end our pig rendered 'only' about 7 kg of lard... "Knor" was one fine big and cuddly piggy... killing it wasn't nice, but the butchering-part was a great adventure....and his meat was in some places as red as beef!

Last winter was our first hands-on 'matanza'-experience (with the gracious help of my 75-year old neighbour with the seasoning of the chorizo!!) and I know now that for the next one, when cutting up all the meat, I'll leave some more meat attached to the fat, to obtain even more delicious chicharrones!! Chicharrones is eaten on top of toasted fresh bread, for breakfast by lots of the local labourers here. Just flavoured with a bit of salt and ground pepper. There's also an orange-coloured variety, that's made with chorizo. As I am not Spanish, but Dutch, I'm not 'bound' by tradition so made a variety seasoned with curry-paste and one with 'roasted sambal'. Mjmmm...

It keeps for ages by the way. I stored it in plastic containers with lid in a cool part of the house and only when I open one, it gets transferred to the fridge.

Famous sweet made with 'manteca' as lard is called in Spain, are the 'mantecados', mostly made in the Xmas holiday season. Either plain, or vanilla, cinnamon, lemon or chocolate flavoured. Dense, crumbly cookies that melt in your mouth. Made them of course and they turned out really well!

We're now anxiously awaiting a new pata negra piglet, to raise for next winter's matanza and to keep our female pig "Babe" company until she can be covered in the autumn... next year we will hopefully be able to live even more self-sufficiently and maybe even sell a couple of piglets!

Greetings from a - finally- sunny and warm Andalucía.


PaddyL's picture

I've used lard in making Buttery Rowies, a Scottish bun layered somewhat like a croissant, and there is absolutely so substitute.  It's also, of course, used in Lardy Cake, and to make the real, honest-to-goodness Chinese almond cookie, you must use lard for the texture, though there are no actual almonds in the cookie.  It's interesting to see that it was Crisco who started the anti-lard thing; I heard a nutritionist on CBC radio once say that lard or butter would be a whole lot better for us than shortening, as long as we didn't go overboard which is what people tend to do.  In Edna Staebler's Schmeks cookbooks, she talks about using goose fat or chicken fat in cookies.  Lard is also, apparently, the best fat to use for frying doughnuts.