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Aug 22, 2010 06:08 PM

I've Never Met a Recipe with More Controversy: Pie Crusts

Just when I think I've settled on a pie crust recipe, I open up Greg Patent's Baking in America and see that he uses part AP flour & part cake flour....and an egg yolk and cider vinegar.

Is there a recipe with as many approaches/ingredient variations?!

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  1. A CI recipe uses vodka!

    1. I've always wondered if using a low gluten flour would give you a more tender crust and why it wasn't used more often since one big rule is not to overmix to develop gluten. I don't think apple cider vinegar is unusual but most use lemon juice because it's not as strong of a flavor.

      Bon Appetit, years ago, had a crust made of cream instead of water. Alton Brown's uses corn meal and flour. Different variations but not as many.

      10 Replies
      1. re: chowser


        Was it really really really finely ground or something? I keep imagining the cornmeal I used to make cornbread when I was a kid . . .

        1. re: ZenSojourner

          I've never made it because I can't imagine the toothier feel of it in pie crust.

          1. re: chowser

            Yeah, I'm afraid of that cornmeal. I don't know, maybe some of the technique he uses might help - I make the worst pie crust ever - but I'm not sure I can get past the cornmeal thing. I looked at his recipe for pizza dough on the same site, and I'm not thrilled by the idea of putting aspirin in my pizza dough, either.

            1. re: ZenSojourner

              I recently made a savory tart with a cornmeal and whole wheat flour pastry. It was nutty and crunchy and sensational! It was so delicious I immediately made a second batch of the pastry so I could pull off bits and make individual tarts while my garden is still producing fresh tomatoes, zucchini and peppers.

              My point is, that cornmeal or polenta is a fabulous addition to pastry for the right application.

              If anyone's tempted, here's the recipe I used (with the substitution of white whole wheat flour):

              1. re: rainey

                Maybe in that case (savory filling) it wouldn't be so weird. But I'm thinking mostly fruit pies. Apple and lemon meringue are my favorites. They're running around $10 a pie lately, and I haven't seen lemon meringue pie at any price for seems like forever.

          2. re: ZenSojourner

            A corn meal crust goes very nicely with a spiced apple and raisin pie.

            1. re: maxie

              I agree about so many recipe variations. I am trying a whole list of them at the moment!
              The latest uses baking powder.

              I was quite nervous about making pastry at first but later realized heck it is only flour and water and fat and dived straight in. I have only had one failure - I abandoned the process halfway worried that the mixture was too dry. I chuckle about this today.
              Now lets try a new recipe..........

              1. re: maxie

                One of my favorite recipes is from "Diet for a Small Planet" - a bean pie with corn meal crust. So simple & delicious!

            2. re: chowser

              Cornmeal is also a defining ingredient in the buttermilk pie that I found at Mark's Feed Store in Louisville, KY. I then tracked down this delicious dish (with the same style of crust) in my Farm Journal Complete Pie Cookbook (1965). It works and I can re-recreate southern hospitality in my East Coast seaside home!

              1. re: LJS

                That pie book - and their Country Fair (prizewinners) cookbook - are excellent.

            3. At the end of the day, it's the recipe that works for you and that you think tastes good. I usually use a basic 3 cups flour half butter/half Crisco recipe, but sometimes I make a different pie crust for a savory pie or for a tart. I know southern cooks who will only use White Lily flour, and northern cooks who will only use AP. My elderly aunts would make an oil crust, and I know cooks who will only use lard for their crusts. No controversy, just different strokes for different folks.

              3 Replies
              1. re: roxlet

                The word controversy was 'tongue-in-cheek'.

                It's not surprising that homecooks are afraid to make their own pie crusts, there doesn't seem to be a concensus--especially among recipe authors!

                I'm thinking of trying three different recipes/approaches to compare the results...

                1. re: Funwithfood

                  Hmmm. Didn't see the tongue planted in the cheek there, and I guess I would have put controversy in quotation marks if that was the tone I was going for. Whatever.

                  I have made pie crusts my whole life and have never been afraid to make one nor try a different method. If you've not made a lot of crusts, then it is an extremely good idea to try a variety of recipes to see which suits you and which result you prefer.

                  1. re: roxlet

                    Roxlet -

                    I totally agree with the different strokes for different folks. I've had shortening crusts that were great. Lard crusts that were divine. Oil crusts that were way better than I thought they would be. And AP flour crusts that ROCK. When done right, they are all good. Just different.

                    I'm an AP butter/shortening gal myself But theres a bakery in town that does oil crust based fruit cobblers you would not believe, that's how good they are. So enjoy and explore!

