As I mentioned yesterday, I have been dreaming of pies. And crumbles and tarts. But mostly pie. And this week I finally decided to turn dreams into reality.
But first things first, I have questions: which pie crust is best? all-butter? butter + vegetable shortening? or butter + lard? I know I am not the only one who has asked this question. In fact, Kate McDermott went on an epic quest to find the right ingredients and the right ratios in order to create the perfect pie crust. It’s not that I don’t believe her, I’d just like to understand the differences myself and the only way for me to understand is if I make each kind of crust myself. This is the first installment of my very own pie adventure.
I decided the best way to determine my favorite crust was to do a side-by-side comparison. So I made two crusts: one using all butter and the other using a mix of butter and vegetable shortening (aka Crisco… which I know is a bad word to pie purists, but this was in the interest of Science). Ideally I would have made one with butter+lard at the same time but I have not had a chance to track down leaf lard yet… I will make more pie crust as soon as I find some lard.
I made six mini-pies in a muffin tin. Three each of the two types of crust. I used the all butter crust recipe I’ve used previously and the butter + shortening crust recipe from Simply Recipes. In order to keep things scientific-ish, I kept the filling the same in all of the mini-pies. I adjusted the amounts in the cranberry-apple crumble pie recipe in Gourmet (November 2009), roughly cutting everything in about half. This was almost the perfect amount for six mini-pies.
Making mini-pies was a little more work than making a couple of big pies (rolling out six little crusts instead of two big ones). But it was worth it. The minis had a greater crust to filling ratio rendering them perfect for the crust comparison. I plan to make at least one more round of mini-pies to compare a lard crust with the winner of this round of taste tests.
Dan and I sat down with two mini pies, one of each crust type. I didn’t tell him which was which until after he picked the one he liked better so as not to bias him against the shortening crust (Dan is a fan of butter). After a few bites, we agreed on the winner. Both crusts taste buttery-good, but one stood out in texture: the butter + shortening crust. It was lighter and flakier than the all-butter crust.
I had a bunch of leftover pie dough of both types since the recipes I used each made enough for two nine-inch pies (so four pies-worth of dough in total). The minis used just over one-fourth of it. So far I have made a crust for a quiche and a pear tart with the leftovers. But I still have enough for two pies. I may freeze the rest to use in round two in which I will be pitting the butter + shortening crust against a butter + lard crust. That will also give me a chance to test drive another pie filling for Thanksgiving (the cranberry-apple, by the way, was a winner. Dan said the cranberries gave it an almost rhubarb-ness, which is a good thing. I really enjoyed the balance of tart and sweet).
I will followup with part 2 of this pie crust adventure as soon as I find some lard (hopefully before the end of this week). In the meantime, check out this very cool stop motion video: one minute apple pie.