Everyone has a theory about making pastry. A landscaper was trimming some bushes for me last week as I was baking a peach pie. “Smells good” he said. “I like to make pies,” I said, “and I have a secret recipe for the perfect pie crust.” “Do you chill the butter?” he asked.
Like I said–everyone has a theory about making pastry. (Feel free to share yours in the comment section.)
One of the most prevalent theories is that making pastry is too difficult, and you should just buy one of those things in the grocery store that are called pie crust but actually resemble cardboard more than pastry. Just as I told you last week that you did not need to let eggs beat you when you want to make a meringue, I’m telling you now that making pastry for pie crust can be simple as—of course–pie.
Note: I have come to the conclusion that the reason that there are so many people claiming to have THE recipe for pie is that they ALL work. In other words–it isn’t so scary after all. You need to do what is good for you. The only “secret” is practice-practice-practice.
This recipe for pie crust is like the foremothers of mine who lived on farms. Pretty, but flexible, adaptable, and ready to take on any job you give her.
I have said before that ancestors frequently stand looking over my shoulder as I cook. Memories crowd the kitchen. Well there’s quite a mob when I bake a pie. Grandpa (Daddy Guy) Anderson says–“Handle the dough with a light touch and don’t roll back and forth with the rolling pin.” Grandma (Vera Anderson) says, “Here, use my pastry cloth and rolling pin cover.”
So I dutifully unroll the pastry cloth that has seen hundreds and hundreds of pie crusts and biscuits roll by, and I place it on a silicone mat to keep it from slipping, an advantage Grandma did not have. And I slide the rolling pin into its t-shirt, and scatter flour over everything.
Then when it is time to choose the shortening–both Mother (Harriette Kaser) and Grandmother say, “Crisco is all you need.” I sometimes rebel and use margarine, because I slightly prefer the effect and the taste. And I suspect that Grandma used lard back before Upton Sinclair spread some horror stories. If you’re curious, read or listen to the story here.
And as I prepare to measure the tricky 1 3/4 cups of shortening called for in the recipe, mother reminds me that “Crisco displaces the same volume as water, so for 3/4 C of Crisco, put 1/4 cup of water in the cup, and fill it with Crisco until the water is about to spill over. Drain the water off, and you’ll have the proper amount of Crisco.” Of course you could use a 1/4 C measure and then a 1/2 cup measure, in addition to your one cup measure, but then you’d have all those cups to wash, and anyhow, I still kinda like the little trick.
Finally, unless there’ s someone out there who hasn’t spoken up, there’s a non-blood relative–the mother of my sister-in-law, whose pastry blender I inherited when I helped sort out her things after she passed away.
And I don’t think it would upset Norma Sr. to know that I don’t always use the pastry blender, since I long ago got in the habit of holding two knives together as pictured below in the recipe.
But with all these people helping, you can see how I could not possible make a bad pie crust. Well, actually, I could until I found this recipe for a Perfect Pie Crust. Perhaps it should be called the lazy cook’s pie crust because it makes you look good with little effort. And if it has holes or gaps–just patch it. It will never show.
Now (January 2019) I have been experimenting with some additional methods of making pie, and have added some to the recipe. I recommend using ice water–but still do not think that you need to be as fanatical about the chilling of all ingredients as some people recommend. I have tried, and like, a method of folding the dough before final rolling it out. And I like the method of rolling out the dough between two sheets of waxed paper (parchment paper will do) instead of on the cloth or wooden surface (sorry Grandma). I do put the pie shell in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes before filling and proceeding with baking.
These adaptations come from having subscribed to a pie baking group on Facebook and reading many, many articles and watching videos. But as I said earlier, you need to just keep making pie until everything makes sense to you. And then you’ll know what works best for you.
Because this is a sizable recipe, you’re ready to make a double-crust pie plus two single-crust pies, or any combination. And you’ll always have some pastry left over for pie cookies. Maybe I should talk about pie cookies another day. (And I did–follow the link.)
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