Tips for Making the Perfect Pie Crust: Background information when reading Dinner with Edward

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Dinner with Edward

A Story of an Unexpected Friendship

by Isabel Vincent

Dinner with Edward by Isabel Vincent X
Dinner with Edward by Isabel Vincent
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  • First Published:
    May 2016, 224 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2017, 224 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rebecca Foster
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Tips for Making the Perfect Pie Crust

This article relates to Dinner with Edward

Print Review

In Dinner with Edward, Isabel Vincent's memoir, Edward's two tricks for making a perfect pastry crust are crushed ice and a mixture of grated butter and fresh lard (from his Queens butcher), all kept as cold as possible. What are other chefs' top tips? The choice of fat(s) and their proportions are the main differences.

Perfect flaky pie crust Julia Child's shortcrust pastry recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking suggests butter to (vegetable) lard in a ratio of 3:1. One should use chilled butter and cold water and work as quickly as possible. "The mixing of pastry should be accomplished rapidly, particularly if your kitchen is warm, so that the butter will soften as little as possible."

The Betty Crocker cookbook (2000 edition) calls for shortening and cold water. Its advice includes using a pastry blender or two knives to cut in the fat; choosing unbleached flour to create a pleasing golden color; and baking a pie in a glass or dull-finish aluminum pan so as not to reflect heat.

Delia Smith, one of Britain's top food writers, suggests using room-temperature fat and cold water. She offers many options for the proportion of fats, varying from all butter (good if the filling is less rich) to half margarine and half lard, her preferred method.

Paula Deen's perfect pie crust recipe involves vegetable shortening and butter, combined quickly with other ingredients including ice water. Ina Garten's recipe uses almost the same ratio of shortening to butter, but differs in the amount of added sugar.

Fine Cooking calls for pure, high-quality butter and recommends mixing it in by hand rather than using a food processor, to create a flaky texture. Likewise, Martha Stewart and J. Kenji López-Alt, Managing Culinary Director of Serious Eats, recommend all-butter crusts. However, The Pioneer Woman insists on all Crisco, a type of vegetable shortening. Pampered Chef also advises all shortening.

Real Simple magazine recommends 1) replacing a bit of the water with an acid such as lemon juice or vinegar to keep the crust tender and 2) brushing the pie crust with a mixture of beaten egg and cream to make a shiny golden top. Other sources, from Cook's Illustrated onwards, substitute several tablespoons of vodka for some of the water, again to maintain a tender, flaky texture.

Note: Gluten-free pie crust recipes tend to simply replace the flour with a gluten-free flour blend. Dairy-free pie crust is generally achieved by using either margarine or coconut oil as the fat.

Picture of pie crust from Veganbaking.net

Filed under Cultural Curiosities

Article by Rebecca Foster

This "beyond the book article" relates to Dinner with Edward. It originally ran in July 2016 and has been updated for the June 2017 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

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