What sort of fat?

Here’s an interesting question. As mentioned below, lard is traditional for this type of rolled laminated dough. That’s probably because pig fat has traditionally been cheap and available in places where you find sfogliatelle and Murcian meat pies: Italy and Spain. The question is: will other types of fats work for this dough? My feeling is they will. Butter should work great even though it’s about 15% water (lard by contrast is only about 1% water). As we pastry makers know, butter works well with other types of laminated doughs, though the lower moisture Euro-style and “dry” butters are generally preferred. Why? Because more moisture means wetter dough layers, which tend to stick together instead of separate. In my research I’ve found recipes that call for a mix of lard and butter which I think is a terrific idea. That way you’d get good layer separation without too much “piggy” taste, assuming that’s a problem. It isn’t for me.

Shortening would work also I would think, though its higher melting point would probably make the dough a little harder to work with. One reader asked if ghee would work for sfogliatelle. My feeling is it wouldn’t for the same reason that liquid fats can’t be used for other types of laminated dough: it would soak into the pastry. Anyway, such is my thinking at this early stage of the game!

8 thoughts on “What sort of fat?”

  1. Hi Joe
    What about ghee made from butter and not the vegetable based vegetarian ghee you find in the supermarkets. This ghee is solid at room temperature and has had most if not all the water driven off making it the equivalent I suspect of lard in moisture content. There is the bonus of no “piggy” taste but it does have a caramelized or nutty taste which may or may not be desired.

    1. Hey Soupçon!

      That’s not a bad idea though I’m skeptical for reasons I outlined in the above comment: the process of making ghee breaks the butterfat emulsion, making the fat too runny for laminated dough. At least that’s my feeling. I’m open to being proved wrong!

      – Joe

  2. Since the butter (or lard) is melted and brushed on, how about making/using ghee, which would have a lower percentage of water?

    1. Hey Sandra!

      Ghee is too runny to be useful in laminated doughs, unfortunately. At least that’s my experience. You need the slippery, semi-solid consistency of butter or lard for good lubrication. The steady heat of the ghee-making process breaks the natural butter emulsion resulting in too much “free” butterfat, which when it cools ends up being a mix of liquid fat and large, hard butter crystals. I’ve never seen it work well for applications like this, but if you’re keen to try please let me know how it goes!


      – Joe

  3. If you want to avoid the meaty flavor, you should use Leaf Lard. it comes from the fat surrounding the kidneys and loin. Once rendered it has little of the meaty flavor and is perfect for baking. It is hard to find locally but can be purchased online.

    It’s all my grandmother used for biscuits and pie shells.

    1. Great point, Scott! It’s a little piggier than butter even so, but very, very good stuff!


      – Joe

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