There have been some firsts in this baking my way through The Joy of Cookies. First purchase of Irish whiskey. First taste of rosewater. First disposal of rosewater. First cookie gun. Chinese almond cookies are my first venture into the land of lard. Mind you, I’m an excellent baker of pies. However, despite years of hearing how much better pie crust is when made with lard, I have always used shortening and butter. I cede the point at last, and am persuaded to try lard in pie crusts — at least this bit I have leftover — because, oh my, but these cookies are good and I can tell the choice of fat makes them so.
Sharon Tyler Herbst says of lard that it “is the magic ingredient that makes them so meltingly crisp. You can substitute shortening or butter…but you won’t get a cookie that makes memories!” Normally I would rebel against such sentiments and stick with what I know, but I am trying to be stretched in this exercise, and so I bought some lard, and lo, they are very good. Memorably good even.
And here’s the beauty thing. The farmer who delivers a dozen eggs to us every three weeks or so, along with excellent pasture-raised beef and pork? She also sells leaf fat for rendering lard. I’m told it’s a bit of a smelly process, but really? Can it be as noxious as brewing whole black walnuts with wool? Or scouring a filthy fleece? I’ll remember to crack a window, just in case.