When I was in eighth grade, I took my first home ec. class. I had been cooking and baking since I was six years old, but I had never made a pie crust. Our unit’s job was to make a chocolate cream pie. The four girls in my unit worked on the crust and made the filling. We whipped the cream and we were ready to make our presentation. Unfortunately, you could lift the entire pie out of the pan by the crust. It was like cement. Tough. It was more like the dish for a chocolate pudding, rather like stoneware.
The instructor commended our filling and gave us an A on that. Unfortunately, the crust got a failure. For years after that incident, I would not make pies because I was afraid of tough crusts. If I did need to make one I would purchase premade pie crust at the grocery. It was easy that way and there were no failures. Betty Crocker to the rescue. You could purchase sticks that could be rolled out and no one was the wiser. If you purchase the already rolled crusts in the pie pan, the crimping around the edge was the dead give-away. They looked too perfect.
When I was about thirty-five, a friend gave me a recipe for a crust that has been my stand-by for forty years. It uses an egg and vinegar to keep it from getting tough. I was the pie lady at the farmer’s market for years and this was my crust for all my pies. Everyone loved them. The current pie lady at the market got this recipe from me and she has used it since.
Now we are in a New Year, 2018, and our neighbors invited us for New Year’s Eve celebrations. They made empanadas as part of the snacks we had before the bewitching hour. The crust was extraordinary. Boiling water crust. Boiling water!!! I thought everything had to be freezing cold. I have even found recipes where they freeze the butter or shortening and grate it into the mix to try to keep it really cold. Boiling water?
On the second of January, I was inspired to make pasties (pronounced past-ees), a Cornish pastry filled with meat, potatoes, onions, apples. The crust was magnificent. On the sixth of January, I made a crust again and blind baked it (for a cream pie, blind baking is baking without filling). We had the most fabulous banana cream pie with the flakiest crust I think I have ever made.
Next I will try a pie that has the filling baked in the crust to see if this boiling water crust can withstand that process, maybe pecan pie.
Boiling water? Breaking all the rules. Maybe breaking rules is what it is all about. Maybe experimenting in ways that are very different we come up with new and wonderful things. Boiling water crust is now my favorite. I may never make my old stand-by with the egg and vinegar again.
Here is the recipe.
Boiling water crust
1/4 cup boiling water
Poured over 1/2 cup of shortening
And beaten until they coalesce.
Combine 1 1/2 cups flour with
1/2 teaspoon salt and
1/2 teaspoon baking powder.
Pour the dry ingredients into the liquid. Do not overmix.
Roll between two sheets of plastic wrap and use for pie, pastry, pasties, etc.
Bake as you would any pie crust.
Note when eating, see how flaky it is. It is wonderful.