PIE CRUST – WHICH RECIPE?

Last week when I posted the Chicken Pot Pie recipe there was a promise of another post about pie crust and all its many variations.  We’ve tried several here at the bakery. Even though lots of people would disagree, those with butter and shortening win my vote for the flakiest, tastiest and easiest to work with.  For a long time I thought the recipe my mom used was the way everyone made pie crust.  That was good enough for me since she made excellent pie.  But when I started making pies to sell I had to search for a new way. Her recipe called for lard.  Not a problem when I was a kid because our local butcher shop rendered lard. So I just bought some at the grocery store. And my pie tasted pretty much like I’d used bicycle grease. In the end I compromised with Crisco.  It makes a nice flaky crust but the idea of eating that stuff was no more appealing than eating  bicycle grease. I tried some all-butter recipes, and tried using all butter in my recipe, but I think it’s harder to roll out and am not convinced of superior flavor. After we switched freezers a few weeks ago, which forced a clean-out of the chest freezer we’d been using, I found a jar of rendered duck fat hidden under the bags of veggies and fruit and bread.  Lightbulb moment!  I subbed the duck fat for Crisco and we have a winner!  Even our resident 16-year-old food critic asked me what I’d done to make the crust so good.  So here’s my verdict:  if you have access to duck or goose fat or good rendered lard, use that.  The best lard is leaf lard, rendered from the fat around the kidneys and loin. Use all butter if you’re unable to source high quality lard.

I’m giving you four recipes here so you can decide for yourself.  All of them produce tasty pies and the food critics at your house might not be so picky as mine. The mixing method is the same for all. A little planning is required before making any of them: cut butter and shortening of choice into small pieces and freeze, along with the vodka if using the 80 Proof recipe; have iced water ready. First up is the 80 Proof Pie Crust we use in the bakery, adapted from Cooks Illustrated.  Next is Edna’s Never-Fail Pie Crust (that’s mom’s), then a Never-Fail recipe from a customer, and finally All-Butter Pie Crust.  Make some pie!

– Joan, 15 January 2016

 

mixed

80 PROOF PIE CRUST

  • Servings: Makes enough for 2 double-crust pies
  • Print

  • 3 1/3 cups (480 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 2½ teaspoons sugar
  • 2 sticks (227 grams) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and frozen
  • ½ cup (113 grams) duck or goose fat, or lard, cut into small pieces and frozen
  • 1/3 cup icy cold water
  • 1/3 cup icy cold vodka

Blend the flour, salt and sugar.  Set aside about 1 cupful.  Put the rest in a food processor with the butter and fat/lard.  Pulse several times to mix.  Add the remaining flour and pulse again till the fat is in small pieces about the size of a pea.  Put this mixture into a large bowl, add the liquid, and mix quickly with a large fork or spatula. Don’t use your hands because the warmth will cause the fats to start melting. It should look like the picture above, still crumbly but with no unmixed flour.   You should be able to take a handful of the dough and press it together like the picture below, though you want it to just barely hold together.  If it won’t come together add a tablespoon of water.

ready dough

Divide the dough into 4 equal flattened disks and refrigerate overnight, or freeze. When you’re ready to bake, let the dough sit out at room temperature for 10-20 minutes before rolling it out.

EDNA'S NEVER-FAIL PIE CRUST

  • Servings: Makes enough for 1 double crust or 3 single crust pies
  • Print

  • 3 cups (420 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1¼ cups (140 grams) good quality lard, cut into small pieces and frozen
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • ¼ cup (57 grams) icy cold water
  • 2 teaspoons white vinegar

Blend flour and salt.  Set aside about 1 cupful and place the rest in a food processor with the lard. Pulse a few times to mix, then add the remaining flour and pulse till lard pieces are the size of peas.  Put mixture in a large bowl.

Blend egg, water and vinegar.  Using a large fork or spatula, mix into the flour/salt/lard.  Add additional water a tablespoon at a time if needed to bring the dough together (see photos above).  Divide into 2 equal flattened disks and refrigerate overnight, or freeze.  Set the dough out at room temperature for 10-20 minutes before rolling out.

NEVER-FAIL PIE CRUST

  • Servings: Makes enough for 1 double crust pie
  • Print

  • 1½ cups (210 grams) all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup shortening or good quality lard, cut into small pieces and frozen
  • ¼ cup cold milk

Blend flour and salt. Set aside about ½ cupful and place the rest in a food processor with the shortening or lard. Pulse a few times to mix, then add remaining flour and pulse till shortening or lard pieces are the size of peas.  Put mixture into a large bowl.

Using a large fork or spatula, mix in the milk until the dough comes together.  Add more milk a tablespoon at a time if needed.  Divide into 2 equal flattened disk and refrigerate overnight, or freeze.  Set the dough out at room temperature for 10-20 minutes before using.

ALL-BUTTER PIE CRUST

  • Servings: Makes enough for 1 double crust pie
  • Print

  • 2½ cups (350 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup (227 grams) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and frozen
  • ¼-½ cup (57-114 grams) icy cold water

Blend flour, salt and sugar.  Set aside about 1 cupful and place the rest in a food processor with the butter.  Pulse a few times to mix, then add remaining flour and pulse till butter is in pea-sized pieces. Put mixture into a large bowl.

Using a large fork or spatula, mix in ¼ cup of water, then add by tablespoons until the dough comes together.  Divide into 2 equal flattened disks and refrigerate overnight, or freeze.  Let the dough sit at room temperature for 10-20 minutes before using.

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