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Friday, August 6, 2010

The great pie crust debate

I recently realized that I've been making pies for about 35 years.  That's a long time - especially considering that I don't feel old enough to have done anything for 35 years!  I first started wanting to learn when I was in junior high school.  I watched my mom make pies, and I remember a friend of hers giving me a formal pie making lesson (I still remember how impressed I was that Carole used ice water in her pastry dough, and I have done the same ever since - it does make a difference in getting a flaky crust!)  From there, pie making took some trial and error and a lot of practice.  (I don't remember anybody ever complaining about the pie making practice.)  Through the years I developed a pie crust recipe preference.

Many people like the "no fail" pie dough recipes that use an egg and vinegar.  It's true that almost anybody can make an acceptable crust with this method.  It's the kind of pie crust that is usually found in restaurant pies.  But I don't love the flavor or texture of it - it seems a little "bready" to me.

Using lard is an old fashioned favorite.  I've used it and I've tasted the pie crust other people have made with lard. It's pretty easy to get a tender pie crust with lard, but I think it has a nasty aftertaste and leaves an oily mouth feel.  So even though my mother keeps telling me that I should use lard, and apparently even tells other people she thinks I should use lard (I guess my flaky pie crust isn't acceptable, LOL) I prefer to have a pie crust that tastes good.

I use pure vegetable shortening in my pie crust.  This is NOT a health food.  Pie is a treat and not an every day food.  But pure vegetable shortening in a traditional pastry recipe makes a tender and flaky pie crust that is hard to beat.  It takes a bit more skill and practice than the vinegar recipe or using lard, but it's got a nicer texture and better flavor so it's definitely worth it!  And, of course, nobody minds eating the results of a few pie making practice sessions!

I will post step-by-step pastry making directions when I get some time.  Do you have an opinion about what makes a good pie crust?


Material Mary said...

I certainly do have an opinion. To make a great pie crust, go to Alissa's house. She has the crust and the pie all ready to consume and boy does that make for a smiling tummy!!

Adventures in Heywood said...

My crust is the ole shortening method which I do think tastes great. Since I've been making pies, which admittedly isn't long, it seems I've been able to get great TASTING crust, but I have some issues in the roll (I don't exactly have a delicate hand i guess) and often have patchwork pie crust in the end. I'll await a good tutorial from ya! I'd even like to see some rolling videos! :)