Futzing with a Pie Crust Recipe
I haven't found a pie crust recipe I love yet. I know there's the simplest: shortening, flour, ice water, salt, and maybe sugar. Some include vinegar, some half butter, some all butter, some lard. Some use half cake flour...
I don't want to use lard, but I was hoping to experiment and wanted some premature feedback...
I was thinking of subbing brown sugar in for the white. I was also toying with the idea of putting in a tablespoon or so of molasses. How do you think these would affect, alter, or make the crust "not work?"
Sugars, particularly syrups, attract water (they're hydroscopic). Thus most sweet pie crusts are more of the sugar cookie variety, which is less flaky and usually prebaked until crisp before filling, usually used for one crust tart or cream type things. Recipes for this type may be called Pate Sucree and are usually made with butter and egg yolks. I do not think adding brown sugar, syrups, or more than a few Ts of regular sugar to a flaky crust will give a good result, although I would hate to squelsh your creativity. The best "different" addition to a flaky pie crust I know is a very little bit of baking powder- say, less than 1/8 t. I saw this in The Pie Bible and it improves the lightness of the crust.
If you want even simpler for a pie crust, I do an oil crust which I think is wonderful. It doesn't require any pre-chilling or pre-baking. I just mix it up with a fork, roll it out, put it in the shell and add the filling. It may not have the flakiness of shortening crust but it is still delicious and easy.
2 cups flour
1/2 cook neutral flavored but good quality oil (although I kinda like it with olive oil which isn't always that neutral)
1/4 cup cold water
1 teaspoon salt
Mix up with fork until it forms dough. Roll out as you would normally. Makes two think crusts or one thick crust (with extra). Let me know what you think.
My mother always used shortening (specifically, Crisco), but I've avoided that due to all the transfat stuff, up til now-- they have a transfat free version of Crisco. I've been using butter, but crisco makes a more tender crust, IMO. We'll see if the new version works. I actually would like to try lard someday, it's supposed to be the best.
Also, Alton Brown says to use icy apple juice instead of ice water. I think you'll get more results messing with your technique than you will with the ingredients.
using butter in your basic crust in place of some, but not all of your shortening will improve its taste. I cant think of any other futzing that is likely to be an improvement. I mean, a good, basic tender and savory pie crust is a rare gem - why not work on perfecting that?
The basic recipes with a bit of sugar added work fine.
I sometimes make a great crust with egg and lemon juice, which is a bit more forgiving of rolling errors than the basic item.
Skip the veg-shortening thing--it makes the crust easier to work with, but adds NO flavor. my favorite recipe is 2 1/2 cups flour, 2 tsp of sugar, 1/2 tsp salt, and 2 sticks of butter. You have to keep this dough very chilled, and be sure not to "cut" the butter down to anything finer than gravel/pea size, but it's really delicious.