SHOP BY DEPARTMENT
Houzz Logo Print
jessicavanderhoff_gw

If anyone's not totally sick of talking about pie crust

jessicavanderhoff
13 years ago

I'd love to hear from more people:

Does your recipe call for vegetable shortening or animal lard? How long do you chill the dough before rolling? What do you use to roll it (a chilled rolling pin? A very heavy rolling pin?) How long do you let the dough warm before you start rolling? How long does it take you to roll it? What method of rolling did you use? (back and forth or from the middle?) Do you roll it on a cutting board or something, so you could flip it, or does it come off the counter easily?

I've tried about four or five recipes and watched some videos, but every year they tear. Maybe this is something people learn from their mothers/ grandmothers? I'm a helpless pie orphan-- your advice greatly, greatly appreciated.

Comments (57)

  • ruthanna_gw
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I'm not Grace and my DH isn't Hugh but this pie crust tutorial is very close to the way I make my basic everyday one, although I sometimes make other varieties. You might find it helpful.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Pie crust lessons

  • readinglady
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    My "go-to" recipe is an old Farm Journal one which combines shortening and butter.

    These are my observations:

    1. Tarts are easier than pies.

    2. Butter is the hardest fat to work with because the temperature range for working it is the narrowest. Then lard, then shortening. Crusts that combine fats fall somewhere in the middle depending upon proportions.

    3. A pastry cloth and a rolling pin sleeve can be very helpful and reduce the amount of flour that gets added to the recipe.

    4. Some pastry recipes are more "novice friendly". The vodka piecrust is one. Also pastries which call for cream cheese or sour cream can be very forgiving. They may not suit all fillings but for those they do the result can be very rich and pleasing.

    5. The flour makes a difference. All-purpose is easier to work with than pastry flour. The results might not be quite as tender but the differences are pretty negligible in most cases.

    I like LindaC's advice. Don't worry about producing the "perfect" piecrust. Just focus on making "a" piecrust. In time and with practice, you will get there.

    Also, piecrust is very individual. My cousin for years baked oil crusts exclusively. I don't care for them, but she and her family love them, and that's what matters.

    Try different recipes, find what works for you and don't worry about how it compares to what someone else bakes. Some people elevate flakiness while others think tenderness is more crucial.

    Carol

  • Related Discussions

    Talk About Clearance! How About 100% Off at Lowe's?

    Q

    Comments (15)
    How can "Gardeners" be impatient? Isn't it awesome just to get a super deal for an item in this economy? Why get frustrated at waiting for a manager to get you a killer price on a plant or any discounted item... I mean, really? Why allow a few extra minutes of wait time ruin finding a great plant deal? I don't understand that stance... It is not logical to me, a gardener, to be impatient about ANYTHING. Life is to short as it is and when it comes to saving a few bucks... I have all the time in the world!
    ...See More

    We need something to talk about!

    Q

    Comments (18)
    Cindee, Linda is right, there is a big difference in Rehab facility's verus long term care facilities. Some skilled nursing facilities aka SNF's are 80 or 90% LTC and that can be a bit depressing to someone who's not used to it. Long term residents tend to be on one wing, short termers on another. I would see which facilties are on your plan and then go to the state evalutation site to see what the ratings are. On a short term basis, 80% of the facilities are fine and you'll get about an hour of PT and an hour of OT each day, the nurses are there to monitor you and will call the doctor, etc should you need additional pain meds, etc They also have recreational activities, etc or you can just spend the time resting. Like you said you're probably only going to be there a week but if you do need additional time, they can work that out with your insurance company too! Rehab centers like Healthsouth are instensive rehab places with 2 hours of PT and 2 hours of OT every day, and almost everyone is there for short term rehab.It tends to be very regimentated. You'll go home to rest LOL. You will probably be in the hospital around 3 or 4 days, home health is usually 3 visits from PT each week (about 45 mintues - see if you can stay with the PT and not be assigned to an assistant), and between 1 and 3 visits from nursing, and MAYBE a nursing assistant 2-3 days a week to help you shower, etc (about 1 1/2 to 2 hour visit). The hospital will probably send you home with a 3 in 1 commode, a walker or a cane, a reacher, long handled bath sponge, a sock assist, and maybe a wheelchair rental. I would do the SNF / rehab for the offered week, if you get there and find out you really feel great and are ready to go home, you can go home. You're not a captive! The case manager / social worker can then arrange for you go home the next day and to receive home health (which I would ask either way whenever you go home). If you were having a knee replaced, I would say sure go home if that's what you want. But with a total hip, it doesn't hurt to play it safe and go to the SNF / rehab. Feel free to email me!
    ...See More

    Pie Crust - What am I doing wrong?

    Q

    Comments (33)
    Lard has a larger fat crystal than other fats, which is one reason it works so well in pastry. Butter gives great flavor but has a lot of water in it and it melts quickly. The combination of lard and butter in pastry is a great twosome. When I use coconut oil (frozen and grated on the large hole on my box grater), I can reduce the amount of fat by about 25 percent, especially when using pastry flour or milling soft wheat or low-gluten spelt into flour to use for pastry. Good pastry is a combination of tenderness and flakiness and each characteristic is developed differently. Pastry is all about reducing the gluten development in the flour, so choose flour (pastry flour or Southern All-Purpose flours like Martha White, White Lily, Gladiola, Red Band) that has a low protein/gluten content to begin with as a great way to reduce gluten-development up front. If you want more tender pastry while using all-purpose flour you can add a little more fat and add an acid ingredient. Divide the cold fat in two portions and mix one half in the flour until it's very finely mixed. This will coat the flour so it develops the gluten in short strands (hence short-crust pastry) when the liquid is mixed in and will give a tender crust. Quickly add the remaining fat and keep it in larger blobs. When the heat of the oven melts the blobs of fat the steam will raise those layers in the pastry we recognize as a flaky pastry. Vinegar in a recipe is another way to decrease the gluten-development. Adding an acid brings one more tenderizer into play. "Acids soften gluten, breaking apart gluten strands and keeping the pastry tender." When eggs are used in a pastry recipe it is best used for something like a meat pie. The protein from the egg will reinforce the structure of the pastry, making it strong enough to hold a hefty filling. When liquid vegetable oil is used to make pastry it is considered a "warm fat", which coats each particle of flour so completely than no gluten develops. Oil pastries are very tender and tend to be more mealy than flaky since you don't have steam raising those flaky layers. Oil pastry is generally easier to handle and is easy to roll between two sheets of waxed paper. It's neither right or wrong what type of pastry you make - it's just one of those cooking/baking choices we make - BUT - as a general rule of thumb don't take an oil pastry to the fair because it will tend to get judged down because they rarely come up to judging standards. If a sticky dough that is hard to roll-out is your problem, you have too much gluten developed - probably from adding too much liquid and/or using flour that has a high protein content. Northern all-purpose flours like King Arthur and Robin Hood really don't make good pastry because of the high amount of protein. Add as little water as possible!!! As soon as lumps of dough stick together during mixing, stop mixing and adding water. It takes very little extra water, as little as 1/2 teaspoon, to quickly toughen the dough. -Grainlady
    ...See More

