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can a pie crust taste good without butter?

Hi all,

Sadly, I am butter challenged, just can't eat the stuff. My pie crusts are good using transfat free shortening, but nothing to write home about. Is there any way to improve the flavor of my pie crust (flour, shortening, salt, sugar, ice water) without butter?

Thanks for your help.

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  1. I never use butter in pie crust. It doesn't have the tenderizing power that shortening does. Just be sure to get a good quality shortening and don't forget a little bit of salt. The flavour is really in the filling.

      1. re: nosh

        Oops. Sorry, I meant lard, too. I always use lard.

      2. you might want to try making one of the egg//lemon juice variations which will add a little bit more complexity to the flavor and tenderness to the dough. An awful lot of traditional american pie, including that I grew up with that won prizes at the state fair was made without butter - the crust is about crisp/tender texture as much as flavor - so if your filling is flavorful, it really wont matter so much.

        3 Replies
        1. re: jen kalb

          I have a recipe from Saveur that might be the one you are referring to, Jen. It uses vegetable oil and milk. However, i have adapted it to use part whole wheat pastry flour, and a healthier oil. It is a really, really good crust, way easier than making a butter crust, and people are absolutely shocked to find out it doesn't have butter or shortening. (I don't eat the transfat-free shortening because it's palm oil which is very high in saturated fat - and it doesn't taste as good as this crust).

          2 2/3 c. flour (I use about a cup of whole wheat pastry flour, and the rest all-purpose flour)
          1 tsp. salt
          2/3 c. oil (I use organic canola, or half canola, half macadamia nut oil)
          6 T. skim milk

          Mix the flour and salt in a bowl. Put the oil in a measuring cup, then add the milk without stirring. Dump that in the flour and mix briefly. Do NOT refrigerate. Shape into 2 balls. Flatten one ball and roll out between two sheets of wax paper. If it breaks apart, just smush it together - this crust is easily repairable. Remove the top sheet and turn the pastry over into the pie pan. Fill the pie, then repeat with the second layer. Cut vents in the top, then brush with a tiny bit of milk and sprinkle with sugar. Bake the pie at 400 for the first 10 minutes, then reduce to 350 or 375.

          1. re: sourcherry

            Here's a version of the pastry made with egg and some lemon juice mixed with the water that I referred to. It makes a good tasting pastry and is very forgiving to roll
            http://www.betterbaking.com/viewRecip...

            I looked up the composition of the transfree crisco and it is NOT made with palm oil, by the way

            The following recipe for state pen pie crust looks like the american standard (I would add a bit of salt and sugar) So much of this is rolling technique, the old light hands with pastry , and experience!

            1. re: sourcherry

              what a delicious crust. i used it last night for a raspberry/blackberry galette and was so grateful to be able to share in the seasons bounty without butter. thank you. i used homemade almond milk instead of the milk....fyi.

          2. My mother has always used Crisco. Her mother used generic shortening. Mom's grandfather (who cooked for a firestation on the weekends and the Ohio State Penitentiary during the week, so he HAD to cook well... or he'd have some dangerous and hungry men on his hands.

            But nobody in my makes pie crust with butter, and our crust is spectacular! It's not sophisticated, but it's as flaky as... well, I can't think of anything quite as flaky.

            State Pen Pie Crust
            2 cups flour
            1 cup shortening
            approximately a cup of ice water

            Get a big bowl, spread out a clean, smooth towel and a rolling pin. Flour surfaces of towel and rolling pin. Pour flour into the bowl and loosely mix shortening in with your fingers as if playing with something icky until you create marbles. Then create a little well in the center. Pour approximately ¼ to ½ a cup of cold water into the well, then bring in the side of the well like a reverse volcano, until you get a congealed but loose ball. Gather your ball and gently plop onto floured towel. Using the rolling pin, roll it into a circle. Ease it into your pie pan. Pour in filling and cover the edges with foil. Bake at 425 for ten minutes. Remove foil and bake at 350 until pie is done!

            4 Replies
            1. re: lisafaz

              This is exactly the pie crust recipe I learned growing up with the addition of a tsp of salt.

              1. re: mollyomormon

                I find that the salt is critically important, not only for taste, but to keep the crust from being tough, although I don't understand the mechanism.

              2. re: lisafaz

                Lisafaz, thanks for posting this,....
                It sounds relatively easy.
                I am a good cook, but a baker, I'm not, and I have always been afraid to tackle a pie crust...but this actually sounds doable.
                Does the shoretening have to be cold, the way butter has to for a crust?
                I also assume Crisco is good to use.

                I want to try it!!

                1. re: NellyNel

                  I never chill my Crisco(I use a very similar recipe, but add salt and 1T sugar), but it certainly wouldn't hurt.

                  The real magic bullet, however, came from Cooks Illustrated. They replaced some of the water with vodka. Brilliant! The flour needs water to develop gluten, so if you remove some of the water, the dough stays much more tender and is much easier to handle. It's awesome!

                  1. re: sarah galvin

                    From someone who suddenly found themselves with a blocked artery at the tender age of 44, let me just say please stop eating that stuff! I regret every pie crust made with shortening I ever ate ...especially now that I make a healthy one (see above) that's just as good!

                    1. re: sourcherry

                      With all due respect, I think this condition is predisposed. My father is 82 and ate pie all his life. Pie made with lard and shortening. So I appreciate your concern but if I was concerned about my health, I would cut pie altogether. Nothing wrong with just fruit.

                      1. re: sourcherry

                        thanks for the recipe. how does it compare texture-wise to a traditional crust? I make my grandmother's butter/Crisco recipe but reduce the fat by about 75%. It makes a very thin, cracker-y crust, but my husband has been eating so long he's learned to like it better than the "greasy" kind. (not me unfortunately, but then cake is my weakness, not pie)