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Pie, Pie Again

September 24, 1997

I, too, have struggled with pastry ("Fear of Pie-ing" by Russ Parsons, Sept. 3), rolling out crusts the shape of Great Britain, plus Ireland and the Hebrides. My mother wasn't much of a pie crust-maker either. Her maiden Aunt Pearl had gone to the Boston Cooking School around the turn of the century and was very scornful of my mother's attempts at pie crust. Some time before my birth, Pearl sent mother a recipe from a Crisco can with the words "I think even you can master this!" attached. Well, I messed up that recipe and all others until I made an apple pie yesterday with your recipe. My pie (which is still on the counter) is a marvel of flaky and short pastry.



Try substituting cold orange juice for the water in your pie crust. You will be rewarded with a crust of marvelous glow, wonderfully flaky and absolutely fabulous taste. I no longer bake (I'm 83), but do yourself a favor and try it.


Laguna Hills


I am curious that your extensive research did not include any references to pie crust made with salad oil. I have used that method for many years and have found it to be virtually fool-proof, while still flaky and easy to handle.

For a 2-crust pie, sift together 2 cups flour and 1 1/4 teaspoons salt. Pour 1/2 cup salad oil in a measuring cup and top with 1/4 cup cold milk (do not stir). Add liquids all at once to dry ingredients and mix gently with fork. Press into ball and cut in half. Flatten slightly on sheet of wax paper large enough to cover pie pan. Dampen counter top slightly beneath wax paper. Top with another sheet of wax paper and roll crust to fit pie pan. Peel off top paper, invert crust over pan, peel off other paper and fit into pan, trimming as needed.




I thought you might be interested in my mother's favorite recipe for pie dough, which uses oil and milk rather than shortening and water. Mother is famous for her apple pie and various combinations of apple with peach and other fruits. The dough is very easy to work with, especially since the roll-out is between sheets of wax paper.

For a two-crust pie, measure 1/2 cup corn oil and 1/4 cup milk into measuring cup and refrigerate. Measure 2 cups flour and 1 teaspoon salt into bowl, stir lightly together and sift into large bowl. Stir milk-oil mixture with fork or rubber scraper. Add all at once to sifted flour-salt mixture, distributing liquid over dry ingredients as much as possible. Stir dough with fork or rubber scraper only until moistened fairly evenly. Gather lightly and divide. Lightly roll out each portion of dough between two sheets of wax paper.


Huntington Beach


I want to share with you my grandmother's contribution to getting the pie crust into the pie pan. The most wonderful, simple thing is to take an old-fashioned "flour sack" dish towel and spread it out on your rolling board. Dust it generously with flour. Place the ball of dough in the center. Roll out from the center with a flour-dusted rolling pin to a size two inches larger than the pie pan, dusting the rolling pin with flour if it starts sticking. At that time, using ice water, and cutting longer pieces off the rolled-out crust, patch all the tears and irregular shapes. Dust with more flour, roll gently to attach. Then--and this is the best part--invert pie pan over the crust and gather up the four corners of the dish towel. Turn right-side up over sink and remove the dish towel. Voila! The crust falls into the pan and the flour mess falls into the sink.




One more thing for you to try: Freeze part of the butter and cut it in last, sort of shaving and chipping it. It makes the flakes. Also use a really long, skinny, pointy old-fashioned kitchen fork to toss the water in. Also, you didn't mention pie pans. To me, nothing beats those old satiny metal pans for pies, biscuits and cookies. They never "stew" the pastry.




Coming from generations of "save the best for last" crust makers, my retirement goal was to make a good pie crust. Now there's hope! Thank you, thank you: Cobblers, crisps and cakes be damned, here's to the real dessert that is worth eating dinner for.


Long Beach

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