    Help! Need Pie Crust Recipe

    Q

    Comments (22)
    Lars, I am going to have to try that one... too interesting not to, lol.. I buy cottage cheese to have on hand for a childhood comfort food of spaghetti and cottage cheese, so next time I'll buy a large container and try it. I'll report back. I like the Nathans crust, and that perfect butter crust that Terri posted is about what I usually do. I don't usually use a recipe since I've made so many pies, often in large numbers. That crust that uses 5#'s of flour is a good one too. I love oatmeal so I'm going to have to try Ann's Maple Oat one too. We picked up a bunch of apples today at the heritage farm, and I think that would be good with them. Thanks for posting it Terri. The only one I don't care for is the one that uses vodka. I've tried it a couple times and just didn't care for it. Didn't care for the taste and texture could have been better. I drink vodka, so the taste shouldn't have been a problem, lol. I do better winging it.. smiles. Those pie crust pinwheels were made with the last of that crust I had frozen. I didn't even like it used as that but luckily Christy liked them. Wasn't my technique, since I have no trouble with a light hand anyplace else, plus I made it twice, had to give it a good chance. But, hey, that's what this place is about. Not everyone will like every recipe.
    ...See More
  • claire_de_luna
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Jessica, that recipe will make a top/bottom crust and is what I've been using for Pot Pie. I think if you invest in a food processor, you'll find doughs a cinch. I use mine for pizza dough too.

  • marys1000
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Carol - I just bought some Tenderflake lard to try a mix butter and lard crust - can you post your Farm Journal recipe?

  • trudy_gw
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Another 'Pie Orphan' here.....:(

    I see that most of CF folks are using food processors. Don't really want to buy one. Would I really use it that often. My cupboards are maxed out.
    Now when gramma made crust she didnt use a processor and the crust turned out great. She probably just used a fork, knowing her as she had no fancy gadgets at all.

    Could it be that I over blend the flour and butter/crisco with a pastry blender?

    I really want to learn, but then again the two of us dont need to eat pie often. My hands are always warm, maybe that is why I am pie challenged?
    The pressure to make one is getting more than I can handle after readying all those pie crust post.

  • kathya
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I have to also give a thumbs up to the Cook;s Illustrated Fool Proof Pie Dough with Vodka. It really is foolproof. After 40 years of baking, and collecting and trying I don't know how many variations of pie dough, this is THE ONE! I've thrown out all of my other dough recipes and this is the only one I use now. It can be done in a food processor or by hand, it is easy to come together, it is easy to roll out and is tender and flaky every time. What else is there to ask of a pie dough recipe? It is fantastic.

  • lindac
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Trudy....call me....I'll run down and we'll have a big time pastry cooking fest!
    or you can come up and mess up my kitchen!
    Linda C

  • jessicavanderhoff
    Original Author
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Sad to report that the vodka crust was my most recent failure. I even used the good vodka!!

  • annie1992
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I'm going to be a dissenter here, I hate to make pie crust with the food processor. I've tried several times and if you over process by A SECOND the dough is too warm. Then you have to put it in the refrigerator or freezer to get cold and then roll and it takes a long time. The last one took me over an hour and I was so frustrated I was ready to toss it all in the garbage. I used the Silpat to roll it out on, it stuck, it tore, it was a mess. Never again. And I've been baking pies successfully for decades, never saw such as mess as the one I made with the food processor.

    I like SharonCB's "Never Fail" pie crust, and I roll it out at room temperature right after I make it, I don't even chill it. It's easy to handle and my family likes it. I can't tell you about flavor, I don't like pie crust so I don't eat it, I scrape the filling out and eat that, LOL, but it's very flaky. The recipe says it makes enough for three double crust pies, but I get two double crust pies from the recipe because I use large, deep dish pie plates. If you can find Tenderflake lard, it's best for this, nothing else makes a pie crust as flaky. If you can't find or don't want to use lard, shortening will do.

    NATHAN'S NEVER FAIL PASTRY
    **********************************
    These quantities make enough pastry for 3 double-crust pies or 3 1/2 dozen tart shells - muffin size.
    5 cups flour
    1 teasp salt
    2 teasp baking powder
    1 lb (454 grams) Tenderflake lard
    2 teasp white vinegar
    1 egg - slightly beaten. Add water to vinegar and egg to make 1 cup
    1) Mix together flour, salt and baking powder. Cut in lard until crumbly (using two knives.)
    2) Add liquid and mix gently with hands. (I use a fork to help me here.) Roll into a ball.
    3) Roll out amount needed on a floured board. Refrigerate or freeze remainder.
    Source: 'I've GOT To Have That Recipe'
    Doubleday Canada - Victoria, B.C. 1986
    My tip: After step two I often put it in the fridge for an hour to make it firmer and easier to roll out.

    Annie

  • carol_in_california
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I loved the Vodka pie crust recipe. I froze the lard in a flat disk and used the butter really cold out of the refrigerator. I only used the food processor to cut in the fat with the flour and sugar.
    I let it sit in the refrigerator over night and then set it out a few minutes to ease rolling it out. I used lots of flour on the old Tupperware plastic mat and it was easy to handle, easy to put onto the pan and tasted wonderful.
    Not heart healthy with lard and real butter but tasty.

  • trudy_gw
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Linda...I have been watching You Tube videos on how to make pie crust. Will try a pie crust in the morning.

    If it doesnt work....you are getting the CALL

    So many different recipes, which one will I try. Still have a difficult time even thinking of putting vodka in a pie crust.
    Let's see lard/butter/crisco or combo, mix in a bowl or mix on counter or maybe even go out and buy a food processor, Silpat or not, vodka/water or water, quarter of a turn or no turn, fold edges over or under, fold into half or fourths....oh the choices of making a pie crust!

