13 November 2010

Autumn re-runs: Making your own pie crusts is as easy as, well, pie.

This post appeared originally on 25 November 2009. I baked an apple pie on Monday and it reminded me of this scolding post from a year ago. Cooking from scratch is a passion of mine and it seems like a better idea with each passing year.

It's Thanksgiving tomorrow and in keeping with my one man crusade against convenience foods, I am dipping into my time-tested recipe box. Actually, I don't have a recipe box. I have a file in my computer that's called "recipe box" though.

I am a pie man, through and through. Few things give me the pleasure of cranking out pies in anticipation of major holidays. Thanksgiving is my day to shine thank you very much and nothing says Thanksgiving to me like a real pie or pies as the case may be. And by real I mean made from scratch.

I am a self-taught baker. My mother was a skilled cook and my grandmother too. But kitchens were woman turf and though I watched them bake on holidays I wasn't allowed anywhere near the action. It wasn't until I got out on my own that I realized that I not only like to bake, I'm actually pretty good at it.

I know, I know, I hear it all the time; "We're too busy nowadays to bake from scratch." Well, I'll be the first one to tell you that that's a damn lie. I have a schedule that would kill a lesser man and somehow I manage to cook dinner for myself every night and turn out a hell of a spread of baked goods on holidays. Nobody's too busy, but people have different priorities. Having different priorities is fine, just own that. Telling yourself that you're too busy is what makes you neurotic.

I have a real problem with convenience foods. I don't care that they're not organic or that they're mass produced. What bothers me about them is that they're tasteless. It bothers me too that I can't tell what's in something that's prepackaged. Scratch baking keeps me in control of what I put in my mouth and it also makes me expend some effort before I get a reward. Self-discipline never sleeps kids.

So here's my recipe for pie crust, the first step toward a blue-ribbon apple pie like mine. This recipe's also perfect for the bottom crust of a tartine, but that's a topic for another day. Making pie crusts is not hard, despite what everybody says. All it requires is that you pay attention. Try this, just once, and you will never buy another convenience food for the rest of your life.

2-1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of sugar
1 cup of cold Crisco
1/2 cup of ice water

Put everything, including the bowl,  in the refrigerator for an hour before you start. Then mix the flour, salt and sugar together in the now-chilled bowl. Cut the chilled Crisco into small pieces and work it into the dry mix with a fork. When the Crisco and the dry mixture are blended, it will have the consistency of coarse meal.

Add the cold water in small drips and drabs and work the dough after every addition of water. After you have a quarter cup of the water worked in, slow down and start to test the dough after each time you add more water. Test the dough by squeezing a pinch between your fingers. If it's crumbly, then add more water. When it holds its shape and approaches the consistency of Play-Doh, stop adding water. Work the dough into a ball with your hands and wrap it in plastic wrap. Then put it back in the refrigerator. After an hour or so, cut the ball into two halves. The amount above will yield more than enough dough for a two crust pie.

Happy Thanksgiving!


  1. Curious that your post appeared in the future. Is this an indication that time travel is possible and that you've figured out how? Love the post in any case. You're right is saying that convenience foods have no flavor. Besides that, there's all the extra sodium, fat and who knows what else. I'm definitely a fan of "real" food, prepared at home from scratch, even if it means doing mass cooking on a weekend and eating wonderful foods from the freezer during the week. btw - I let grandson Jacob pick some cucumbers from my garden yesterday. We added them to our salad. Mmmmmm!

  2. Good catch Roxanne, thanks. I need an editor. It must be a singular thrill to have your grandson poking around in your garden.


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