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Pie Crust Missionary

Oct 24, 2005 | From the kitchen of Rose

sometimes i wish i could be a pie crust missionary--going around the country showing how fun and easy it is to make one of the most feared of baked goods: a delicious, flaky and tender pie crust--one that rolls out easily, is as malleable as clay, doesn't tear when transferring it to the pie plate, and doesn't shrink when baking.

the main secret to this perfect pie crust is the flour. I learned the perils of choosing the wrong flour when I was on my press tour for "the pie and pastry bible" 7 years ago.

I was on a live morning t.v. show, demonstrating this favorite crust and when I unfolded it into the pie plate my heart dropped because it cracked into pieces! I knew immediately that the prep person had not used a national brand all-purpose bleached flour. regional flours often have a lower protein content, thereby lacking the elasticity to hold together adequately in a pie crust. I just relearned this lesson when I was taping some segments at the food network's shop at home studio in nashville tennessee. the prep person was terrific at turning out all manner of cakes and pies but I noticed that she had to patch the pie crusts which kept tearing apart. sure enough, she was using all-purpose flour but it was a popular southern brand which I knew to have lower protein. the head of the test kitchen ran to the supermarket and came back with some gold medal bleached and I whipped up my favorite pie crust in the food process in under a minute. it was a dream. and the prep person said she would never use a Southern flour for pie crust again.

the high point of my visit to shop at home was when LaQuita Scaife, the fashion consultant happened to tell me that when she was in high school in nashville she was the recipient of the betty crocker home maker of tomorrow award. when I told her that I was given the same award in my high school in ny, she screamed with delight, saying she had never met another betty crocker award winner. we went into the prep kitchen and told the director, carl conway, about our delightful discovery and to our utter amazement he announced that he also was the "betty crocker home maker of tomorrow" in his high school in 1972. after we stopped laughing and screaming with disbelief, he explained that the early 70's was the height of the women's lib movement and he wanted to show the girls that he had rights too, so he and 3 other guys enrolled in the home ec. glass. this gave him the right to take the test so he took it and won. he then went on to culinary school and was a cook in the army before becoming head of the test kitchen for shop at home. there must be something to the predictions of this award!

Back to the pie crust, since writing the pie and pastry bible, I did an article on pies with lattice crusts for fine cooking magazine, july 2004, and decided to tweak my favorite pie crust recipe to make it a bit more tender. I replaced the few tablespoons of water with heavy cream and not only did it make the crust more tender, it also made it more flavorful. and it is still sturdy enough to use for a lattice crust.

Here's my new revised favorite pie crust. (Note: Wondra flour or pastry flour is also terrific and makes a slighty more tender crust.)

Comments

Rose Levy Beranbaum
Rose Levy Beranbaum in reply to comment from Chrissie
12/21/2014 12:13 AM

Chrissie, very thickened means it hardly has any flow when lifted with a spoon but, as i wrote in the headnote, it will have some flow unless you make it the day ahead. and yes, it will continue to thicken in the oven.

do make it with the cornstarch, for the best flavor. but if you want to substitute flour you will need double the amount.

and please let us know how it turns out. i do feel confident that if you follow the instructions you will have a great success.

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I am thinking of making the interrnet deep dish blueberry cranberry pie (reecipe in The Pie and Pastry Bible) for a family holiday gathering next week, and bake more cakes than pies, so I did a trial run of one third of a recipe of the filling, and am glad I did.

Although I did follow the instruction to cook until the berries are beginning to burst and the corn starch and juice are "very thickened," I discovered I am am unsure how to judge whether it is thickened enough. How thivk is "very thickened? should the juices be thickly runny at this point, or more towards set up? How much more thickening will occur when it bakes? Or should the greatest amount of thickening occur on stovetop?

Also, I am wondering if another starch can be substituted, due to one relative's corn allergies. I thought of using arrowroot, but read it cannot be reheated well (or at least when used in gravy). Since the fruiit is cooked, cooled and then heated again as it is baked, that seems to consititute reheating. Does this match your experience Rose, or could it work?

I think I should stick with corn starch for the moment till I have baked the pie successfully and understand what it looks and tastes like properly prepared.....but as long as we are on the subject, thought I would ask.