    Well maybe it is just better to purchase the darn crust...but then again I used to buy boullion cubes until the pressure got so great that I had to roast those chicken wings to make the broth that all the CF folks (foodies as my husband knows them ) were raving about. Making that broth made the best gravy that we have ever had!

  • annie1992
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Trudy, you can do it, I know you can. Yes, there are lots of choices, but it's all good in the end if you just go ahead and make the crust.

    Heck, I rolled pie crust for years on a stainless steel counter with an old Kessler's bottle when we still owned the bar and grille. It worked well enough that I never remembered to buy a rolling pin, LOL. Now I use an old wooden rolling pin that was Grandma's and it has sentimental value but doesn't work any better than that empty whiskey bottle.

    I've also seen pie crust rolled between two sheets of plastic wrap, my Aunt Roni does it that way. She gets the size she wants, peels off the top layer of wrap, then flips the crust into the pie pan and peels off the bottom layer of wrap. It works like a charm for her....

    As for top crusts, I told Amanda that fancy crusts were a result of having trouble with pie pastry. (grin) Her "Best of Show" ribbon winning pie at the local County Fair was topped with pie crust leaves cut with little cookie cutters. Why? Because no matter how she tried she couldn't get a decent looking top crust in one piece. So she cut shapes, decorated the top of the pie, sprinkled with sugar and got such a nice rhubarb pie that she won the Grand Prize ribbon and Best of Show. And all because she couldn't roll a top crust intact, LOL.

    Annie

  • colleenoz
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    My basic pastry recipe for a double crust pie is 2 cups of plain flour and 6oz of butter. Put the flour into the food processor. Cut the butter into small dice and place into the food processor with the flour. Buzz in short bursts until it resembles coarse cornmeal.
    Tip out the butter/flour mixture into a bowl. Add a couple of tablespoons (just slop it in :-) ) of cold water from the refrigerator. Using your fingertips, mix in the water (I often just stir it with my index finger until it starts coming together). If the flour mixture doesn't all incorporate and it looks like you need more water, add the water to the dry flour mixture and mix just that part. Do not work at getting all the flour in and having the whole mixture too dry so you have to work the pastry to get more water in. Keep doing this until you can bring it all together in a ball.
    Chill about half an hour. I flatten the ball of pastry slightly, dump some flour on the countertop, dip both sides of the flattened pastry disc into the flour and start rolling. If it sticks to the pin a bit pick up some of the flour and rub it onto the pin. You may rotate the pastry to make the rolling more even but do not flip it over. Be firm in your rolling but don't squish it out of existence.
    To get the rolled pastry into the pie pan you can either loosely roll it onto the pin and then unroll it over the dish, or fold it loosely into quarters and then unfold it n the dish.
    If you have to bake the shell before adding the filling, line with a piece of foil and fill it with dried beans. Bake for about 10 minutes before picking up the foil by the sticking up corners and removing the lot, beans and all. Bake for another 10 minutes or so, until golden. You can cool the beans off and pour them into a jar for reusing as often as you like. I have some beans I must have been using for 20 years or more.

  • readinglady
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I have to agree with Annie. I really don't like the FP for crust, though if I'm doing big batches for the freezer I'll blend the flour, salt and fats in the FP then freeze the "crumbles" and add the liquid when I bring it out.

    But I really prefer by hand. I use an old-fashioned pastry blender with the blades. I don't like the wire ones, though my MIL used one of those and she made great pies. It's all what's comfortable and works for you.

    My regular pastry recipes uses shortening (Crisco) and butter, not lard, so I'm not sure which recipe to post. I do use lard on occasion, but only if I can find really fresh leaf lard. Lard I find to be very "sensitive."

    I agree with Shirley Corriher, who said, "The problem I have found with lard is that, with the exception of a few brands that are consistently good, the products may be off-tasting. Lard is 56-percent mono- and polyunsaturated fat, which reacts more readily than saturated fat and can change taste more easily. Since there is such limited used of lard in the United States, the shelf turnover is probably low."

    My step-mother's pastry recipe was a standard pie crust, but she used 1/2 lard and 1/2 shortening. It was excellent, but we butchered our own, so we never had to worry about freshness.

    If you want to try a lard-butter crust, which is the optimum in flakiness and tenderness, then you might try this one:

    Double pie crust with lattice top
    3 cups all-purpose flour
    Â 1/2 teaspoon salt
    Â 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
    Â 7 tablespoons chilled lard
    Â 10 tablespoons frozen butter
    Â 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons ice water
    Â 1 tablespoon vodka

    To make crust: Put flour, salt and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Cut in the lard using a pastry cutter or two knives, and then shave in the frozen butter using the holes on a cheese grater. (You can also cut the frozen butter into bits, but make sure you don\'t warm it with your hands.) Cut in butter to incorporate. Combine the ice cold water and vodka and stir into dough until it comes together and is shaggy but not too wet. Split into two lumps, shape into disks, wrap in plastic and chill for an hour. Roll out half the pie dough to a 14-inch circle (1/8-inch thick) for the bottom of the pie. Gently place in 10-inch pie pan (stoneware if possible), leaving extra dough overhanging the edge of the pan. Refrigerate. Meanwhile, create a lattice top for the pie on the back of a large baking sheet and place in the freezer.

    For a fruit pie, preheat oven to 500 degrees. Place in the oven and immediately reduce temperature to 425 degrees. Bake for 30 minutes, then give the pie a half turn and reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Bake for another 30 minutes until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbly.

    This recipe is from Jenny Cook, winner of a Portland (Oregon) Pie-Off. It's her adaptation of a CI recipe.

    This is the Farm Journal recipe.

    Flaky Pastry

    This recipe is very easy to handle and roll out. It needs no chilling and offers the additional advantage of being nearly indestructible. You can fiddle with this dough indefinitely and it never gets tough.

    2 cups flour (I use 25% pastry flour, which is trickier but more tender.)
    1 tsp. salt
    2/3 cup shortening
    2 T. butter, melted
    5 T. cold water
    1 T. apple cider vinegar

    Mix well flour and salt. Cut in shortening and butter until coarse crumbs. Add water and vinegar, mixing with fork. Form in ball. Roll out. Carefully lift to pie plate. Makes pastry for 2-crust 8 or 9-inch pie.

