A while back Deb wrote a post about pies to which I wrote a comment. She suggested that I do a post on pie crust since many people have problems making tender pastry.
I'll begin by telling you a family story. My grandmother, my mother's mother, died when mom was thirteen. She dropped out of school that year (after her eighth grade graduation) to take care of her "kid" brother, Ed, who I believe was about seven or eight years old. Some of the neighbor ladies gave her advice and taught her to cook a few things. She was a very good cook, but she did not really enjoy cooking very much. One thing that she never mastered was pie crust. All during my childhood the only pies that she made had graham cracker crusts. She made all kinds of cream pies with graham cracker crusts.
Sometime while I was away at college my grandmother, my dad's mother, gave her two recipes for pie crust which grandma said were "never fail." One of the recipes contained lard and the other contained an egg and some vinegar. Mom tried these recipes and with a little practice soon began baking absolutely beautiful pies. Her pies could have graced the pages of a cookbook. As the years went on she also used pie crust mix. I think by then her confidence and skill had increased to the point where she could work the pastry without overworking and toughening it.
Here is the version of pie dough that I use the most. It contains an egg and some vinegar, both of which promote tenderness. You can smell the vinegar as the crust bakes, but you cannot taste it. If you haven't found a pie crust recipe that you are satisfied with I hope you will give it a try.
Extra Tender Pastry
2 cups flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup shortening
1 egg beaten
1 Tablespoon cider vinegar
3 Tablespoons water
Stir together flour and salt. Cut in shortening until pieces are the size of small peas. In a small bowl blend together the egg, vinegar, and water. Add a few spoonfuls of the flour mixture to the egg mixture to form a paste. Add the paste to the rest of the flour mixture. Press into a ball shape. Divide in half and form into two disk shapes. Wrap each individually with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least twenty minutes. (This step is important and really helps to make the dough easier to work with by fully hydrating the flour.)
You can refrigerate this for a couple of days or place in a ziplock bag and freeze for a few weeks. (Thaw in refrigerator before using.) When ready to use roll the dough as desired and bake according to the recipe you are using.
Here is a really good recipe for a chocolate pie from Hershey's:
Gone to Heaven Chocolate Pie
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp. salt
4 egg yolks
3 cups milk
2 Tbsps. butter or margarine
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1 3/4 cups chocolate chips (they recommend the special dark but I usually use semi-sweet)
whipped topping or sweetened whipped cream
1 baked pie shell
Bake pie shell. (Prick with a fork and bake at 450 degrees for 10-12 mins.) Cool. Stir together sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a two quart saucepan. Combine the egg yolks and milk in a container with a pouring spout. Gradually blend the milk mixture with the sugar mixture. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. Boil and stir one minute (this is important). Remove from heat. Stir in butter, vanilla, and chocolate chips. Stir until chips are melted and mixture is well blended. Pour into prepared pie shell.
Press plastic wrap onto filling. Cool and refrigerate several hours or overnight until well chilled and firm. Garnish with whipped topping or cream and additional chocolate chips if desired. Makes eight delicious servings!
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