Until I was in my 20's I did not know that most pie crusts were made out of shortening or butter. There was only one recipe for pie crust in my mother's recipe box and it was for this recipe right here that I'm going to share with you today. The recipe is my Great-Grandmother Pat's recipe and she did not use shortening or butter in her pie crust; she used vegetable oil. I have no idea why. Maybe it was a Great Depression thing. Maybe it was a Polish thing. Maybe it was a preference thing. I just don't know. What I do know is that every time I make this crust I can hear my grandma's voice, see her knobby fingers and smell her house.
I have introduced you to my Great-Grandma Pat before:
She's the lovely bride and that handsome gentleman sitting next to her is my Great-Grandpa Pat. Her full name was Antonia Cecilia Smith (Smigkelski) but she went by Annette because she hated being called "Antonia." I think it was too "ethnic" to her. I love it. She was always "Grandma Pat" to me and I loved visiting her house in Gridley, CA where she always had 2 things waiting for me to nibble on: egg custards in the fridge and spice cookies on the counter. I'm still trying to figure out the spice cookie recipe, I think my Grandma Shirley is holding out on me.
One recipe I do have tucked safely away in my stash is the recipe for her pie crust. So let's get to it:
The ingredient list is simple (makes one 9in. crust):
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup milk (I've always used whole milk)
The directions couldn't be any easier either:
- Dump everything in a bowl
- Mix until forms into a solid ball of dough
- Starting from the middle working out, roll out into at least 9" pie crust, place in pie plate and using a fork poke holes all over the inside to keep it from puffing up while baking.
- Bake at 450 degrees, 10-12 minutes, until edges are golden brown
Now, let me give you a couple of tips:
- My Grandma Shirley (Annette's daughter) informed me this weekend that she never uses this recipe because it always crumbles on her. True, it is not as silky or soft as a traditional pie crust. The vegetable oil does a good job of providing the fat to make it flaky but it does not make this crust "smooth". It may crack or crumble while you are working with it and that's ok. Take a deep breath, everything is going to work out, I promise. This weekend I made 2 crusts and it seemed to me that the first one came together with the least amount of breakage so it may be that working quickly will help you get the pie into the pan all in one piece.
- This crust may stick a little to the counter or cutting board, as most crusts do. The best way to transfer it to the pan, I found, is to use a spatula or bench scraper to peel it up and gently fold it into 4ths like the picture above. Plop it in your pie plate and carefully unfold it. Voila! Of course, I could have sprinkled a little flour before I started rolling out the dough, but I forgot. And it all worked out anyway. See? Cooking isn't scary. It all works out somehow.
- Even if it cracks (and it probably will crack at least a bit), this dough is very forgiving and meant to be very rustic. Just take a chunk of excess dough & "repair" the crack. Squish and press it back into the shape you need it to be, most of it is going to be covered with filling anyway.
- Although very similar to a traditional shortening pie crust, this pie has a tiny bit more heft to it so I try to roll it out as thin as possible, just keeping the edges a smidge thicker. If you roll the crust out "thick" it will taste "thick". And that may be what you prefer, just be forewarned.
I have to stop here and point out the brilliance of my new cutting board from.... wait for it... Walmart!
It's from the Paula Deen line, no less, but I saw it months ago and debated whether or not to get it. When I went back to pick up some extra pie plates this weekend I decided it must come home with me. I gotta tell you, I love this new cutting board! It's a darker, acacia wood which I appreciate much more than the lighter colored boards. But the selling point was that engraved onto one side of the board are measurements for 6,8,9 & 10 in. rounds as well as a 14 in. straight edge. It took out all the guesswork when I rolled out my pie dough. I knew I had rolled far enough when I got the 9 in. border line. Infomercial complete.
My pie crusts were beautiful and tasty and easy and... well, awesome. Don't judge my crimping skills, I never was able to master the "pie crimp" and this dough doesn't lend easily to it anyway. People know it's a homemade pie when they see edges that ugly and somehow they love you a little more for it.
Yes, I feed people to get them love me. There was a lot of love going around this weekend.
PS: Stay tuned for Friday when I share the recipe for the yummy filling!