Many thanks for your books so full of passion and precision, and the helpful discussions of the chemistry of baking. Oh, and the format including weights of ingredients...I am a convert and love baking that way now!


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I am collecting Salt and Pepper Pots whenever I can and where ever I find them. They are so beautiful. Besides they are useful and complete my kitchen and dinner table.

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put rose's favorite flaky tender pie crust in the search box on the left or paste this link in your browser.

http://www.realbakingwithrose.com/2005/10/roses_favorite_flaky_tender_pi.html

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Rose,

At the end of your article, it says the following:

>>

But HELP! Why can't I find the revised recipe? Where am I not looking?

My Best,

Kathleen

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thank you matthew for jumping so articulately to my defense. in fact, the reason i chose gold medal as my sponsor is because of my long-time admiration of their products.

macco, i can see where it might look suspicious--so many people just take what they can get in life it's no doubt hard to believe there are those who hold out for what they believe in.

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If you are familiar with Rose's work, you would know that a) she recommends a vast variety of flours in her recipes, not just one type and b) the products she does associate herself with are of the highest quality. A lack of integrity would be to recommend something of a poorer quality disingenuously. To the contrary, I have found all of Rose's recommendations in ingredients and equipment to be exactly what she claims and I have never been disappointed!

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What a conincidence! Your sponsor is -precisely- the brand of flour you recommend! Isn't that remarkable. Sorry Rose, you just dropped three notches. I understand you have to make some money, but do you understand you also have to maintain your integrity?

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Lee Watkins
Lee Watkins
06/18/2009 06:34 PM

I was the first winner at my high schoolin Michigan in 1955 when the Search was first introduced. I too was the least likely girl in our senior class to win the award. I still have the cookbook and the pin in its original package along with a letter from Betty Crocker.

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i love getting this feedback. rosalind--we must be twins--i had an identical reaction!

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rosalind hutchinson huggins
rosalind hutchinson huggins
04/29/2009 08:43 PM

I was the BC Homemaker of Tomorrow at Madison High School, Madison, Fl. in 1960. 3/4 of the graduating girls got married in June after graduation! I was the least
likely girl in our class to get this award
and, when presented at Awards Day, the
Home Ec Teacher, Mrs. Morrow, turned a
pale shade of white. In addition to a
multiple choice test, I remember an essay
at the end in which I facetiously made a
case for the future homemakers who I honestly felt sorry for...Today, when I
tell my children, Grandchildren of this
award they almost laugh. I was proud,
however, for the possibility of a scholarship which did not materialize but which gave me hope. I still have
my pin which was the hearth style. The
previous classes were given a small,
delicate pretty one that looked like a
sorority pin, so I was disappointed. Not the first or last time! I am still
proud I won this competition because it
was so unexpected of me. We should have a club? Regards to all my "sisters". Rosalind H. Huggins
New Smyrna Beach, Florida

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Colette Vavrick
Colette Vavrick
04/27/2009 12:21 PM

I too won in 1974. I was 17, married, and a good 6 1/2 months pregnant. I'm sure I had admin in an uproar being the obvious choice. On a serious note, my main goal in life was to be a homemaker. My passion for baking and sewing began at age 7. To this day my friends call me Martha Stewart.

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I would like to buy one of your pins. I won in 1971 for my high school, and lost the pin.

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did i mention? i was so afraid of losing mine i had it cast in gold. and how perfect that gold medal flour is sponsor of this blog!

at my high school there were no home ec classes. i remember about 30 people took the test. it was the first thing i ever won and it served to instill much needed confidence.

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I won the Betty Crocker Homemaker of the Year award in 1965 even though the only Home Ec. class I took was called "Home & Family." It was actually a fairly good class intended to prepare you for managing a family. I learned how to repair a toilet in that class, and it's saved us quite a bit in plumbing bills over the years! I was in an honors program and it was one of only two elective classes I took in high school. A friend wanted to take the test but was too shy to go alone and twisted my arm to go with her. (You had to be enrolled in a Home Ec. class to take the test.) No one was more surprised than I when I won! I lost my original pin when I wore it to work in 1987. I bought a couple on eBay, but they were the later, larger ones. I finally found the smaller one like mine and put it safely into the shadowbox where it should have been all along. I still have the other two and would be willing to sell them for $30 each plus shipping - what I paid for them.

