Posted by: Erica Retrochef | September 23, 2013

Water-Whip Pie Crust

It’s possible to make good pie with a mediocre crust, but it’s quite difficult to make an amazing pie without a good crust. And I tend to be very bad at most “traditional” pie crust recipes, because it involves keeping butter extremely cold, using a completely indeterminate amount of very cold water, and making a cohesive dough while simultaneously touching everything as little as possible. Such fiddly and imprecise methods cause me to be frustrated both with the baking process, and, invariably, with the mediocre crusts that result.

So I’m always eager to try alternatives dreamed up in corporate test kitchens decades ago. While the Retro Recipe Attempt team has clearly established that such facilities could produce some incredibly disgusting ideas, there have also been some winners. Maybe the good folks at Spry came up with a worthwhile pie crust method…



3/4 cup Homogenized Spry
1/4 cup boiling water
1 tablespoon milk
2 cups all-purpose flour (sifted once before measuring)
1 teaspoon salt

Put Spry in a medium-sized mixing bowl and over it pour the boiling water and milk. Then tilt the bowl and break up the shortening with a fork.

With rapid cross-the-bowl strokes whip until mixture is smooth and thick like whipped cream and holds soft peaks when fork is lifted.

Put measured flour and salt into sifter; sift onto Spry “Whip.” There’s no cutting-in of shortening, no guessing as to how much water to add.

Stir ingredients quickly, with vigorous round-the-bowl strokes, into a dough that clings together and “cleans” the bowl. Takes about 33 seconds!

Take up dough in hands, work gently into a smooth, blended dough, then shape into a flat round. Divide dough in half; roll each half separately.


Roll dough between 12″ squares of waxed paper (laid on slightly dampened table) from center out into circle size of paper. If paper wrinkles, remove top one, put on another; turn, roll.

To put pastry in pie pan, peel off top paper, pick up pastry and center it over pan, pastry side down. Remove paper gently. Use same easy rolling method for remaining half of dough.


Don’t expect the shortening to all melt immediately, but do get the water up to boiling. If it’s just hot, the fat will probably be much harder to whip.

If you’re cooking dairy-free, you can change the tablespoon of milk to an additional tablespoon of water. (The milk’s really only there for flavor, since vegetable shortening is incredibly flavorless. But then, how much flavor does one tablespoon of milk have?)


“With rapid cross-the-bowl strokes whip until mixture is smooth” — to heck with that, I used the whisk attachment on the stand mixer!

It does indeed look like whipped cream after it’s been thoroughly whipped.


We actually timed it the flour-mixing step to see how accurate “33 seconds” was — and it’s pretty much spot on. (Don’t worry if your crust needs 35 seconds to fully come together. It just means you should MIX FASTER NEXT TIME, lazy!)


We tried this recipe multiple times with each of the three fats commonly associated with pie crust: vegetable shortening, lard, and butter. Each one melted, whipped, and blended equally well, so the only difference is flavor — if you want a buttery crust, feel free to use butter.


Much like the Stir-n-Roll pie crust, this is flimsy and floppy when putting it in a pie pan. It’s simple to mend, though.

When baked, it’s tender, albeit not very flaky. The simplicity and reliability of the recipe makes it another way to make a quick, satisfying crust, and you aren’t limited to vegetable oil. Despite Spry’s insistence that only Spry would work, I far prefer the flavor of butter or lard crusts.

Spry’s pamphlet can be viewed in full at


  1. I thought the butter and lard crusts were equally tasty, but the one with vegetable shortening was decidedly bland.

  2. Not that I think ‘retroisms’ are bad, or even weird, or taste bad, some are quite good in fact. But some of them just can’t meet the abilities that modern technology affords us.

    I like this one, from WikiHow:

    When I use this, I also put the bowl and blade into the refrigerator for an hour before I make the crust. I also use cold butter and instead of shortening, I use LARD, which is always in the fridge!

    That way everything is cold, and pulsing to mix all the ingredients won’t heat up the butter / shortening [lard] and screw up the ‘sandy’ texture you’re looking for.

