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…
RECIPE FOR 9″ TWO-CRUST PIE:
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.
FOR EASY-AS-PIE ROLLING
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 RecipeCurio.com.