Tuesday, November 13, 2007

22.5 Cups

That's how much flour it takes to make 15 pie crusts. Can you guess what I did this morning?

While I do usually make several batches of pie crust all at once (I mean, if you're making one anyway, what's five?), I've never made a batch quite this large. The coming weeks, however, look to be Pie Baking weeks, so I'm getting ready. Next week, Mom needs to make two pies for the church, two for our neighbor, one for my cousin, and one for home. And, of course, next week is Thanksgiving, so I'll be making an apple and a pecan pie to take to my aunt's.

While every pie baker swears to have the secret to the perfect, flaky crust, I swear my secret is the only right one *wink* The key is to use half butter (I use butter flavored Crisco) and half lard. And let me assure you, there is a scientific basis to this! The key to a flaky crust is not using too much water. Lard has less water natually present than does butter. Thus, you the baker control how much water you use; you are not bound by the amount already present in the butter. (I did read this in a cookbook. It was worded better than this. Of course, I dont remember which cookbook it was in.)

Resist, however, the temptation to use only lard in an effort to further control the water content. Yes, your pie crust will be flakier, but it will taste suspiciously like bacon. (Ask me how I know.) Using half lard and half butter gives you the perfect balance of flakiness and taste.

I did not come upon this revelation the easy way, however. The recipe for pie crust in the 1936 Watkins cookbook specifically calls for half butter, half lard. Of course, I figured it was a fluke. It wasn't until I read the scientific basis for it that I believed it. (Yup, I usually make things more difficult than they need to be.)

I include the Watkins recipe, with the measurements for 15 crusts (should you be so inclined) in parenthesis.

1936 Watkins Pie Crust
Note: One recipe makes enough for a single crust, with a bit left over.

1.5 c flour (22.5 c)
1/2 tsp salt (7.5 tsp)
1/4 c lard (3.75 c)
1/4 c butter (3.75 c)
1/3 c (or less) water (4.5 c)

Sift together dry ingredients (I usually just wisk them together with a fork). Cut in lard and butter. Add enough water until crust just holds together.