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A Pie Crust Showdown

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Back in May, over on the Fun Girls, I did a pie crust tutorial, to help my readers make a perfect piecrust, when making a homemade pie. I put a lot of work into it, too. I was pretty proud of that post.

Well, lo and behold, the Pioneer Woman must have seen it, and just couldn’t bear to be outshone. (Insert huge eye rolling smilie/emoticon here.) She invited a pie expert to her ranch, a lovely and really smart lady named Pam, who conducted a workshop on pie making. She even flew in people in from all over the country, just so they could learn from Pam how to make the perfect pie crust. The Pee Dub’s tutorial was awesome, I must admit. Photography wise, she put my little effort to shame.

But, I had to wonder: what about TASTE??? Could hers be better than mine? If it was, I wanted to switch recipes! I am not a big enough fool to cling to the old if there’s something better out there.

The Pioneer Woman even did a taste test, with 4 different pie crusts, and they determined that Pam’s recipe for pie crust was the best. So…it was sounding like my own recipe had some stiff competition.

Had the Pioneer Woman done whooped my ….um… recipe?

I determined that I MUST do a little pie crust recipe showdown of my own.

To conduct this test, I used my awesome circa 1980’s Southern Living cookbook recipe for Country Apple Pie.

So…ladies and gentlemen, behold, the contestants.

In this corner, we have a Country Apple pie made with the Southern Living Cookbook’s recipe for a Double Crust Pastry.

Crust made from Southern Living pie crust recipe.

In this corner, we have the Country Apple Pie made with the pie crust recipe found at The Pioneer Woman’s website.
Made with the butter/leaf lard recipe from The Pioneer Woman.

My family members, independently of each other, reached a unanimous conclusion: while both pies WERE delicious, each of us preferred the same pie crust.
Would you like, perhaps, to know WHO won? 😀
My husband announced the winner himself, last night, on facebook.
In his words…
“And the winner is…..
“ME!!!! I got two apple pies in my house!!!”
(He’s a funny guy, that Big Bison.)
No, seriously, we each chose MY RECIPE! 
Ta daaaa!
Was it only because we preferred the familiar, we asked ourselves?
We don’t think so.
We found The Pioneer Woman’s crust to be heavier. It coated the tongue a bit more, which really isn’t surprising, since it does have a higher fat-to-flour ratio, than the recipe I normally use.
It also tasted more like…well…a cookie.
Which, again, shouldn’t be surprising, since it is very similar to a shortbread.
Now, God only knows, I love me some shortbread. I am inordinately fond of shortbread. Mammy’s Little Baby loves shortnin’ bread. (Sorry. Couldn’t resist.) I use homemade shortbread cookies to make the crust for my famous blueberry cheesecake. (I swear, I’m gaining weight just talking about all this fat and fattening stuff.)
But shortbread is crumbly, and the Pioneer Woman’s pie crust seemed more crumbly to me. Whereas (and in my opinion, this is another plus for MY pie crust recipe) using shortening (rather than butter) produces a flakier crust.
So….there you have it!
Now, what debts of gratitude do I owe The Pioneer Woman for this little showdown? I found two things I really liked about her recipe, that I think I’ll be incorporating into my technique in the future.
First, in trying her recipe, which I attempted to follow exactly, I learned a new technique for rolling out dough which I found ever so helpful. I’ve been rolling out my dough for years on waxed paper, which works fine, but she suggested using parchment paper on the top and on the bottom, and wow! Did that ever make the dough rolling out process easier! I didn’t have to add more flour on top of the crust (so the pastry fat/flour ratio didn’t get changed. So that worked great, and I’ll be doing that again. Parchment on the bottom, lay dough disc on, parchment on the top. rolling pin on top of that, roll from the center out, and keep rotating the entire lot, the parchment paper itself, to help you form a perfect circle! Every few strokes, pick up the paper (so it doesn’t become too stuck to the pastry) and re-place it back on the dough disc. Then flip the dough/parchment sheets over, pick up the parchment sheet that’s on top, re-place it,  and continue the rolling out from the center process.
The other thing that really worked well for me about her recipe was that she suggested making the dough itself in the food processor. I’ve tried that before with abysmal results, but after reading her recipe carefully,  I think I know why I goofed that up the last time I tried it, and so this time, I was able to correct my former mistake, and use the food processor method successfully. The time I goofed up making my pie pastry in the food processor, I ran the processor, rather than just pulsing it (until I had the lumps of fat just the size I wanted them). You want the texture of the pastry  to look like little pebbles. When you run the processor too long, and the fat starts to melt and the glob of dough gets mooshy and soggy, which nobody wants. So, I think I might use the processor (rather than using my hand held pastry cutter) in the future on pie crusts, because it is faster on the front end. I would think this would really help me at Thanksgiving, when I’m making multiple pies. The only down side with using a food processor is that you end up with more dishes to wash, which adds a bit more time on the tail end of the process, which is kind of a downer.
Here’s one thing I didn’t like about her recipe: finding leaf lard was a CHORE. Here in the South, it’s not too hard to find lard in the grocery store, but that kind of lard has been hydrogenated, and tends to sit on the shelf for a while and go rancid, which, of course, is a bad thing. Leaf lard is fat that has been rendered from the kidney of a pig. (Kinda gross, right? I KNOW!!!) But The Pioneer Woman’s friend Pam, who ran the Pie Workshop, was very specific that it MUST be leaf lard. So, first, I had to do a Google Search, to find out what the heck leaf lard was and where I could possibly find it locally.  Then, I had to contact a local farm that produces organically fed meat to order a chunk of leaf lard, and then, I had to drop by the Farmer’s Market in Nashville to pick up my order. Big hassle. And now, I have a huge WAD O’FAT sitting in my fridge with no use for it. I guess I’ll cut it up in smaller chunks and freeze it, and use it if I ever fry chicken again (which just made my husband’s cardiologist SHIVER!!!). (Did he shiver from horror? Or with greedy delight at the approaching income he senses coming his way? Who can say?)
I’ll give you the Awesome Apple Pie recipe tomorrow.  And the recipe for pie crust that was The Big Winner.

Pie is the new cupcake or macaroon of desserts, so they say.
What say you? Are you pie pastry phobic? Pie-impaired? Are you a pie-o-phile?