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All-butter pie crust

SuB's picture

All-butter pie crust (post #63980)


I make very good pie crust using roughly 50/50 butter and Crisco.  I'd like to stop using Crisco because of the trans fats, but my all-butter pie crust comes out tough.  I think my technique is probably okay, so I wonder if anyone has thoughts on why this happens?  Something makes me think it's that butter contains water where Crisco is pure fat, or something like that, dunno.  Really irritates me to go to the work of making a pie and have crust like shoe leather.

Cheers, Sue B.

The older I get, the better I was.

Cheers, Sue B.

The older I get, the better I was.

assibams's picture

(post #63980, reply #1 of 12)

I'd use Ghee or lard instead of the Crisco. Both are 99% fat. Of course with Ghee you'll have more butter flavor. Personally I like lard in my pie crusts, they turn out perfect every time.

Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.

"A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort."
Herm Albright

Risottogirl's picture

(post #63980, reply #2 of 12)

I use all butter most of the time, but I use a higher fat european style butter, usually Plugra. No problems with toughness, but the butter must be VERY cold and cannot be overworked. I think there is a tad more leeway on the overworking when you use Crisco.

I too use good lard (if I can get it), when I don't want an all butter pastry.

Edited to add, I usually use the food processor.

Water is a great ingredient to cook with, it has such a neutral flavor

Bobby Flay

Edited 6/11/2006 8:15 pm ET by Risottogirl

Water is a great ingredient to cook with, it has such a neutral flavor - Bobby Flay

Wolvie's picture

(post #63980, reply #11 of 12)

I usually use the fp as well, and have taken a bit of critisism for doing all butter crusts over the years. They always turn out great - technique being key.

Once you get the hang of it, nothing beats it, at least for me. :-)

Sit down before fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly wherever and to whatever abysses nature leads, or you shall learn nothing.

THOMAS HENRY HUXLEY,  September 23, 1860.



Syrah's picture

(post #63980, reply #12 of 12)

Me too. I never have shortening in the house and have never had any ill effects from using all butter.

"The truth will set you free. But first, it will piss you off"
Gloria Steinem

"Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and, above all, confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this thing, at whatever cost, must be obtained." -Marie Curie

Biscuit's picture

(post #63980, reply #3 of 12)

I think it may be technique, Sue.  I made pie crust like you for a very long time, for the same reason - my butter crust came out tough.  I finally used the technique in an old FC (can't remember the issue, it was the one with the Jumbleberry pie), where she had you do it in a mixer of all things, and leaving the butter in much, much larger chunks than I ever used to.  I found that using the mixer kept me from overworking the dough, since I believe it's easier to overwork a butter crust than a 50/50 crust.  It took me a while to become comvortable with working a dough so little, but eventually I got used to it.

I don't know if you have any back-issues of FC, but if so, look for that Jumbleberry pie recipe.  It was in the last 5 years, I know. 

Life is tough; but it's tougher when you're stupid - Col. J. Richardson, USMC

"When a stupid man is doing something he is ashamed of, he always declares that it is his duty."  - George Bernard Shaw

Glenys's picture

(post #63980, reply #7 of 12)

Here's my mantra:
1. the colder the butter the better, but only when using the food processor, which warms it faster than other methods; too cold and it doesn't marry its fat and moisture and usually the dough requires more water, then it's tough
2. too many recipes say cornmeal but you're correct Biscuit, pea size butter bits are better
3. most recipes are shy on water. I find 2.5 cups flour to 1 cup butter and I use a scant 1/2 water.
3. the perfect temperatue of the butter at the beginning is the same temperature to the touch as the dough will feel when it's chilled and ready to roll. Too cold, it breaks or shards; to warm it's meltable.
It should be cold but supple. Cold but firm.
4. Shaping the dough together from a shaggy mass, especially in plastic is better than working it to a ball in the machine or even by hand. Dump the mixture out when 2/3 blended and the shaping constitutes the last part of them mixing.

avak123's picture

(post #63980, reply #9 of 12)

Funny you should mention the Jumbleberry Pie...

The recipe is on the front page of this site - under videos.  

SuB's picture

(post #63980, reply #10 of 12)

Yep, you're all correct - it's my technique.  And I was so sure I had pie crust mastered... Have you ever noticed that the minute you get overconfident in baking, things start going wrong?  Humbling...

Anyway, after reading everyone's input (thanks very much to you all, I appreciate it) I got out Shirley Corriher's Cookwise and started reading about fats and pie crust - interesting!  The info's not all in one place, you have to look around in the book a bit, but its pretty comprehensive.

I think my problem stems largely from having my butter too cold.  I always thought the colder the better, but apparently not.  Since butter contains +/- 20% water and is firmer than Crisco when cold, I was overworking the dough (I make pastry by hand), allowing that water to act on the gluten, toughening it, while I was bashing away at the mix to incorporate my too-hard butter.  And, I was adding too much water at the end.

I concluded that an all-butter crust is probably better suited to being made in a processor than by hand, with butter that is cool and firm but still a bit flexible.  The machine can incorporate it so much more efficiently, before it gets too warm. 

Will have  to experiment but I bet I can get it right, or at least reduce the Crisco to 25% maybe less, now that I have an idea what I'm up to. 

Thanks again to everyone, you guys are the best.

Cheers, Sue B.

The older I get, the better I was.

Cheers, Sue B.

The older I get, the better I was.

elizaram's picture

(post #63980, reply #4 of 12)

I've stopped using hydrogenated shortening, but found I couldn't sub butter 1:1 for it in pie crust - most likely due to the moisture issue you mentioned. I've had pretty good success with this recipe:

Pate Brisee
(Martha Rose Shulman, The Classic Party Fare Cookbook)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt (I use unsalted butter, and up the salt)
6 tbsp (90 g) cold butter, cut into small pieces
2-3 tbsp iced water

I find I have to use about 4-5 tbsp water to get the dough to come together, but otherwise the formula works very well. I use a food processor to cut in the butter, being careful not to over-process it.

Whole wheat pastry flour substitutes very well in this recipe. I always use it for quiches - love the nutty flavor.

Money can't buy happiness, but it can make you awfully comfortable while you're being miserable. — Clare Boothe Luce

When I was young, all my friends were imaginary. Now that I'm older, all my friends are virtual.

Nihon's picture

(post #63980, reply #5 of 12)

I don't know why your all-butter one comes out tough, but I do know there is a trans-free version of Crisco now.  Why not buy that and use your original recipe?

Glenys's picture

(post #63980, reply #6 of 12)

There is but it's still a wonder of science.

CookiM0nster's picture

(post #63980, reply #8 of 12)

I hate to say it but it's not the butter that's the problem, it's your technique. I make all-butter crusts exclusively, and I vary the proportion of butter considerably depending on what it's getting filled with. They're never tough. I do know that Crisco is more forgiving of being overworked than butter.

edited to add that I've noticed that it's easier to get good results with high butterfat butters too. So I guess I should say that using a high fat butter does make it easier to make a good crust.

Edited 6/11/2006 4:35 pm by CookiM0nster