I love pie – baking it and eating it. So I had a great time writing this story on making homemade pie for the holidays.
As many of the women I interviewed mentioned, every pie has a story. And that’s true. I think of my Grandma Alice every time I make pie, since it’s her recipe I use for the crust.
But there’s one thing I respectfully disagree with the women I talked to – the use of Crisco. My grandma’s recipe calls for lard (along with a little butter for extra flavor) so that’s what I use. But that shortening in the blue can? I’m just not a fan.
That’s part tradition. If lard was good enough for Grandma Alice, it’s good enough for me. But a few years ago, I had a little bake-off in my own kitchen, just to be sure. I tried three different recipes for pie crust: my grandma’s recipe with lard, Emeril Lagasse’s recipe with shortening and Martha Stewart’s recipe with butter.
Working with shortening in Emeril’s recipe certainly required less muscle power than the ice-cold lard or butter. But the dough wasn’t as easy to work with as roll out and transfer to the pie pan as the other two recipes.
Of course, what really matters is the taste, so I gathered some friends and family for a blind taste test. The verdict? The crust made from shortening was more crumbly than its lard and butter counterparts, but all three were flaky and tender.
The real difference, I think, was the next day. The crust made from shortening didn’t seem to hold up as well as the others – nor did it taste as good. I have no idea why. But the butter and lard crusts, however, were still just as delicious.
So like all things food, it’s a matter of opinion. But you should take mine (because I’m right), and make my Grandma Alice’s pie crust. It really is the best. (And not hard to make, I swear. Just do it. You’ll never go back to buying a pre-made crust again.)
Here’s the recipe:
Grandma Alice’s Pie Crust
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup lard
2 tablespoons butter
1 egg, beaten
3 tablespoons ice cold water
1/2 teaspoon vinegar
Combine flour, salt, baking powder lard and butter and blend with a pastry blender. In a small bowl, combine ice water and vinegar with beaten egg. Gradually add the liquid to the flour mixture until all the flour is moistened. Shape the dough into a ball, then flatten into a 4-inch wide disc. Dust lightly with flour, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes before rolling. Makes an 8- or 9-inch single pie shell.
Oh – and if you’re wondering where to find lard at the grocery store, it’s not by the butter or margarine (which is where I always looked first). At Hy-Vee, the lard is by the bacon. Of course it is.