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Rosa H. Hernandez
Rosa H. Hernandez
03/19/2008 04:27 PM

I was the Betty Crocker Homemaker of Tomorrow from my high school of Thomas Jefferson High School, in El Paso, Texas, in 1959.

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amy, it's time for me to come clean--i just didn't want to mention this exact thing when talking about a recipe, but my grandmother used the word bubkas to refer to the dried little things in the nose. so did my husband's family and he's from toronto. so i guess anything dry, hard, and undesirable could fill the bill!
thanks for the wonderful story about your hungarian grandfather. i had a hungarian grandmother--she lived to 99.3! great heritage on many levels not least of all culinarian.

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I've had the pleasure of having e-mail "conversations" with Marcy Goldman, so I greatly enjoyed your posting about her "bubka" My bubka holy grail is recreating the Giant chocolate crumbs found on the babkas from the Long Island bakeries of my youth. Any suggestions? Also, I had an "ahHa" moment when you spoke about your grandmother's use of the word "bubkas" to describe "little hard things that are undesirable" My Hungarian grandfather used to talk about his family's poor man's dinner "tusha bubkalus" My father used to recreate it for us as a breakfast treat and we LOVED it--what was this exotic food? You cube stale rye bread, toss it in a cast iron pan to which you've melted a coronary inducing amount of butter ( I'm sure the hungarian peasants were more frugal!) Saute the pile until the cubes become dark golden,dump the now tooth breaking crunchy croutons onto a plate and shake salt over the mess. We thought this was the most delicious breakfast ever. We were told the translation of the words "tusha bubkala" meant "goat droppings" which we thought was hilarious, but true (growing up in suburban Long Island, who knew from goats, no less their "droppings", but my guess is that they would meet your grandmother's definition of bubkas). I once had the nerve to ask Mimi Sheraton about this translation when she passed through Cleveland on a book tour. She was not amused, and made it clear that she had no interest in pursuing this culinary tidbit. On a separate note, I think you are such a fine cookbook author--I have adored baking since I was a little girl; but what I loved about the process was the miracle of the chemistry. Your recipes satisfy my desire to understand the "why" behind the process. thank you Amy B.

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I never took a Home Ec class in high school but I love being a homemaker now! I bought myself two Betty Crocker Homemaker of Tomorrow pins on eBay. I plan to keep one and wear it with pride, and present the other one to a high school classmate who actually won it in 1975 but it was lost in a fire at her parents home. I guess it will be a replacement pin.

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donna, you need to chill the crust before baking, line it with parchment or a large coffee filter, and fill it with beans or peas....

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but it IS the holy grail (hahahah). thanks for the great feedback!

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Rose...just a little pie comment. I had some friends over for Christmas dinner...and I had baked an apple pie. She is a wonderful baker and it was she who recommended The Cake Bible to me (incidentally she didn't have it...her mother did...lol). Anyway...she took one bite of the pie (apple, by the way) and said "How did you do this? The bottom crust isn't all soggy!". I said "Rose Levy Beranbaum says to bake it on the floor of the oven" You would think she just found the Holy Grail! She said she's going out to by the book! Thanks Again Rose...and I hope you are having a happy holiday season!

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I have a pie crust recipe I love. Very flakey and great taste. My problem is recipes that call for prebaked crust, the crust slumps before it's baked, HELP please! This recipe uses 1/2 butter and 1/2 shortnening.

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i'm sorry--i don't know of any classes other than ICE and the french culinary. you might check into that.

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Joan Spivak
Joan Spivak
11/25/2007 06:47 PM

Rose,
A friend of mine and I are interested in improving our pie-making skills and would like to find a good teacher in the NYC area. Do you have any recommendations? We would be willing to pay for a few private classes. Note that all of the pastry classes at places like ICE tend to run late on weekday evenings, which is not good for us.

