Pie Crust Missionary

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.)