    Any time you have a recipe that calls for acid (may be vinegar or sour cream, etc.) that cuts the gluten and reduces toughness. Also, you get better results if you roll out and let the dough "relax" for 20 minutes, covered to prevent drying out, or roll out and place in the pan then refrigerate before baking. I normally make my pies and freeze unbaked, which results in a very tender and flaky crust. (Plus the added advantage of not having to fiddle with pie at the last minute.)

    Keep in mind the amount of liquid you add is not "fixed." Flour varies in moisture. Fresh flour is approximately 14% moisture, but with age and storage it will dry out. Humidity also affects moisture, so a pie crust made in the summer may require less moisture than one made in winter.

    Also, the size of the fat "crumbles" will affect the amount of the liquid. If you cut the crumbles small, then the molecules of flour are more "insulated" and less liquid will be required.

    Water is a very small percentage of the recipe as a whole but has a disproportionate effect on the pastry.

    I come from two families of wonderful pie bakers, but what I mainly learned is there is no substitute for practice, preferably when you're not "under the gun" to produce a pie. Practice, practice, practice, try different recipes to see what works for you, and don't be afraid to throw some pie dough out. It's not a big investment.

    Also be willing to try different rolling pins, different pastry cloths or surfaces, until you find what works. I don't make pie crusts the way my step-mother and MIL did, but mine, everyone says, are just as good. Be flexible, don't get stressed, and enjoy the process.

    Carol

  • ritaotay
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    For what it's worth, I use the Crisco recipe ( on the can )... The only difference is that I keep the Crisco in the bottom drawer of the fridge instead of the cabinet... I measure out the flour, Crisco and salt, put it in the bowl, along with the pastry blender and put it all in the fridge for a couple of hours... Just before taking it out to mix it I put a glass of cold water in the freezer... After it's all mixed up I form it into a ball I put it back into the fridge for a little while.

    Lately I've been using freezer paper ( floured, of course ) to roll out the dough, easier clean up... Since I like my pie crust to be really thin I usually end up with a crack or two... I just fold it over on itself, wetting the bottom first then press the two pieces together...

    The trick to getting it into the pie pan in one piece is to slowly roll it onto the rolling pin and slowly 'roll' it into the pie pan...

    Hope my rambling helped a bit...

    Rita

    Oops... I took too long to type my response.

  • annie1992
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Rita, I'm glad you're back.

    Carol, I agree on the lard, the Armour brand available in stores here is especially bad for some reason. I'd rather use all shortening than that stuff. However, a local Hispanic store has some good lard which is relatively inexpensive. Apparently the Hispanic community uses a lot of it, esulting in a relatively quick turn over of stock and it's always acceptable.

    Criso is easier to find, though, and more consistent.

    As for placing the crust in the pan, I roll mine around the rolling pin but Grandma always folded hers in half, then in half again, resulting in a pie shaped wedge which she put into the pie pan, then unfolded. Like Rita, if she got a tear she just wet the edges and put it back together or took a piece of the trimmings and patched it. That's what I do too.

    And, although I love the Nathan's Never Fail Recipe, I've never gone wrong with Farm Journal. Ever. So that would be a good recipe too.

    Annie

  • jessicavanderhoff
    Original Author
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Thanks very much for all the responses. For those who have tried both lard and shortening, which do you think is easier to work with? I have lots of Hispanic markets available and can probably find some lard.

    Does anyone get consistently whole crusts, that don't have to be patched, or is this just impossible?

  • claire_de_luna
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Yes, I do. Whole crusts, top and bottom. I've never had good luck making pie crusts before until the FP. Using the food processor makes forming the dough really fast, so there's no issue about overworking it if you stop once the dough is formed. Everyone has their favorite technique. For a person who used to make bread, I thought it was odd I couldn't make good pie crusts. But then, I wouldn't think of using Crisco to make dough. That's just me. I only use Crisco for seasoning cast iron.

    You probably should try them all. Do a real test to see which is easiest for you. Then see how they taste. (I will almost bet you the Crisco crust won't win the taste test!)

  • sheesh
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    For flavor, texture, easy of handling....Lard. Period!

  • sheshebop
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Another along with Annie and readinglady who does NOT like to use the food processor for crusts. Annie is correct: just 1 pulse too long and you have screwed up the crust and it becomes too wet.
    I always do them by hand, and usually use Crisco, but 25% of the time use half Crisco and half butter. The one time I used lard, it was just too tender and I could not roll it out without it tearing. And I make lots and lots of pies.
    For those with bad luck, just keep trying. It does take experience to get good.
    Sherry

  • jessicavanderhoff
    Original Author
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Wow, Claire, you get whole crusts usually just butter? Color me impressed!!

  • annie1992
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Jessica, most of the time I get whole crusts without tears or patches, but I've been making pie crusts since I was about 7 or 8, so that's....um.....well, 45 years or so. (grin) And nothing's perfect so depending on the day, my patience, the humidity, the temperature, pie pastry can be recalcitrant.

    Amanda still can't get an intact crust, but if it's a bottom crust it doesn't matter. Top crusts are visible, so a patch is noticed, that's why I've taught her lattice topped pies and those fancy little shaped pieces of pie crust, LOL. "Regular" pies are saved for family who don't care what the heck they look like, only what they taste like, and they are her practice, she'll get it eventually.

    She doesn't have a food processor, so she uses the old blade type pastry blender, just like I do. Grandma used two knives...

    Annie

  • colleenoz
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I use all butter and always get whole crusts. The only thing that would make it tear is sticking, and I flour both the countertop and the pin.
    I only use the FP to blend the butter and flour together. The water is added by hand.

  • readinglady
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I get whole crusts (though if I'm trying a new recipe that might not be the case).

    I do not roll my crust around the pin. I used to, but I quit doing that when I started using a HUGE flat spatula made in Germany. Unfortunately, it's not available anymore. But with a large spatula you can lift the entire rolled-out crust and just slide it into the pan.

    King Arthur Flour has something similar. See the link.

    As I mentioned above, all-butter can be the most challenging because it requires the narrowest temperature range. If the butter gets too warm, you'll never achieve a flaky crust. With the case of butter, a FP may be helpful.

    Lard is medium-difficulty; the temperature range for working it is broader. Leaf-lard is best because it has a higher melting point and thus, the crust can be shatteringly flaky. But leaf-lard is difficult to locate and if you can't get really good fresh lard, forget it. I agree with Annie. If you have access to Latino markets, they're a great source.

