Thank God for technology

About two months ago I decided to quit using Crisco in my pie crusts.  I’ve made pies with Crisco for about thirty years, and one might suggest that they haven’t killed me so far, but it seems clear that trans fat is bad for you and should be minimized in the diet.  So, I figured I’d just learn to make pie crust with a different fat.

A lot of people swear by lard, but I just find the idea distasteful.  I learned to make pies from my sisters, who learned from my mother, who always used Crisco. (It was first sold in 1911, the year she was born, which is fitting).   Besides, I have some vegetarian friends; I wouldn’t want them to be unable to eat my pies.

So, I figured I’d use butter.  My first attempts at this came out pretty badly.  Butter isn’t just fat, like Crisco; it has some water in it too.  If I make pie crust with butter using the same amounts of flour, fat, and liquid that I do with Crisco, the crust sizzles when baked, and turns tough.  It’s kind of like very tasty leather.
So made up a bunch of little test batches of crust with different amounts of liquid and butter added; I found that you get a very nice, flaky crust if you keep the amount of liquid really low (like 3 C flour, 1 C butter, 6 Tbsp water for a large two-crust pie).   The problem is, the crust is practically powder before baking.  I can line the bottom of a pan with it, but as a top crust, it’s almost impossible to get onto the pie. It crumbles.  And forget woven lattice tops.

Still, it tastes good, and it doesn’t have any trans fat in it.

But today, after a frustrating experience with an apple pie for the Unitarian potluck tonight, I went to the Crisco web site, and discovered that they’ve replaced all their formulas with a new “zero trans fat” formula.  Okay, it has some trans fat, but since it’s less than 0.5 g per serving, they can round down.  And I’m ready to accept this as a triumph of food technology, and resume making pie crusts the way God intended, with Crisco.  Preferably butter-flavored Crisco.

3 Responses to “Thank God for technology”

  1. Matt says:

    My mother uses butter in pie crusts. But I distinctly remember her always using butter she’d had in the freezer. I don’t know what difference it makes, I assume it takes longer for it to break down in the mixture.

  2. Allen says:

    Oh, yeah, I always freeze the butter, and for that matter I freeze Crisco before using it. The idea with a pie crust is to have thin sheets of unincorporated fat holding apart thin layers of water/flour dough, so you get a flaky pastry. The colder the fat, the better — if it’s too soft, it gets worked into the flour, and you have a flour/fat dough; great for cookies, but not for pastry.

  3. kicking_k says:

    I don’t like the idea of lard pastry either (I’m veggie) but attempts to make my mother-in-law’s mince pies with butter pastry were unsuccessful. So my husband is still relying on shipments of pies from the mistress of the art.

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