Thanks

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Helene B....St Marys, Pa
Helene B....St Marys, Pa
10/15/2007 08:59 PM

Gosh...I am in favor of getting a B.C. Homemeker club going too. I was the winner in my senior year at Central High in St. Marys Pa. in 1957.(thats 50 years ago) I have the test booklet, pin and letter of Congrats from the company and also the write up from local newspaper and school paper. I had it on display at our 50th Reunion last week and there was a lot of buzz going on about it. Most were surprised that I still have it....it's beautiful!! Would love to hear from other winners.

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VALERIE MCGRAW
VALERIE MCGRAW
07/23/2007 12:16 PM

I, too, won the award back in the late 50s, I think..One of my children lost my pin but it was from Ramsey High School Ramsey NJ and I still have the local newspaper article somewhere that I come across every few years...think its in an old box of photos. There should be a list of winners somewhere on the web. I think my Home Ec teacher was very disappointed that I was the winner...LOL

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I only recently discovered the Pie and Pastry Bible, but it is a fantastic read. I picked it up used (along with a cake bible) from amazon, and literally read it just about cover to cover.

I've already started incorporating some of the ideas in there into my crusts and I am excited to experiment with some of the others. For instance I've never made a crust with cream cheese. Anyway, my previous favorite was to use homemade cultured butter (see http://www.positron.org/food/butter) at 75% and shortening at 25%. But I recently got my hands on some leaf lard, which in place of the shortening really does make a huge difference. I'm never going back!

Based on recipes in P&P bible I just recently tried using some of the fresh buttermilk from my butter churning in place of the water, and using 1/4tsp salt + 1/4tsp baking powder instead of 1/2tsp salt. I also tried rolling out a little and giving the dough a 'turn' (folding in thirds) when forming up the dough discs before letting them rest in the freezer. All these have definitely brought up the quality of my crust and made it easier to handle.

I can't wait to try some more crust ideas from the book, and I definitely need to pay more attention to the flour I am using.

Also can't wait to try baking pie on the bottom of the over or on a stone, since like many I have a problem getting a crisp bottom crust.

Anyway, thanks for the books and blog Rose,

-Holly Gates

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it sounds like pâte sucrée or sugar cookie crust rolled thick.

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Hi Rose:

I've been trying to ages to find a recipe for a pie crust that i recently had - and seems all the kosher bakeries here in london use! Its about a half inch thick, and is very cakey/cookie like...do you have any ideas on what it might be?

Thanks

Ruth

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the crust won't be as crisp. try it and decide if it's worth the extra effort.

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Ann Cerrone
Ann Cerrone
02/26/2007 04:52 PM

Question about blind baking/partial baking. Regarding tarts, I generally am pressed for time,and just chill the dough in the tart pan,fill it and pop in the ove. How much am I giving up by not prebaking. I am reading your Pie/Tart and it sounds like a "must do"!! ?? Thank you
Ann Cerrone

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michele, you should get in touch with general mills consumer dept. as they were the ones who administrated the award and could surely answer your questions. i have nothing to add to what i already wrote.

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Michelle Demers
Michelle Demers
01/25/2007 10:40 PM

Hi: I found this website while looking for information on the Betty Crocker Homemaker Award. I bought one on eBay from 1955, complete with box, pin, and letter of congratulations to Gayle (no last name on the letter). I intend to give it to my cousin for her birthday. Any info anyone has on this would be greatly appreciated. In what years was the Award given out? How many recipients were there? And how did you win (I read here you had to take a test; was that it?) Please email Michelle at m.a.demers@shaw.ca. Thanks!

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so fun finding fellow betty's out there! we should form a club!

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I was the Betty Crocker Homemaker of Tomorrow at Greencastle (Indiana) High in 1958. I majored in foods at Purdue University but now my husband does the cooking. We are both happy with that arrangement.

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hi barbara betty! on the first few printings of "rose's christmas cookies" my photo was on the cover looking very much like betty crocker! yes--home ec was excellent training, especially in recipe development and testing skills. now i think they call the college degree human ecology bc ppl made such fun of home ec sometimes referring to it as "home eak"!

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brush the bottom crust border with water and roll the top crust so that there is about an inch overlap so when you tuck it under the top crust and press down on it firmly it creates a good seal.

