I’ll let you in on a little secret. I didn’t really like pie growing up. It was the pie crust. Commercially made piecrust was, and still is, pretty disgusting to me – chemically tasting with a oily coating on the tongue. If my mom, or one of my aunts, made it from scratch I would eat the bottom crust and filling, sometimes the top crust – but never the thick edge – too gross! Luckily, my sister’s favorite part is the crust, so no crust of mine ever went to waste…she loves pie crusts so much, she will even eat the dough! Not really my cup of tea, but hey, we all like something weird. Once I got older and started making my own crusts, I came to love pie. But not just any pie, just good pie, and that is hard to find. Fillings come and go, but the secret to good pie is a good crust. Pie classes are the most requested topic for my classes, and with good reason. Pie crusts can be finicky- especially when made with butter. A shortening or lard crust are much easier to make. I don’t have a problem with lard – if it is real lard and non-hydrogenated (most lard you can find is commercially rendered and partially hydrogenated), it is actually surprisingly good for you. But only if you can find the real stuff. For me, I grew up with shortening crusts, and those are still my favorite – but only if the shortening is non-hydrogenated. (Beware, there are “trans fat free” versions, but they can still be hydrogenated, just look at the label.) My all-time favorite brand is Spectrum, followed by Whole Foods’ 365 brand. (and no, these brands don’t even know I exist, much less pay me for sponsorship!) Most larger grocery stores here carry one – you may just have to look in the “organic” grocery or baking section. The following recipe is my personal favorite pie recipe, adapted from an old Betty Crocker one – very easy to work with and extremely forgiving. The perfect crust to try if it is your first time making pie!
Easiest Pie Pastry
Makes 2 10” crusts, or 3 8” crusts
- 1 cup shortening (preferably non-hydrogenated such as Spectrum Organic) or ¾ cup plus 2 Tbs Lard
- 2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 7-9 Tbs cold water
In a medium bowl, mix flour and salt. Cut shortening into flour until the largest particles are the size of peas. Sprinkle with water 1 Tbs at a time, tossing with a fork until all flour is moistened and pastry almost cleans side of bowl. With heel of your hand, smear each portion once or twice in a forward motion to help distribute fat. Gather dough and form into 2 or 3 balls, then flatten each into a 5-inch disk. Cover any portion you are not working with to prevent it from drying out. *At this point, dough (tightly wrapped) can be refrigerated for up to 2 days, or frozen up to 3 months. If refrigerating, let sit at room temp for 5 minutes before rolling. Thaw frozen dough in the refrigerator overnight before using.
Place dough on lightly floured surface and cover lightly with flour. With a floured rolling pin, roll pastry from the center out in north and south directions, turn pastry a quarter turn and repeat. If dough starts to stick, flour the surface a bit more, but try to use as little flour as possible. Roll the dough to about 2” larger all around than the pie pan you are using. Trim with a knife if necessary. Repair any tears by lightly moistening tear with cold water and pressing edges, overlapping, together. This recipe works well doubled.
(Adapted from Betty Crocker’s Cooking For Today)