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Butter pie crust pastry challenge

I have always used dead easy foolproof pastry recipe to make pie crusts. You know the one: crisco, egg, vinegar, etc. I make a huge batch of it all at once, divide it into 4 or 5 individual crust portions and freeze whatever I'm not using right away. It is easy to work with, doesn't crack, it's light enough and flaky enough to suit most uses.

My question: is it possible to make a similar pastry using all butter instead of crisco? I've given up waiting for crisco to come through with a non-trans-fat version of their product.

I'm no fanatic - I'll keep using my regular recipe if necessary, but an all butter pastry sounds great - IF it's easy to work with. The flavour, I'm sure, would be superior. But for the number of pies I personally bake on an annual basis, I'm willing to risk the trans fats if I must. I have no desire to complicate my life with difficult pastry.

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  1. I've used the all-butter pastry recipe from Julia Child's Mastering the Art, vol 1. It is a little soft when you roll, and if you don't keep it cool will become sticky. I used to roll it between sheets of parchment or 2 silpats so as not to overflour it.

    Flavor is fabulous. If you don't add too much flour or overhandle it, the texture is flaky and melt in the mouth. If I didn't have lard I would use this.

    1 Reply
    1. re: cheryl_h

      I use this recipe too. I agree with everything cheryl_h says about the taste and texture. Wonderful.

    2. Rose Levy Berenbaum's pie and pastry bible standard pie crust is all butter. I think it is wonderful... highly recommended.

      I've never had good luck with lard. Probably because I can't find leaf lard.

      7 Replies
      1. re: adamclyde

        Her cream cheese pie crust, made with butter and cream cheese is also fabulous and absolutely foolproof.

        1. re: susu

          WOAH!! Cream Cheese Crust? What does she use it with?

          --Dommy!

          1. re: Dommy

            yeah, that cream cheese crust is pretty amazing. she claims it's her favorite. I've done it a number of times. She uses it with a lot of fruit pies, but also some savory tarts/quiches if I remember correctly.

            It really is a great dough. Plus, because the cream cheese already has water in it, you add virtually no additional water, so you don't have to fiddle with that component.

            1. re: adamclyde

              Thanks... I found the recipe on Epicurious! After having experimented with the butter crust, I'll have to try this one out as well...

              http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/rec...

              --Dommy!

          2. re: susu

            I've made different versions of this pie crust - Cook's Illustrated has one - and it's OK, very easy and quick to make and supereasy to fit into the pie pan. But it doesn't compare with a good lard and butter crust IMO. But then what does?

            1. re: cheryl_h

              thats the problem with a lot of these crusts - they may be great pastry but they dont measure up as good pie crust. I think the real challenge and what the OP is addressing is making a great american style pie.

              1. re: jen kalb

                True - I'd like something classic-ish. However, I have made cream cheese pastry before and it's very delicious. I may give it a try in a peach pie this weekend. Might be just the thing. Otherwise I think I'll just sub part butter for part of the shortening - trans fats be damned. I don't eat pastry every day.

        2. Butter pastry is delicious, but never as "flaky" as lard or shortening based pastry. (The old saw is that lard = flaky, butter = tender pastry.) Personally, I can live without flake if it means tasting butter, but YMMV.

          But re the Crisco, the no-trans-fat stuff "came through" a while ago. It's around, just not everywhere for some reason. (It's in a green rather than blue cardboard tub.) Ask a local store that has the regular stuff if they can order it. I don't not sure why it hasn't flooded the markets, the only thing I could come up with is that shortening isn't all popular in general these days or that people who use it aren't particularly health conscious?

          There are also "health food" versions of no-trans-fat shortening that look OK and aren't wildly expensive, but I haven't tried any of them myself. Haven't made pastry with the no-trans-fat Crisco for that matter, either, so I don't know if it behaves quite the same way or what...

          1. But but but...Crisco DOES have a non trans fat version of shortening! It comes in a green box instead of the traditional blue box. Or you can get shortening at Whole Foods. The house brand (365) isn't very expensive compared to Crisco.

            But Deborah Madison's recipe for crust is fantastic, if you want to give butter a try anyway. Used it for a tart the other night and it was great. Stood up in the fridge for eating the next day, too. Let me know if you want the recipe.

            www.chezpei.com (scroll a few posts down for photo)

            1. I sub butter (measured by weight) for most but not all of the shortening into my recipe similar to yours(one my mother has taught and I love) . Mom uses butter-flavored crisco for hers but no...

              I use lemon rather than vinegar, though.

              Makes a delicious pie.

              Since I do not otherwise cook with shortening, I feel no need to be religious and leave it out altogether.

              1 Reply
              1. re: jen kalb

                This is the sort of thing i was going to suggest. Why not do a 50/50 sub of the shortening for butter? My standard recipe is to do that and it works pretty well (IMHO).

              2. If you want the best of both worlds- flakiness AND buttery taste, use clarified butter. The water in regular butter is preventing the crust from being flaky as when made with regular crisco.

                2 Replies
                1. re: scott123

                  scott, what a fascinating thought. i will have to try that. thank you.

                  1. re: scott123

                    Wow! great idea. I will definitely try clarified butter.

                  2. I use Malgieri's all butter crust. He adds a small amount of baking powder to the dry ingredients and it helps with flakiness.I find the dough very easy to work with and rarely have tearing or sticking problems with it.

                    1. My pie crust is mainly butter, with a bit of cream cheese and an egg yolk. If you're not sure about the cream cheese (which makes it flakier, only without that funny-roof-of-my-mouth feeling you get from crisco), just slightly lower your butter content by 1-2TBS and use only an egg yolk. The yolk somehow makes the dough super easy to work with. I've done plain butter crusts, which is a bit tricky (esp in summer) but that yolk just gives the dough a nice, smooth consistency, without being too sticky or melty. And you don't taste it - just the butter.

                      1. I tried this crust on fried pies and it was amazing. I have never had such a great flaky crust. Excellent recipe and thank you for posting it.

                        1. My pie crust is all unsalted butter, flour, and a little salt. I prefer it. But, it is not flaky. It has a shortbread consistency and taste. really, you do just cut cold little chunks of butter into flour and sprinkle in just enough ice water to make a dough using a fork to mix. The less you handle it the more tender it will be. It's best to take your butter, cut it into very small chunks and then re-refrigerate it. Even refrigerate the flour. The colder the ingredients the better.
                          Bake at 350. When you use a butter crust with something like a French apple pie with butter/brown sugar crumb streusel on top, or for a pecan pie made with honey for the sweetener and lots of vanilla - the butter makes it heavenly.