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Hello from another Betty Crocker winner! When we senior girls took the test, most of them fooled around with the answers on purpose, so I may have won by default. I still remember that one of the questions concerned which vegetable to serve with fish and mashed potatoes -- it had to be stewed tomatoes, to add some color to the plate! Home Ec classes stressed the "importance" of having several different colors on the plate....

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Rose,
I have been working to perfect an apple pie recipe for some time now and the last time I baked one the top crust separated from the bottom crust during baking and the filling seeped out! I had plenty of air holes in the top. How can I prevent this?
Thank you!

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i'm sure you can recreate this using components from the cake bible. since you know the exact textures of the cake and buttercream and my headnotes describe in detail what to expect i'm sure you'll succeed

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i use to buy this cake at a german bakery- they closed and i can't find it anymore and would like to try and bake it myself.
it was called a rum butter torte- it had 3 layers w/a rum flavor and a butter cream icing and almonds around the side- the best tasting cake i've ever eaten. can you tell me how to bake it
thanks, myrna

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the question is: is it YOUR pie crust or MY pie crust. how can i help you when i don't know what recipe you're using, what temperature you're baking at or any other specific details?

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Help! My pie crust slumps down during blind baking and even further when I finish "pre-baking" before adding the filling. What can I do to prevent this?

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yes mary lou--it works wonderfully for apple pies. but since they take longer to bake don't forget to elevate them to a higher shelf.

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Mary Lou O'Brien
Mary Lou O'Brien
11/19/2006 01:12 PM

We enjoyed watching you on PBS and saw your solution for a crisp bottom crust for pumpkin pie (also on this site) and I wonder if this would work for apple pie as the bottom crusts of my pies are often soggy. I'm not sure if you can answer before Thanksgiving but I will look forward to reading your reply.
Thank you.
Mary Lou

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p.s. i've never seen KA pastry flour in a store but consumers can order it from them directly. wondra of course is ubiquitous.

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king arthur pastry flour is unbleached but still makes a very tender crust since it is sufficiently low in gluten-forming protein.

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Rose, I didn't think that King Arthur's pastry flour was readily available for the home cook. I would never have thought of Wondra flour. Do you always suggest using a bleached flour for pie crusts? If so, which nationally-available brand?

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mark, i used king arthur all-purpose flour in my bread bible and liked it, especially for the soft white sandwich bread but never for pie crust. their pastry flour is ideal for that and surprisingly wondra flour is too! they both have the perfect protein content to produce tender and flaky crusts!

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marilyn, welcome to the club! i do hope you find a pin. i was so afraid of losing mine that i had it cast in gold! i've heard that each year they were a little different.

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I was interested to read your recommendation suggesting Havest King flour for artisinal bread. I've been using King Arthur flour for my all-purpose flour, but don't like using it for pie or tart crusts. Is there a flour that you suggest for pie crusts?

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Marilyn Greenwell
Marilyn Greenwell
11/15/2006 06:59 PM

I as a Betty Crocker winner at Morganfield HS Ky. in 1964. In 1992 I was recognized as a Master Farm Homemaker in Ky. I had lost my Betty Crocker pin and was looking for one on the net when your ppage came up.

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berta, please get my book "the pie and pastry bible" and make the cream cheese crust but use heavy cream instead of the water to make it extra tender and delicious.

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berta brass
berta brass
10/30/2006 11:27 AM

I need to make my first pie crust, please help me.
B

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Linda Rosenjack
Linda Rosenjack
12/15/2005 07:40 PM

I just discovered your website and am impressed! I look forward to following it on a regular basis. Also, I am one of the individuals who took Home Ec in high school and won a Betty Crocker award (it's a neat pin) in 1959. Have a great day!

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Carl Conway
Carl Conway
12/12/2005 06:07 PM

Sign me up for the reunion!!

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Susan: we should have a reunion of betty crocker winners!

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Susan Stirn
Susan Stirn
11/16/2005 07:23 AM

i also won a Betty Crocker award in 1961 (at JEB Stuart HS in Falls Church VA) and I didn't even take home ec. Of course the Home Ec teacher was very disappointed that one of "her girls" had not won. I just took the test (on advice of guidance counselor)...I was taking science and math, no time for home ec, but I loved to cook at home. An early achievement was lime sauterne chiffon pie from the Gourmet cookbook, speaking of pie crust.

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