Sunday, November 20, 2011

Iowa recipes: Blue-ribbon pie crust

I'm convinced that some people have inherited a gene that makes them a natural in the kitchen.  My husband can throw together a bunch of ingredients from the cupboard and come up with a 4-star meal.  Yet almost everything I cook turns out bland and boring.  That's why I like baking.  Just follow the recipe, and it will likely turn out great.

But I've always struggled with pie crust.  I've tried all kinds of recipes -- using lard, butter, shortening or a combination of these, and I've even taken cooking classes to learn how to make pie crust.  Yet when I get home, I can never get the crust to turn out.  It's either too crumbly, or too wet.  I've tried to keep my ingredients in the freezer to keep them as cold as possible (as recommended by Martha Stewart).  I've tried pastry blenders, the food processor and the two-knife method to cut the butter or shortening into the flour.

And then there's the waiting.  Most recipes call for refrigerating the dough for a couple hours or overnight.  I don't have that kind of time to wait.  When I want pie, I want it now!

A few years ago, I visited a farm for a luncheon, and the wife served us the best apple pie.  She said it was easy to make the crust -- she just "eyeballed it" by mixing vegetable oil with flour. Vegetable oil?  I had to find that recipe.

Then I found my new favorite pie crust recipe.  It was printed in several Iowa State Fair Cookbooks. It was a recipe from Louise Piper, an Iowan who is famous for her blue-ribbon pies.  It's a four-ingredient pie crust recipe that doesn't require refrigeration.  Just mix it up, roll it out between two sheets of wax paper (no sticking to the rolling pin!) and fit it on the pie pan.  This pie crust is easier to mix up than a batch of cookies!

I've got nothing against store-bought pie crusts, by the way.  But it's fun to impress your family and friends with a pie made from scratch.  Plus, a home-baked pie always tastes better because of the work you put into it. 

Give this pie crust recipe a try for Thanksgiving or year round.  Enjoy!


Blue-Ribbon Pie Crust
From Iowa State Fair Cookbook, submitted by Louise Piper of Rolfe

  • 2 C. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 C. cold milk
  • 1/2 C. vegetable oil

Stir together flour and salt.  Pour milk into oil; do not stir.  Add liquid to flour mixture; stir well.  Shape mixture into two balls.  If mixture is too dry and crumbly, add 1 to 2 Tablespoons more oil.  Roll each ball out ball out between two sheets of waxed paper.

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