Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A perfect pie crust

Back in November, I waxed poetic about learning how to make a crumbly, beautiful pie crust.

Many of you asked me to share the recipe for this wonderful crust and so, without further ado (and despite a month-long delay)...

No, wait.  I need to disclose something important before I share this recipe.
Prior to this recipe, I was a complete Crisco snob.  I didn't believe Crisco had a place in "true" cooking. Over the years, I have overlooked many, many recipes solely because they called for Crisco in the list of ingredients instead of butter.  I'm not sure when or how I developed this bias, however, it was a very strong one and it wasn't until a wonderful, new friend introduced me to the recipe below that I was finally able to let this bias go.  After having had less than stellar results with numerous (more than five) pie crust recipes that used butter as the primary fat over the last couple years, I have to say, the difference between using butter in a crust recipe and using Crisco is significant. The light and flaky simplicity of this crust using Crisco is quite impressive:
So.  There it is.  A short explanation for my new-found appreciation of Crisco.  With that explained, here - finally - is the pie crust recipe:

Basic pie crust
Source: Margaret Whitacre Kruse
Makes enough crust for two single-crust pies or one double-crust pie

2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 cup Crisco shortening
1/2 cup ice cold water

Combine flour and salt in a large mixing bowl, mix well. Add Crisco and work quickly into flour using the pastry blender until all floured pieces of Crisco are the size of a blueberry or smaller:
When done, put bowl in freezer for 10 minutes to keep Crisco from melting:
Remove bowl from freezer. Add ice water to chilled flour mixture all at once. Using a fork, quickly stir the water into the flour mixture:
...then use your hands to gently form the dough into a ragged ball:
Don't overwork or knead too much as this creates a tough dough. This step should not take more than 30 seconds.

Dump the dough onto a lightly floured surface, including all remaining pieces of flour/Crisco from the bowl. Using your hands, gently push the dough into a thick disc, incorporating all scraps of flour/Crisco from the bowl:
Turn the disc over to make sure the top and bottom sides are floured. Roll the dough into a thin sheet using a rolling pin, working from the center of the disc outward:
For single-crust pies you want the dough to be about 1/8" thick. (A fast way to tell is to "pat" the dough with your opened hand. If you see an indentation that is more that 1/8" deep, you need to roll the dough more.) If the dough is to be used for a lattice crust top, then make it 1/4" thick for ease of handling.

Roll dough onto rolling pin and transfer to pie plate, unrolling into place. Make sure the dough is settled into pie plate bottom and up the sides so that it doesn't tear when you add the filling. Fix any tears in the dough with scraps and a bit of water if needed. Trim the dough along the edge of the pie plate, leaving more dough if needed for sealing a top crust or for adding a scalloped edge.  (Repeat with the scraps for the 2nd pie or for a lattice top.)

In the example below, I was going to use my crust for a chocolate mousse pie, which required I bake my shell prior to filling it.  I, therefore, lined my crust with parchment paper and filled with dried beans (for weight) to prevent the bottom of the crust from bubbling and cracking:
Please note: This is not a sweet crust.  If you like a bit of "sweet" in your crust, you may wish to add 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar.  However, if your pie is especially sweet, like the chocolate pecan pie shown at the top of this post, this sugarless crust is a perfect complement.

And speaking of the chocolate pecan pie at the top of this post, a few people expressed an interest in the recipe I used for that:
Chocolate Pecan Pie
Source: Betty Crocker Recipes


Pastry for 9-inch one-crust pie (recipe above)
3 eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 oz unsweetened chocolate
1/3 cup margarine or butter, melted together with chocolate
1 cup corn syrup
1 cup pecan halves or broken pieces

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare pastry. Beat eggs, sugar, salt, margarine/butter with chocolate and syrup with a mixer until thoroughly combined. Stir in pecans. Pour into pastry-lined pie plate.

Bake until set, 40 to 50 minutes. Cool slightly. Serve warm or refrigerate.

It's pie season.  Tell me what kind of pies you are baking....


  1. Crisco comes in sticks? Who knew?

  2. Pecan favourite!
    It looks great!

  3. Yep, you just can't make a decent pie crust without Crisco. I probably tried the same recipies you did and failed. Here in Indiana sugar cream pies rein queen.