    Shortening is the easiest to work with; the temperature range is the broadest and since the water content is basically nil, you'd really have to overload the dough to end up with a tough crust. But, the mouthfeel of shortening is different and an all-shortening crust to some tastes would be flat in flavor and unpleasantly "viscous??" (I'm searching for the right word.) on the roof of the mouth. Kind of like peanut butter but not as nice.

    So every option has its pros and cons, which is why experimentation can be a very good thing. You also have to decide what combination of tenderness (shortening being the most tender) and flakiness (lard being the most flaky) and flavor (hard to beat butter) you prefer.

    Carol

  • trudy_gw
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I did it! Made three single pie crust today. While I had the kitchen a mess I thought may as well try making 3 instead of one.
    The crust made with all butter is the one that was the easiest to roll. Made the butter crust into a pecan pie. Turned out nice and tasted very good, but the edges could of been just a tad thicker. I barely had enough to trim off the edges. Need to be rolled just a bit thinner.

    Second crust was made with all shortening. Was a bit more difficult to roll out, but not bad. This one, I dumped the Crisco and flour mixture out onto the counter and added the water into a well of the mix. Edges on this one turned out better, which shows practice make things easier. This one is on the freezer, so will have to comment on the taste later.

    Third pie crust was a combo of Crisco and butter. Worked the water into the mix on the counter again. I think this is a good way to go for me, since you get the feel of the mix right away. This one is also in the freezer for later use.

    I dont think in any of the pie crust I used all of the 1/4 cup of ice water. Here is my question. The dough wanted to crack around the edges as I was rolling out, do you stop and patch all of the cracks around the circle before turning the 1/4 turn of the crust? If I would of used all of the liquid do you think the dough would of cracked on the edges less? Maybe I am pushing to hard on the rolling pin and making the dough crack?
    Pictures to come later.

    Thanks for all the help eveyone has given to us pie orphans and thanks Jessica for asking the questions!

  • annie1992
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Trudy, I knew you could do it!

    My pie crusts do crack slightly around the edges when rolling, that's pretty normal, I think. I roll gently, then turn the dough, roll gently, turn the dough. It minimizes the cracking, which is usually trimmed off when I trim the crust anyway.

    Annie

  • claire_de_luna
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Trudy, I love a science experiment. Good for you for trying them all to see what works best for you. I will say, my crusts aren't cracking, so judging from the recipe I'm using, maybe a bit more moisture is needed for your crusts.

    What I'm looking forward to, is your review of the taste test!

  • sheshebop
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Same as Annie. It cracks around the edges, but I roll thin enough and large enough that I can trim a good portion away, and use the scraps to cut out dough in shapes to decorate the pie.


  • jessicavanderhoff
    Original Author
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    So, so far we have one vote for butter as the easiest, one for shortening, and one for lard :-D

  • annie1992
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Sherry, those are absolutely and perfectly beautiful, no matter which fat you used to make the crust!

    This was Amanda's:

    This was one of mine:

    Somehow, even when the crust is intact, I get those "leaks" of filling on the top!

    Annie

  • claire_de_luna
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Beautiful Pies, ALL!

  • busylizzy
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    For rolling out crusts I use 2 sheets of Wax paper, have for decades. Easy to transfer, just take off the top wax paper, flip over in the pie pan, remove the now top wax paper off gently with a butter knife if it sticks anywhere.

    Funny Carol, I use 2 knives when cutting in the fat and not a Grandma yet, lol. ( I better not be, DD is 15 yrs old)
    I also have always used shortening, good ole regular Crisco no other brands and have never had a waxy/greasy roof of the mouth taste. I don't recall anyone ever mentioning that either.

    I make alot of Whole Wheat pie crusts as well, they blend with appple, peach, blueberry pies. Too heavy a taste I think for lemon or strawberry.

    Recipe for double crust 10 in pie crust:

    2 1/2 Cup White Flour
    1/2 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
    1 Cup Crisco
    1 tsp Salt
    7 to 8 Tbsp Cold Water

    In a large bowl combine flour, shortening and salt. Cut in shortening to flour/salt until small crumbles. Add chilled water 1 Tbsp at a time , mixing with a fork and form a ball. Cut in 1/2 and roll out between 2 sheets of wax paper.

    I don't usually re roll the scraps for cut outs, instead I make a jelly or jam tartlet. Take the scraps, form a ball and roll out fill center with jam or jelly, bake in moderate oven until jam bubbles.

  • readinglady
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I think this thread is a lovely example of "no perfect one-size-fits-all formula." I adore that.

    As you can see from my beloved Farm Journal recipe, I have nothing against shortening (Crisco forever), though I do like a measure of butter. I'm only recognizing that some are less enthused, which I think is totally fine.

    It is great to read a thread where everyone is "tolerant" of piecrust diversity. Long may it rule.

    Frankly, in a world of commercial chemical foods, I think any homemade pie crust, cracked or not, even the Charlie Brown type, is a thing of grace and a marvel.

    As far as the cracking is concerned (if you are concerned) I'd guess insufficient liquid is the issue, but a lower-gluten flour can also be the culprit. In rolling out, keep in mind that if you roll to the edges rather than lifting up before you quite reach that point, then cracking is more likely. Roll out from the center and always lift before reaching the edge. Also, there's no harm in pausing, re-shaping the edges by hand to form a more equally thick disk, then continuing to roll.

    The last thing I would support is piecrust obsession. I have known women to cry because they couldn't make a decent crust for the Thanksgiving pumpkin pie, and as far as I'm concerned, that is the exact opposite of what pie is about. Go out and buy Pillsbury if that's what it takes, but don't get fixated on crust to the exclusion of other more important values.

    Carol

  • jessicavanderhoff
    Original Author
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Yeah, I get that the people are what matters, and that if I'm tense about the food, other people will be tense too. Once the cooking is done, I leave the stress in the kitchen and relax with the family. But still, I was entrusted with pies and they must be vanquished :-D. No tears, but I yelled at the Thanksgiving pies a little. . .

    Claire, do you chill the butter again after you cut it, or just straight in the food processor? Can I leave the sugar out in case I want to make it into a pot pie, or should I leave it in?

  • lindac
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    No sugar in my crust....unless I will be making a tart...and then I put in an egg yolk.
    I still say the secret to successfully using the Cuisinart is frozen butter....and a very light hand on the pulse lever.

