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Jun 21, 2011 11:10 PM

Pie crust problems unlike any I've heard

Tonight I made chicken pot pies, and for the crusts I followed a recipe that I've used several times with happy results. However, tonight's pie crusts (though they looked quite pretty with golden edges) are almost inedible. The crusts are almost powdery, and when I squish the powder between my fingers it turns into a slimy substance that very much resembles pie crust dough. The crust tastes kind of like shortening, and it leaves a disgusting film on the room of my mouth that's difficult to remove. (The same film is left on my fingers when I squish the crust between my fingers, and it's only removed with soap.) When I put plastic wrap over the pies, bits of the the crust stuck to the plastic, leaving greasy, lumpy smears at any point of contact. Also, I know the problem is not that the crust is undercooked because the golden brown parts behave just like the lighter parts of the pie.

I used four cups of flour, two cups of Crisco shortening, salt, baking powder, lemon juice, an egg, and a little bit of water, everything as I normally do, so I'm at a loss as to what happened tonight. I didn't use any cold ingredients, which is only slightly different than what I normally do--usually at least the egg is cold.

My fiance *loves* this pie crust recipe so I doubt I'll ever use another, even though I know that there are many *technically* superior recipes out there. I just want to know what may have happened to make it awful so that I don't make any more crusts like these.

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  1. Did you make it from memory? That seems like a lot of shortening. I wonder if you misrmemberer the amount.

    1. Generally, when I make pie crust, I use 3 cups of flour, 1/2 cup butter and 1/2 cup of crisco, salt and enough water (or egg) to make the dough come together. As calliope_nh said, 2 cups of crisco to 4 cups of flour seems like too much shortening. Relative to my basic recipe, you are increasing the flour by a third and doubling the shortening.

      1. The textural problems you describe seem like the result of too much shortening. Why'd you have too much this time and not other times? Who knows - could be you mis-measured this time, or there was an air pocket in one of the measuring cups of flour, or you sifted the flour before measuring this time, or a new bag of flour was less densely packed than what you've used before.

        The surest way to get consistent results is to measure by weight rather than by volume. I admittedly go by feel, but when I bother weighing, I aim for a 3:4 ratio of fat to flour by weight. And that's on the high end of what you can get away with. Though I don't use an egg, which pushes the fat up a little higher. From your results, it sounds as though you were at or above 1:1 fat to flour.

        6 Replies
        1. re: cowboyardee

          Using ice water will keep the shortening cold and in solid crumbs. Maybe your kitchen was warmer than usual? That can account for that unpleasant mouth coating and greasy feel.Also, every bag of flour varies in its moisture content. There are some things that will never turn out right if it's too humid outside.

          1. re: shecrab

            Also true. The vodka trick (subbing out up to half your water with ice cold vodka) is especially useful if your flour is high in moisture or if it is very humid in your kitchen.

            1. re: cowboyardee

              I was going to try the vodka thing. I thought you did it for the whole amount. You say half, why? I am just curious having never tried it before.

              1. re: juli5122

                I've only ever tried half the amount. I don't honestly know what would happen if you subbed more or all of the water for vodka. I can say that it's not really necessary, since half gets you a good result with no problems (plus it's cheaper)

                1. re: cowboyardee

                  Cool, just wondering, I am making a pie this week and will try it out. Thanks juli

                2. re: juli5122

                  Juli5122, regarding the "vodka" pie crust recipe, check out the following link for Cook's Illustrated Foolproof Pie Crust:


          2. You used way too much shortening, but you may also have used something other than flour by mistake. Are you sure you took it from the AP flour canister?

            1. It sounded like too much shortening to me at first too but then I checked the ATK Vodka Pie Crust recipe, which is my go-to pie crust. That recipe also calls for half as much butter/shortening as flour (1.25c shortening to 2.5c flour for a two-crust pie), so although I have definitely made pie crust with less fat, I don't know that that's the problem. How fresh was your Crisco? It definitely degrades over time, so if you used a can that was older that might have been your problem. The ambient temperature could have something to do with it as well.

              2 Replies
              1. re: biondanonima

                The results described (leaves a film, greasy splotches on saran wrap or fingers, powdery texture) sound like too much shortening, So while the ratio by volume in the OP's crust may not have been too high, for whatever reason the ratio by weight almost certainly was this time.

                I've had pies made with some pretty old shortening and never gotten those results.

                Though I do agree the OP would be better off keeping the ingredients cold.

                1. re: biondanonima

                  I have never heard of this but too much fat and/or old shortening could be problems

                  Another guess:

                  Is it possible you did something differently with the mixing? (Since you have made this before I don't say this to be instructional but more demonstrative) - If the shortening was warm and you over mixed the dough, I wonder if the fat was essentially over-incorporated. So rather than having thin pieces of shortening between dough layers to create the standard crust like texture, you could have had the flour and fat evenly mixed throughout so that 1) the flower was overly coated so never formed enough gluten structure 2) the shortening had no pockets to inflate so instead it just made this very loose honey comb structure . . . .

                  very curious indeed.