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Pastry Hubris

by VM Brasseur on November 18th, 2008

On Sunday I’ll be attending a Pre-Thanksgiving meal down south. My contribution will be dessert and I’ve decided that dessert will be a pie.

I’m not a big fan of desserts myself. Give me a tea, a port or a cheese course (or, hell, all three) at the end of a meal and I’m a happy gal. Therefore I don’t often bake but when I do things normally turn out pretty well. It’s hard to fail entirely when you have a decent head about you in the kitchen.

And that, I think, is where I went wrong tonight.

Prior to showing up to the event on Sunday I decided to try out the pie recipe and get some friends to guinea pig it tomorrow evening. Which means the pie must be cooked tonight. No problem. I’ll just whip it up. It’s just a pie, after all. I’ve done it a dozen times.

Mom’s pie crusts are made with Crisco and turn out beautifully Every. Single. Time. They’re awesome. Ain’t no one makin’ no pie crust like my mom and the first person who says otherwise is lookin’ fer a whuppin’.

I, however, can’t bring myself to use Crisco. 100% hydrogenated vegetable oil? 100% transfats? No thank you. Instead I went to my friendly local Whole Foods and picked up a friendly local substitute. Expeller-pressed. Organic. Conscience? Appeased. Pie-on, bro.

Now I’m making a pie crust using an unfamiliar substitute for a major ingredient. How else can I stack the deck against myself? Oh, I know! I’ll pretend I remember how to do this and won’t look up a recipe! Flour, fat, salt, sugar, water. How frickin’ hard can it be, right? Just kind put them together in a more or less OK proportion and all will be well, right?

Wrong.

Far too much fat and too little water later I have something which resembles pie crust. Sure, it’s all crumbly. Sure, I have to piece it together in the pan before blind baking it. But it looks like a pie crust and that’s all that matters, right?

Oy. This stuff isn’t vile but it’s certainly not the taste sensation of the year. I’ve since added the filling and top, managing to get that to the oven with crossed fingers. Maybe the finished product will make up for the crust. Maybe it’ll all be OK.

Uh huh. And maybe I’ll be the subject of a mass exodus of winged primates out of my nether regions.

Ah, well. I’m committed now. Either it’ll work out or it won’t. Regardless, there’ll be no doubt that my guinea pigs will have something on which to comment tomorrow evening.

From → Food

10 Comments
  1. Yeah, I have the pie crust trans fat conundrum too. I’ve gone to all butter recipes, but I’m tempted by the ones from Iowa farm wives and church cookbooks that use lard. It would be interesting to do a side-by-side comparison.

    The recipe I’m currently happy with includes a bit of apple cider vinegar, and I’m convinced that makes it easier to work with. Rolls out very nicely.

  2. Over IM Sara suggested I try lard. All things considered, it’s likely the best candidate for the job. I’ll probably try to find some in the next few days so I can give it a try for Sunday.

    And I’ll look up a recipe next time.

  3. Mom & Dad B permalink

    Paul and I came up with a recipe that used half butter and half lard – very flaky and tasty.The one in Cook’s Illustrated turned out nice.They also recommend the premade Pillsbury.
    You could make a cherry cheese.

  4. suomynona permalink

    Alton Brown also goes butter + Lard.

  5. tomspartan16 permalink

    I don’t remember ever making Crisco crusts, although my mom does so just like your mom! *yes, they are yummy.* But, I can’t do them either.

    At Espresso Royale I baked for 2years, and for my pumpkin bars and a few other things, lemon bars especially, i just used butter and flour. The taste is damn yummy! I think the ratio is about 2 cups flour to 1 stick butter. Then, just pat pat it down into the pan.

    I’m gearing up to make pecan pie and pumpkin pie for friends’ gathering on Sunday. I might also make a “Thanksgiving Pie” from the Paula Deen book I got on my recent trip to Savannah, GA. It is pumpkin pie with pecans, but doesn’t have any of the spices usually added to pumpkin pie.

    Any more I try to find reduced sugar recipes, or figure out how to cut out all the sugar. But…this is for company, so, cane syrup and light/dark corn syrup here i come!

    p.s. get the recipe out! Then, you’ll do fine and won’t ever need it. (Security blanket?)

  6. JoiseyGirl permalink

    Cooks Illustrated had an interesting recipe for pie crust some time ago that called for a tablespoon or so of vodka. The rationale went something like the vodka prevents the gluten chains from becoming too long even with extended mixing and handling (CJ? can you help here?) so you get a flakey, tender crust that you can actually roll and get into the pan. That’s always been my downfall – I get all paranoid about over handling the crust and it just never comes together right. It doesn’t solve your dilemma re the type of shortening to use (LARD! try the LARD!), but hey – adding alcohol, how bad can that be?

  7. I can totally see how alcohol could change the ways that the fat and protein bond to themselves and/or each other… I’ll have to check out McGee to see what he has to say – I’ve always found gluten kind of mysterious for some reason. (Maybe because it’s referred to using only cartoons, and I’ve never seen any kind of chemical structure so I can’t apply my domain knowledge appropriately and end up just hand waving.)

    I was talking to Eric about the pie crust thang, and mentioned how I was thinking that an experiment involving several pies with different crusts would be interesting. He was all on board for any experiment involving “several pies”. 🙂

  8. For the record: I *DO* know how to make good pie crust. I’ve done it several times before. I just got all cocky this time and paid for it, that’s all.

    Next time though… Muahaha!

    I’ll be doing some lard shopping ASAP as that “next time” is Saturday.

  9. JoiseyGirl permalink

    sign me up for the “several pies” event. Mine will have vodka. And lard. Filling, schmilling.

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