    Some people make pie crust using baking powder and an egg....some use oil, some always use vinegar...some cake flour or whole wheat...some crisco lard, margerine or butter or a combination...some make a crust that is really more like puff pastry than pie crust...
    It's all good!
    Linda C

  • rob333 (zone 7a)
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Just the one tip, "lifting up before you quite reach that point" is probably enough for me! Thanks Carol. Well duh on me. Of course. Sheesh. I think I can tackle pie crust now. I had it flaky, I had it tasting good, but I can't ever seem to get it to look right or fit into the pan. Until now, I think.

  • empress
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I am sure enjoying this discussion and learning a thing or two. I too struggled with dry, cracking crusts and never could get a crust into the pie pan in fewer than 3 or 4 pieces that had to be glued back together.

    Then in the early '80s I started selling Tupperware and my favorite and most popular demonstration was for pie crusts. It is fun and simple.

    I use the basic shortening pie crust recipe mentioned above. I use ice water and store my shortening in the 'fridge. We used the largest basic bowl, but I also use the 3 quart mixing bowl successfully with this technique. I am sure it will work with any round, plastic bowl with a secure, leak-proof lid.

    Place the flour and salt in the bowl, then toss the shortening in several lumps on top of flour. Close the lid, and hold the bowl in front of you with the lid facing you, sort of like it is a steering wheel. With your fingers gripping the outside rim of the bowl and your thumbs helping make sure the lid stays on, you "slam" the bowl forward and back, fast and hard. (In other words, extend your arms full length in front of you, then pull back towards yourself, then out, then in.) This slams the shortening against the bowl, breaks it up, and mixes it with the flour. You can tell by the sound when you're about done, because the big heavy globs of shortening will have been broken up and dispersed throughout. Open the bowl, if it looks like fine gravel, move to the next step, otherwise close the lid and get some more exercise!

    When the flour/shortening mixture suits you, drizzle the ice water or water/vodka mixture over the flour/shortening mixture. Seal the lid again, hold the bowl the same way, but this time move the bowl in large circles in front of you (like drawing a circle) until it sounds like a flat tire--thump, thump, thump.

    Open the lid, scrape the bit of pastry sticking to the sides down, shmoosh all the lumps together and you're ready to roll! If it won't shmoosh together, you can sprinkle on another tablespoon or so of water and repeat the procedure. I tend to make it a bit on the wet side, but after reading this discussion, I'm going to try using a bit less liquid.

    I take the pastry directly from the bowl to a well-floured surface. I have never chilled before rolling--I work quickly, and until I grab it from the bowl, it has not been warmed by my hands. And I have tried rolling between waxed paper, but it seems the paper just slides around when I roll and I end up with a wrinkled, wadded, unusable mess.

    I estimate the size glob to take from the bowl. (Half if I've made a two-crust mixture, a quarter if I doubled the recipe.) I grab a glob and quickly form it into kind of a disk, then I'm sure we all have our own moves, but I do a sort of karate chop move about three times across the disk, give it a quick quarter turn and flip it, another three chops, and maybe do that again. Make sure there's still plenty flour under it. (I really throw the flour around during rolling.) Then I pull out my rolling pin and give it a couple quick, firm rolls away from me from the center. A quick quarter turn, another quick rolls, lift and give another quick toss of flour underneath and on top, quarter turn, roll and repeat until it is enough larger than the diameter of the pie dish I'm using to fit, depending on how deep it is.

    Because I make my pastry wetter than some and use plenty of flour as I roll it out, it doesn't usually crack and I am able to easily fold it over and toss it into the pie pan. I really do just toss it around.

    I do not usually trim the edges, I just start rolling the edge under itself. If one part is too much or too long I rip it off. If a part is too short, I grab some from another area, or out of the bowl if need be, and patch. I like the edge to be fairly thick at this point, and I don't work it much, just kind of roll it under itself. Then I do a simple, but pretty crimp, which just involves very quickly, lightly pinching a "pleat" up between my thumb and bent index finger and kind of pushing my thumb forward a little, then moving right along to the next one.

    After learning to make the crusts this way while selling TW products, I began baking the pies for a small highway diner in the rural community I lived in at the time. Six to eight pies weekdays, and a dozen each weekend day, please plenty of special orders on the holidays.

    Although I am not fond of the bland flavor of the shortening crust, others rave about how tender mine are, and I don't get any complaints. Always when I arrive at holiday gatherings with 4 to 8 pies or so people exclaim over how pretty they are. And really, I have never sweated or stressed over these, just toss quickly. The less I do, the less I handle it, the better it has always worked for me. Guess I'd better hunt up a picture to show what I'm talking about on the crust crimp.

    I hope this helps somebody. I think I will do as Trudy just did and try a few new recipes. Maybe I will enjoy my own crust more then, but I think the technique will remain the same regardless of the recipe. Other than the time I tried to do 12 crusts at once (and my thumbs weren't strong enough, and my sister's kitchen and I ended up covered in flour and shortening) this technique has always worked for me.

  • empress
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Just saved a closeup of the crimped crust. Let's see if I can embed it.
    {{gwi:2095032}}From Val's Public Photos

  • claire_de_luna
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Jessica, the first thing I do is cut the butter into pats, then cut the pats into four pieces. It all goes onto a sheet of wax paper, and I put it in the freezer while I'm getting all the other ingredients together. I measure the water, and dump in ice, setting aside a strainer. For Pot Pie, I've substituted the sugar with Parmesan cheese I've shaved with the microplane, which seems to work well for the savory filling. I also have chive butter in my freezer I'm considering for the next one, just to see how that works out. Yes, I know it's a lot of butter just to experiment, but the first time you try it, you'll gain confidence. I pour the (measured) ice water into the top of the FP, and pulse only until a ball of dough is formed. It's soft enough to form into a disk, and back into the fridge it goes. Taking it out for 15 minutes before you roll it out helps things immensely, and don't forget the flour.

    What I love about this dough is that it puffs up quite a bit, almost like puff pastry. For a top/bottom crust, I cut the disk into 2/3 and 1/3, so I have a little more for the bottom crust to go up the sides of the pan. I always cut a hole in the top crust for my ceramic pie bird with a shot glass. I love that silly thing!

  • jessicavanderhoff
    Original Author
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Thanks. That helps.

  • annie1992
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Empress, that's a lovely job on the crust. I crimp mine but I'm not nearly as patient, as you can see from my picture.

