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Friday, September 23, 2011

Grandma's Recipes: County Fair Pie Crust

As written.

From the back of the card.

"This is the fair contest recipe and delicious. Very easy to work with -- almost like a cookie dough -- Thought you might like to try it.

Pie Crust

3 cups flour 1 egg
1 1/2 t salt 5 T water
1 cup lard 1 t vinegar

Mix flour and salt -- Cut lard into flour. Mix eggs with fork, add water and then vinegar. Add liquid to flour mixture all at one time. Mix -- let stand a few minutes -- Chill before rolling (I don't)


This one is pretty straight forward. It would have been printed in the newspaper with the rest of the entry classes for the county fair. In this case, entrants would all have to use this recipe. I have no information about the rest of the pie contest, whether they were to make the same type or just use the same crust. These 'use the same recipe' contests really were to test the technical skill of the baker. The competition was usually pretty stiff.

As for ingredients the only things to note are the use of lard, size of the egg and the vinegar. Lard is still available if you look for it. It is commonly substituted with vegetable shortening. I know that some people have success with crust making using the heart healthy spreads, but those folks are superior bakers so I wouldn't try that on a pie for company tonight. Egg sizes have varied over the year. Most of the bakers in this competition would have been using farm eggs. We were just given a lovely box of brown eggs in size really small. Cute, but they would wreak havoc on the wet to dry ingredient ratio. I would start with a large or extra large egg. The vinegar would likely be cider vinegar but they might have used the small bottle of white vinegar for this.

It is hard to say whether the original recipe would have been as sketchy as this one. I know the competition at the local fair was fierce. I would not put it past some one to leave out a few ingredients or short cut a few steps to keep from helping the competition.

The secret to making great crust is getting the right distribution of fat into the flour. The cutting in instructions usually suggest something like pea-sized chunks or coarse crumb or something similar.

There are two things that bother me about these instructions. The first is the instruction to add all of the liquid at once. We all know that everything from the weather to the way you measure flour affect the dry to liquid ratio in baking. Every one who has ever tried to teach me to make pie crust (and some experts have tried) says to add some portion of the liquids, mix gently and add more. Usually they say something like add it by the tablespoon. The trick here is that the more you work the dough the tougher it becomes. Adding lots of little amounts of liquid would require working the dough more. I think that some of the food processor recipes add the liquid all at once. Hmmm. (If anyone has thoughts about this leave a note in the comments. I am not a crust maker so I don't really know.) The other thing is the resting/chilling time. It is harder to work cold dough, but the fats 'melt' into the dough as it warms up so you lose flakiness. Perhaps the author of this recipe left larger lumps of fat. I don't really know.

The last thing to note is that filling and baking are omitted from the recipe. Fillings would most likely have been a mixture of fresh fruit, flour, sugar and spices dotted with butter. The exact amounts depend greatly on the fruit used. The crust could be pre-baked or baked with the fruit. In the later case it takes longer to bake the crust than it might seem.

I'll upload the photo when I take my next round of pictures.

Here is a link to a tutorial on pie crust from the folks at BHG.

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