  4. Yum!
    I've always made homemade pie crusts and my family does not put up with "fake crusts" from the grocery store.
    One thing that makes the rolling process a breeze--plastic wrap. Two pieces on the counter, pie crust, two pieces on top of that. Roll without extra flour and breakage. SO easy to pick up and transfer to your pie pan.

  5. That is a beautiful pie my dear and as for crisco snob, hey, that's why our grandmothers used lard in their pie crusts and not butter! LOL Just sayin. Merry Christmas.

  6. I want to know how you took those pictures when both hands are in the photo? Wow. You are even more talented than I thought! :)

  7. Thank you! I had heard that Crisco makes a difference, and like you, I had a problem buying pure fat!
    I'll have to cave in and try it.. now that someone has taken the path and shown me the way!!

  8. I've been one of those Crisco snobs for years. I use Martha Stewart's recipe using butter . . . but it's a whole lot of work keeping everything (including the utensils) cold in the freezer before hand. This pie is stunning, a "must try" for this Crisco snob for sure!

  9. Sarah - You make me smiiiiiiiiiile.... ♥ ♥ ♥

    7MSN - Right? The sticks are packaged in a very convenient 1-cup size. Crisco comes in a "butter flavor", too, but my former bias toward Crisco is now solidly affixed to artificial butter flavoring. :-)

    Cristine - Indiana sugar cream pie? Sounds incredibly rich and decadent.... googling now... :-)

    CeeCee - Wonderful tip, thank you!

    MTWaggin - Very good point! If I'd been able to spend any time in the kitchen baking with my grandmother, it probably wouldn't have taken me decades to understand the magical properties of Crisco. lol

    Marigold - Don't tell anyone, but occasionally I manage to convince someone to be my kitchen assistant. Doesn't happen often, but when it does...I can actually have *both* hands in the photo.

    Dreaming - See? You are just like I was. If you give it a shot, please be sure to tell me what you think, ok?

    CaliforniaGrammy - Wow, I didn't realize there were others like me out there! :-) Does Martha's recipe come out light and flaky? I have been wanting to experiment with the recipe that calls for half butter/half shortening. Seems like that would produce a pie crust with the best of both worlds, right? :-)

  10. I'm baking? Nope. I'm picking up a gallon of milk and heading over to your house! YUM!

  11. perfect pie crust is, like perfect biscuits, an artform. I'm convinced! Looks like you have become an artists! The pie sounds delicious! Lovely counter tops by the way!

  12. Another who knew Crisco came in sticks.

  13. Pregnant with you, I could not stop eating chocolate pecan pie. That might be one of the reasons that the above pie is such a master piece...

  14. Thank You very much. I knew you didn't forget.

  15. you must watch the movie "the help". not only is it good but you will love what they have to say about crisco!

  16. jaz@octoberfarm said exactly what I was going to say! :)

    Beautiful pie, Danni. Yum.

  17. Thank goodness for Betty Crocker, King Arthur Flour and Crisco Sticks. Danni, I musy say you have the prettiest hands for a farm gal, are you using a hand model? lol. Merry Christmas and Best Wishes in the New Year to all of you at Critter Farm from all of us here at Dog Trot Farm.

  18. I used to make my own pie crust, but that fell by the wayside a long time ago. I may have to give your recipe a go. One thing I did not know - the beans in the bottom of the crust trick. Very clever.

    Merry Christmas, Danni, to you and your entire family.

  19. that looks so yummy! merry christmas.

  20. Ok, I've been lazy for a couple yrs. and have been using those Pillsbury refer pie crusts but yours looks so beautiful,,,I'll just have to try it and yup, I've heard it's all in the Crisco. It's even good for your a moisturizer...ok I think I spelled that wrong! :)

    Merry Christmas Danni!!

  21. I have to say I'm a crisco snob myself. I've thought about caving in at times. I have started making a pie crust that you use butter and a few teaspoons of vodka to replace some of the water ( it evaporates out when baked ) and its flaky and great.
    Your pie looks delicious, I may cave in and try the crisco just to compare the results.
    Merry Christmas

  22. Now, if you want to really open your mind... try lard. Oh, and I love you too.


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