              2. I can think of many recipes with "more controversy".

                Some examples off the top of my bald head:

                - BBQ ribs (or just about BBQ anything)
                - Chili
                - Meatloaf
                - Mac N Cheese
                - Roast Chicken
                - Thanksgiving turkey

                4 Replies
                1. re: ipsedixit

                  Mac 'n Cheese?

                  No controversy there! Only KRAFT DINNER is the perfect Mac 'n Cheese!

                  ; D

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    tacking on...

                    eggs - omelette, hard-boiled, etc
                    fried chicken
                    chocolate chip cookies... any cookies really

                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      The bigger question is whether there are any recipes that don't have "controversy." Ask about boiling a hard boiled egg and you'll get a long thread, let alone how to peel that hard boiled egg.

                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        You for got cheesesteaks... cheesesteaks cause intense controversy

                      2. I'm still searching for the perfect recipe. I find that adding wheat germ helps tenderize, so I add 1 Tbsp to the bottom of each cup of flour. The closest I've come to a solution is CI's food-processor method with cold cubes of butter and shortening, but that one's a little high in fat for my taste, not for health reasons but just plain old flavor.

                        11 Replies
                        1. re: csdiego

                          I love CI's method and of course the vodka trick. I will never make another pie crust recipe - this one just works too well. I think you could probably cut back on the fat though, if you wanted.

                          1. re: biondanonima

                            The most recent CI magazine using the vodka method suggested that the trick for a truly flaky pie crust was to add more butter/shortening than is usually called for.

                            1. re: roxlet

                              I just tried this CI recipe and dang if it wasn't the best pie crust I've made, and I've tried a lot of different methods. It was the perfect balance for me - flavorful from the butter, but also flaky and not shortbready. I don't think it's particularly easy, despite CI's claims - it's a pretty wet dough, which made it a little hard to work with. But the results definitely made it my favorite to date. And no, you can't taste the vodka in the finished crust.

                              1. re: monopod

                                You tried the CI recipe from the latest issue, or you tried the CI method? I am wondering about the extra butter/shortening.

                                  1. re: Funwithfood

                                    IDK. I have the magazine but not the online subscription.

                                    1. re: Funwithfood

                                      I expect it's all over the web since this got so much play when they first published it.

                                      1. re: Funwithfood

                                        Here it is for a single crust. It is, indeed, all over the internet.

                                        1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (6 1/4 ounces)
                                        1/2 teaspoon table salt
                                        1 tablespoon sugar
                                        6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (3/4 stick), cut into 1/4-inch slices
                                        1/4 cup chilled solid vegetable shortening , cut into 2 pieces
                                        2 tablespoons vodka , cold
                                        2 tablespoons cold water

                                        1. Process 3/4 cups flour, salt, and sugar together in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogenous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 10 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds with some very small pieces of butter remaining, but there should be no uncoated flour). Scrape down sides and bottom of bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining 1/2 cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.

                                        2. Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Flatten dough into 4-inch disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.

                                        3. Adjust oven rack to lowest position, place rimmed baking sheet on oven rack, and heat oven to 425 degrees. Remove dough from refrigerator and roll out on generously floured (up to ¼ cup) work surface to 12-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll into pie plate, leaving at least 1-inch overhang on each side. Working around circumference, ease dough into plate by gently lifting edge of dough with one hand while pressing into plate bottom with other hand. Leave overhanging dough in place; refrigerate until dough is firm, about 30 minutes.

                                        4. Trim overhang to ½ inch beyond lip of pie plate. Fold overhang under itself; folded edge should be flush with edge of pie plate. Flute dough or press the tines of a fork against dough to flatten it against rim of pie plate. Refrigerate dough-lined plate until firm, about 15 minutes.

                                        5. Remove pie pan from refrigerator, line crust with foil, and fill with pie weights or pennies. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove foil and weights, rotate plate, and bake for 5 to 10 minutes additional minutes until crust is golden brown and crisp.

                                        1. re: biondanonima

                                          Thanks, wow 2 Tbsp of Vodka for a single crust, but Vodka is much less acidic than vinegar so that's probably appropriate.

                                          1. re: biondanonima

                                            I'm surprised that people still use shortening, it's full of trans fats so probably the most unhealthy thing you can eat! I'd go for pure butter over eating a drop of that stuff!

                                            1. re: cathyeats

                                              The new Crisco shortening has no trans fats, which is apparently why cooks have had difficulty with certain recipes (cooks differently with these new properties).

                                              I don't use shortening in my pie crusts, but as infrequently as I eat pie...what is a teaspoon of shortening annually?! :)