    Annie

  • sheshebop
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Empress, that is funny! I used to make my crusts the same way cause I learned it at a Tupperware party. I bet I made my crusts that way for 15 years! I don't anymore though.
    And your crust crimp is lovely. Mine tend to be sloppy.

  • empress
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Annie and Sheshebop,

    Thanks for the compliments on my crust/crimping, but I've got to tell you, that is another thing I don't fiddle with. I whip around that crust just pinching and pushing as fast as I can. Truly on crusts, the more I fiddle, the worse it is. I just make sure the edge I roll under is thick, then it is easy to pinch. When doing a double crust I leave the bottom crust hanging as is, lay on the top crust, then I rip off the excess dough to within, maybe 1/2" of the pie plate rim, but that is not exact. It all depends on how thick I rolled the crust, how it feels. Really, I just mostly wing it.

    I never stress over a crust--my stress just seems to transfer directly to the crust and it will get all tense and fall apart of stiffen up. It is play dough really--just play!

  • annie1992
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Empress, that's a good analogy. Play dough, LOL.

    That's still a nice looking crimp!

    Annie

  • marys1000
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I'm going to try a mixed lard/butter crust today with my Tenderflake lard (hope my mail order source had good turnover).
    I'll bake it tomorrow.

    In looking through these recipe's and others I am astonished by the varying amounts of flour vs. fat vs. said # of crusts made.
    I may try the below posted by reading lady but change the ratio slightly more toward butter. But one crust and lattice, that's all you get with 3 cups flour?
    Is a 10" pie plate one of the super deep dish ones is that why?
    So if I have a smaller pie plate I'm hoping to get a full top crust. Also if I put the pie directly on a baking stone on a rack toward the bottom of the oven, I don't know about starting with that high a heat. Maybe start at 425 then to 350? And I probably won't use the vodka or sugar (I may use a tiny bit of vinegar or lemon juice). I;ll be using White Lily.
    I'm trying to find the recipe that works for me that is the simplest possible. Given my modifications, any other adjustments?

    ------------------


    If you want to try a lard-butter crust, which is the optimum in flakiness and tenderness, then you might try this one:

    Double pie crust with lattice top
    3 cups all-purpose flour
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 tablespoon granulated sugar
    7 tablespoons chilled lard
    10 tablespoons frozen butter
    1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons ice water
    1 tablespoon vodka

    To make crust: Put flour, salt and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Cut in the lard using a pastry cutter or two knives, and then shave in the frozen butter using the holes on a cheese grater. (You can also cut the frozen butter into bits, but make sure you don\'t warm it with your hands.) Cut in butter to incorporate. Combine the ice cold water and vodka and stir into dough until it comes together and is shaggy but not too wet. Split into two lumps, shape into disks, wrap in plastic and chill for an hour. Roll out half the pie dough to a 14-inch circle (1/8-inch thick) for the bottom of the pie. Gently place in 10-inch pie pan (stoneware if possible), leaving extra dough overhanging the edge of the pan. Refrigerate. Meanwhile, create a lattice top for the pie on the back of a large baking sheet and place in the freezer.

    For a fruit pie, preheat oven to 500 degrees. Place in the oven and immediately reduce temperature to 425 degrees. Bake for 30 minutes, then give the pie a half turn and reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Bake for another 30 minutes until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbly.
    This recipe is from Jenny Cook, winner of a Portland (Oregon) Pie-Off. It's her adaptation of a CI recipe.

  • busylizzy
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    My basic pie crust recipe will roll out for a 10in deep dish. If your pie plate is really deep, what I do is make the bottom crust a tad thicker, then roll the top a bit thinner.

    3 Cups Flour
    1 Cup Crisco (you may use a mix of butter/lard or butter/shortening)
    1 tsp salt
    6 to 8 Tbsp Cold Water

    Carol: I was wondering what year your Farm Journal your book is, I looked at mine a Special Edition printed 1959 and I could not find the recipe you posted. Not sure of the rpinting dates of those books, I enjoy the one I have my Grammy sent my Dad in 1964.

    I have to admit I don't have any gadgets for making pie crust, A bowl, 2 knives, a tea cup, a tablespoon, 2 hands, a roll of wax paper and a rolling pin.
    When I moved out of the house in my 20's Mom would not allow me to take the maplewood rolling pin, so I bought a ceramic bottle of white wine, drank that, kept the cap and filled it with sand. No handles, but hey , it worked. I have since inherited the maplewood pin,and have others, but the wine bottle is still in the collection.

  • readinglady
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Mine is the 25th anniversary edition, which came out in the 1970's sometime. (I'd have to dig it out to check.) I know Annie and I talked at one point that our recipes didn't match because my edition leaves out some of the ones she has and I have some hers doesn't.

    I'm not sure if that piecrust recipe comes from the "Big" FJ cookbook or one of the others. I have a whole stack of them, including their original old pie cookbook, their newer pie cookbook (again, not all recipes are the same), their fair winners cookbook, the baking cookbook, etc. etc.

    If I get a chance I'll do some digging and see if I can locate the original source. Truth to tell, I've been using that recipe so long I quit looking at the cookbook years ago.

    I don't normally "crimp" though I do sometimes lattice. I just do the little fork thing on the edges. If I wanted to do cut-outs or something more decorative I'd need to switch crust recipes. The pastry flour and the shortening don't lend themselves to well-defined shapes.

    Carol

  • dirtgirl07
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I debated on whether to add this since it is long. It was submitted by Marys1000 back in Oct '08. Don't know which forum. But it was a lot of fun to read and you might enjoy it:

    Here is an article I found very informative in my search for info on pie crusts. She spent a lot of time actually baking with lard, oils, goose fat, and even suet.

    November 15, 2006 Heaven in a Pie Pan: The Perfect Crust By MELISSA CLARK

    A FEW years ago, I achieved perfection in a pie crust and it smelled like pig. Not in a muddy, barnyard way, but with a very subtly meaty, nutty aroma.

    Carefully confected with part butter and part freshly rendered lard, this pie pastry was everything baking-book authors and bloggers wax poetic about: a golden-brown-around-the-edges epiphany richly flavored and just salty enough to contrast with the sweet apple filling, the texture as flaky as a croissant but still crisp. It shattered when you bit it, then melted instantly on the tongue.

    The only problem with my masterpiece, I told my guests as they licked the crumbs off their plates, was that I was never, ever going to make it again.