    I’ve tried using ice cold vodka instead of water. But, in MY court, the jury is still out on that. Although, I’ve been tempted to use tequila in pie crust for Key Lime Pie, Key Lime Margarita Pie. But I only make 3 or 4 pie crusts a year, so it’s a loooong terrrrrm prrrrooojjjjeeeccccct at that slow an interval.

  3. I almost never see pie crust recipes calling for boiling water. I’ve always thought that it might be a southern/Texas thing. My mother’s pie crust is the best I’ve ever had, and it calls for only flour, salt, shortening, and boiling water. I get so many compliments on it it’s ridiculous, because it’s the easiest thing in the world to make. The original recipe called for using two knives to mix the fat and flour, but I use a pastry cutter. (Your problem with the texture here might have been because you used an electric mixer. I’ve never heard of anyone doing that with pie crust.) Such an odd recipe. If that much “whipping” is called for, it seems the only way it would have worked is if it had been chilled for a while before rolling it. And now I want pie.

  4. Hot water pastry is a traditional British style (eg see Cookipedia), for savory pies to be served cold- it gives lovely thick crispy sides that are strong enough to stand up without a dish- but not done by whipping the fat and water together. I was surprised that it turned out well! I might try it sometime, it seems a bit less nervewracking than keeping everything carefully chilled, somehow.

    • This was definitely a surprising success. There are certainly many ways to arrive at a pie crust, and I keep finding new ones — or in this case, variations on quite old ones!

  5. Tried this for the first time using Spectrum Organic Shortening instead of Spry. And I skipped the milk. It made a very oily dough, but rolled out beautifully between 2 sheets of parchment. Did rip a little when I transferred to my pie plate but repaired easily with extra pieces if the dough. I was skeptical that it would bake well, but It worked great. That being said, it was more dense and definitely not as flaky or flavorful as my traditional pie crust ( which I make with butter). In the future i might add vanilla to up the flavor a bit. It was the quickest and easiest crust I have ever made!

    • Vanilla would be interesting. Glad this worked for you šŸ™‚

  6. sorry you don’t know how to do this – I’ve been using this recipe for 60 years and it ALWAYS is flaky – easy to manipulate into the pan – absolutely never fails. and if you make a mistake – it rerolls great! never tough like other recipes.

    • It would have been great if you could have shared tips on how to get it into the pan, because I still struggle with that today, even though I’ve been using this recipe for years. “Sorry you don’t know how to do this” came off as really rude, and ultimately this was just a disappointing and unhelpful comment.

  7. ps – melts in your mouth good

  8. This is my grandmother’s recipe except she only uses shortening, and she puts good quality butter flavor extract in it to give it an authentic butter taste. I do agree, the comment above was rude, but I do want to note it doesn’t look rolled out properly in your photo above.

    2/3 cups + 2 Tablespoons of Butter Flavored Crisco (i promise you when baked at high temperature any “odd” taste comes out and it tastes like straight butter)
    1/4 cup boiling water
    2 tablespoon of whole milk
    2 cups + “a little more” flour
    1/2 teaspoon grounded sea salt

    Sift flour and salt in a medium bowl. Place shortening in a separate deep bowl. Pour boiling water over it and mash with fork and whip until the texture of sour cream. It may seem impossible at first but if you keep mashing and whipping you will get there in about 4-5 minutes. Add milk, and stir into mixture. Add flour a cup at a time until the dough feels right. Start working with hands and form into a ball. Cut the ball in half. Let’s roll them out. No need to chill a hot water pie crust!

    Roll out the pie dough an even 12-13 inches in diameter between two pieces of wax paper. Take off the top wax paper, place the pie pan directly in the center of the rolled out dough, slide the bottom wax paper off the counter on to your arm and flip the pan over on to it’s bottom. Take off the now top wax paper and start positioning the dough into the pan. Flute the edges, etc.

    Try it out next time exactly as above let me know how it goes!

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