Tales from the Kitchen: Learning to Make Pie Crust

By Alice Liles
Alice’s note: This story first appeared in my blog The Bright Lights of Muleshoe on February 6, 2013. Last week I shared with you one of my first cooking adventures involving a giant cake. This week’s mistake is about how I learned to make decent pie crust.
Following recipes accurately was one problem in my early cooking days (see “Tales From the Kitchen: The Giant Cake,” January 31, 2013); incomplete recipes were quite another matter.
Besides the cook books I received as wedding gifts, most of the recipes I tried to use were from Mother; many of hers were from her mother. Makes sense, right? So I had the pie crust recipe that had been handed down to her by Grandmother, and they both made lovely pies and cobblers with this wonderful crust. I also had the family chocolate meringue pie recipe, so I set out to make those for my new husband.
The filling was wonderful, and I could even manage nice meringue. The crust was another story. I could barely get it to roll out and then move it into the pie pan. But I would come up with a pretty pie, and Bill would dutifully eat the filling and the meringue and leave the crust.
This went on for a few pies, and I finally thought to ask Mother what I was doing wrong. I had the recipe card in hand, and we went over the ingredients. Crisco, 3/4 cup? Yes. Half a teaspoon of salt? Yes. One and a half cups flour? Yep. Half cup of water? Umm, no. Seems I left out that one little detail…
So I set to work and Bingo! Pie crust that I could actually roll out and get to the pie pan in one piece! Pie crust that was actually eaten with the rest of the pie! Problem solved.
Now my pies turn out very edible, thank you very much, and I am something of a snob when it comes to pie crust. I look down my nose with disdain at so-called homemade pies that, upon tasting, are obviously not completely homemade because the crust tastes ready-made. And there is definitely a notable difference. Or its perfectly-formed, mass-produced shape gives it away as well. I don’t get it; the real thing tastes so much better, and it really isn’t that hard (now that I know what I am doing!) to make from scratch, I just can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t do it themselves. The funny thing is, since then, I have tried other crust recipes, and they never turn out as well. Go figure.
This is not one of my prettiest cobblers-for that let me refer you to “Green Grapes,” July 21, 2010, but it is one I had just made, so it was handy for a picture. When I want to do my best Martha Stewart imitation, I cut out shapes in the crust with cookie cutters. You might notice I am wearing my apron, also a product of my mother. She always wore an apron when she cooked. Many years ago she made this and two other aprons that I always use.
The tradition continues, lessons are learned, and Mother’s cooking legacy lives on.
To read more of my adventures and mishaps, go to www.aliceliles.com

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