Friday, April 8, 2011

Conquering Pie Crust Phobia with Victory Pie Crust

One of my earliest childhood memories is of standing on some kind of a stool, in front of the kitchen counter, watching my mother make pie crust.  She could sculpt the crust on the rim of the pie plate like Picasso, and in my child eyes I must have perceived this as the grown-up equivalent version of playing with Play-dough.  She'd always break off little pieces and let me taste it.  The raw dough was delicious.  (It still is.) 

Sadly, for whatever reason, Mother soon stopped baking pies from scratch.  I'm not sure why.  She always used to say that her mother could whip up a pie crust with virtually no effort at all, and maybe my mother felt that she simply couldn't compete with Grandma's pies.  Or maybe she simply didn't like making pie crust.  Whatever her reason was, her home made pies virtually disappeared from the family menu, and, on those rare occasions when she did bake a pie, she used the frozen pie shells from the grocer's freezer.

Since I had no one to teach me how to make a pie crust from scratch I never learned how.  I just assumed that it was too difficult, causing me to develop an affection I'll call, Pie Crust Phobia.  After I became an adult and left home I too bought the frozen pie shells.  While they're not bad, people used to tell me that they just don't have the flavor, or the flakiness, of a pie crust made from scratch.

Fast forward a few years.  I'm testing recipes for my upcoming historic cookbook, Rosie's Riveting Recipes: Cooking on the Home Front Line.  I decided to carry over all the pie recipes from my earlier cookbook, Anna's Kitchen, and I confess; when I wrote the first book I did try some of the pie recipes, (which were delicious, by the way,) but I used the frozen crusts.  This time around however, I decided the time had come to conquer my Pie Crust Phobia by going for broke and making my own pie crust from scratch.

They say that certain genes skip a generation.  I quickly discovered that making pie crust from scratch isn't rocket science after all.  In fact, it's pretty easy.  All you need is some flour, baking powder, shortening, and a little water.  Having the right tools helps too.  I bought a pastry cutter at Wal Mart, and that investment of a few dollars has really paid off because it makes blending in the shortening a snap.

Victory Pie Crust is used in many of the historic recipes in both of my cookbooks.  I also found the crust portion from the Liver and Vegetable Casserole recipe I posted a few weeks ago to be exceptionally flaky and yummy as well, so I plan on using it with other pie recipes.  Incidentally, the word, "victory," was a significant word in the lexicon during World War Two.  It was a real moral booster that was used everywhere.

I've conquered my Pie Crust Phobia.  I'm never going back to pies baked in frozen pie shells.



1¼ cups sifted flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
3 or 4 tablespoons cold shortening
3 or 3½ tablespoons ice water*

Sift flour once, measure, add baking powder and salt, and sift again. Cut shortening into small pieces; add to flour and cut in until mixture is almost as fine as meal. Make small well in flour mixture. Turn 1 tablespoon ice water in this and mix quickly and lightly with surrounding flour only until a small ball of dough is formed. Do not over mix. Repeat this way, mixing all of the flour in separate portions. Then press portions together lightly but firmly into one dough. Makes enough pastry for 9-inch pie shell. Double recipe for pastry for two-crust pie.

•    Use only 3 tablespoons ice water with 4 tablespoons shortening; use 3½ tablespoons ice water with 3 tablespoons shortening.

Note: If the crust should come out too dry and crumbly simply add small amounts of water until the mixture has a more doughy consistency.  

1 comment:

  1. I am a bit phobic myself, but too often disappointed by frozen crusts. With the fresh fruit pie season on it's way, I will give it another try- with your recipe.


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