    Because what they didnt see was the outsize effort that went into acquiring and preparing the not-so-secret ingredient: leaf lard, the creamy white fat that surrounds a hogs kidneys. The veritable ne plus ultra of pig fat, its far superior to supermarket lard, which is heavily processed stuff that can have an off taste. But leaf lard is hard to track down (I special-ordered it from a friendly butcher) and a headache once you get it. Step one: pick out any bloody bits and sinews, chop the fat into pieces, and render it slowly in a double boiler for eight hours. At the end of the day, be prepared for a kitchen that smells like breakfast at a highway diner, and a pan full of dangerously molten fat crowned with cracklings.

    The leaf lard may have made great crust, but, like homemade cassoulet and puff pastry, this was a culinary Everest I felt no need to climb twice.

    Everest became a lot more manageable when I discovered that rendered leaf lard was available at the Flying Pigs Farm stand at the Union Square and Grand Army Plaza Greenmarkets on Saturday and by mail order.

    With this convenience at hand, I decided to have a pre-Thanksgiving pie crust baking binge to see whether, with the prep times and mess not being a factor, lard pastry was really the best when tested next to my favorite standby, an all-butter crust. Or was my memory of the lard pie crusts sublimity simply a hallucination caused by long hours of porcine toil?

    And while the kitchen was a floury mess anyway, why not test a variety of other fats to see how they affected the flakiness and flavor of the final crust? With fat as my variable, I decided to keep all the other ingredients in the crust as straightforward as possible. That ruled out using a mix of flours with different protein levels (like bread flour, cake flour and Wondra).

    For this pie, I went with all-purpose all the way. But before I started baking, I did some research in the pie crust recipe canon. Most crusts were a combination of shortening and butter, or all butter, so I started there.

    I first made five crusts: all-butter; all-shortening (I used the trans fat-free kind now on the market); 50-50 butter and shortening; 70 percent butter to 30 percent shortening; and vice versa.

    Crisp, flaky and sweetly luscious with deep, browned flavor, the all-butter crust was the hands-down favorite.

    The shortening crust, however, was a bust among tasters. Even when combined with 70 percent butter, all agreed that the unpleasant greasy film the shortening left on the palate was not worth the vague texture improvement. Shortening is much less expensive than butter. Is it popular with bakers because of the cost?

    Rose Levy Beranbaum, author of "The Pie and Pastry Bible" (Scribner, 1998), gave another explanation. Because shortening is manufactured for stability at extreme temperatures (both hot in the oven and cold in the fridge), it is very easy to work with, she explained in an interview. "Shortening crusts enable you to get fancier decorations that will hold up when you bake," she said.

    Once she mentioned it, I realized that even the quickly crimped borders on my shortening crusts stayed pert in the oven compared to the butter border, which melted into Gaudí-like undulations.

    With round one going to butter, I next experimented with oil crusts inspired by the Mediterranean appeal of a pie pastry scented with extra-virgin olive oil holding a caramelized pear-pomegranate filling. I tested several olive oil variations, chilling the oil in the freezer before cutting it into the flour, and trying other desperation measures like adding egg to one, baking powder to another, and some butter to a third. Then I went on to test canola oil, grapeseed oil, coconut oil and ghee. Not one managed to even get close to a minimally acceptable flakiness level.

    I had better luck using chilled mixed-nut butter (you could use any natural nut butter, such as peanut, hazelnut, cashew, almond and so on). Combined with regular butter, it turned out a marginally flaky, cookie-like crust with a toasted nut flavor that goes particularly well with pumpkin pie.

    A dozen or so pies down, it was finally time to pull out my hero, the rendered leaf lard. I pitted it against an array of animal fats beef suet (the fat surrounding the kidneys), duck fat and processed supermarket lard just to see what would happen.

    The processed lard was not available at my Park Slope supermarket, but I scored it in a nearby bodega. I ordered rendered duck fat online, and picked up suet from the butcher, who charged me a token dollar and told me he usually threw it away.

    Then I baked and baked. The whole house took on a rich pastry scent with undertones of roasted meat and butter, tinged with ginger, nutmeg, thyme and honeyed apples from the fillings.

    Not wanting to give up the flavor of butter entirely, I tested all the recipes using half butter, half other animal fat, and also at a ratio of 70 percent butter to 30 percent other fat. I also made a few crusts using all high-fat, European-style butter.

    The crusts were spectacular, each in its own way.

    The high-fat butter produced a crust that was markedly flakier, more tender and puff-pastry-like than those made with regular butter. It also shrank a bit less when I pre-baked it, and had an irresistible, browned butter flavor. This was the perfect crust for anyone not inclined to include meat products in a dessert.

    But overall, the favorites were the crusts using 70 percent butter and 30 percent animal fat. Any more animal fat pushed the meatiness factor too far onto the savory side of the pie spectrum, making these better for quiches than for fruit and custard fillings.

    Of the three animals, pig, cow and duck, the duck fat crust had the lightest flavor and, texturally, struck the best a balance between crisp and flaky.

    The pie crust revelation, however, was the suet pastry. As easy to work with as the shortening crust, it retained its shape perfectly in the oven, baking up crisp yet marvelously tender and flaky. It was nearly as delectable as the leaf-lard crust, tasting rich and slightly meaty, though not identifiably beefy. Suet is easy to find (most butchers can get it for you) and inexpensive.

    One caveat: suet is sold unrendered, but, as I discovered by way of my own laziness, you do not need to render it. Simply cut out the pinkish bits, finely dice or grate the chilled white fat, and toss it in with the butter. More refined bakers might blanch at the idea; if youre one of them, go ahead and render to your hearts content.

    Still, the leaf lard crust was as gorgeous as I remembered. Puffing up in the oven, and crumbling deliciously when you cut it, it took the crown. That very mild hint of bacon was happily still there. Not so with the processed lard pastry, which had an off flavor veering toward barnyard.

    Now, after my brief moment of pastry satisfaction, Ill move onto the next obsessive round of pie crust testing. Theres a whole roster of fats Ive yet neglected goose fat, marrow, foie gras fat, browned butter, truffle butter ... and if anyone out there has a source for bear fat, Ill try that too.

  • jessicavanderhoff
    Original Author
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    That was an interesting read-- thanks!

  • dirtgirl07
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I've got to thank Mary!! Just realized she is on this very thread. Thank you Marys1000 for posting that article back in '08. It was definitely a keeper. Beth