NEW! Google Custom Search

Loading

Pie crusts: butter vs. shortening

mvlsi's picture

I was just watching a video on making pie crusts and it reminded me of a question I have about them.


When I make pie crusts exclusively with shortening the dough is always extremely difficult to handle. It tears easily falls apart when being transfered. The crust is amazingly flaky but it is so hard to work with it's not worth it.


When I make butter crusts they roll out and handle beautifully though they are not nearly as flaky.


My question is, why are the two so different in how they handle? The taste and flakiness I mostly understand but the ability to handle them is so markedly different and I just wonder why.


Also, has anyone experimented with the ratio of butter to shortening in a mixed fat pie crust? What were your findings for optimal ratio?

soupereasy's picture

(post #65253, reply #1 of 34)

Usually 50/50 for butter/lard. Makes a really workable pastry.


That would be for a shortcrust pastry. I learned 1/2 fat to flour as a ratio.

mvlsi's picture

(post #65253, reply #3 of 34)

What is a "shortcrust"? What other types are there and how do they differ?

thecooktoo's picture

(post #65253, reply #4 of 34)

I have been making pie crusts for years based on my mom's method.  Half as much fat as flour by measure...1/2 butter and 1/2 lard or plain Crisco.  Requires that you develop a feel for the dough...


Recently tried CI's method using vodka and water.  REally makes the crust easy to roll out, easy to handle and really flakey.


Jim

MadMom's picture

(post #65253, reply #5 of 34)

I was told years ago, forget by whom, to add white wine to sweet pie crusts to make them flaky, and to add vinegar to savory ones.  It worked quite well, and I would imagine that vodka would have the same effect.



Not One More Day!
Not One More Dime! Not One More Life! Not One More Lie!

End the Occupation of Iraq -- Bring the Troops Home Now!

And Take Care of Them When They Get Here!

mvlsi's picture

(post #65253, reply #7 of 34)

Oh yes, I saw this too. It looked interesting but required yet another bottle of booze from which a tablespoon will be used now and then. Perhaps I should take it more seriously and break down and buy a bottle just to try it.


Thanks for the reminder.

MadMom's picture

(post #65253, reply #8 of 34)

You can always get one of the little airplane size bottles if you don't drink it, which I don't.



Not One More Day!
Not One More Dime! Not One More Life! Not One More Lie!

End the Occupation of Iraq -- Bring the Troops Home Now!

And Take Care of Them When They Get Here!

thecooktoo's picture

(post #65253, reply #9 of 34)

MM has it right.  I buy the little bottles.  Durn good thing  you don't make it with Jack Daniels or I would have to buy more of that stuff.


Jim

cookgreen's picture

(post #65253, reply #11 of 34)

It's good to hear that ratio of fat to flour. For many years I used the ratio from the Tenderflake (lard) box, 6 cups pastry or cake four OR 5 1/2 cups regular. I used close to 5 even when I switched to 1/2 butter & 1/2 lard.

For the last year I found I had to add extra water and I made lots of pies, 35 double crust for a wedding this summer alone. It wasn't just the batch of flour, which I know can fluctuate in something.

I slowly started decreasing my flour until I was down to 4 cups flour, which I did just this morning. A pumpkin pie from a strange longish squash, really neat name too if I can believe the guy at work. It was an outstanding flavour when I did a huge variety of them at work last week. Hope it works as a pie, it was dense flesh.

soupereasy's picture

(post #65253, reply #6 of 34)

Shortcrust as opposed to puff pastry.

Gary's picture

(post #65253, reply #12 of 34)

If you are referring to short dough, then your statement is incorrect. There is no relationship between short dough and puff pastry.

If you are referring to pie crusts, short flake refers to the length of the gluten strands formed. In a short flake dough, there is a relative deficit of gluten formation caused by either too much fat or excessively working the usual amount of fat into the flour. The opposite would be long flake. Again there is no relationship between pie crusts and true puff pastry. There is a misnamed "blitz puff pastry" which is really a long flake pie dough made up in a manner similar to that used in true puff pastry.


Edited 11/6/2009 10:56 pm ET by Gary

The people who gave us golf and called it a game are the same people who gave us bag pipes and called it music and haggis and called it food.

roz's picture

(post #65253, reply #2 of 34)

I only use butter in my pie crusts and they are always flaky....unless I use too much liquid or work the dough too much. Then the crust is a bit tough. That's due to user error! Butter all the way for me.

I always roll out the crust between sheets of plastic wrap...no sticking and easy to transfer to a pie plate or parchment to go into the oven.

Be impeccable with your word. Don't take anything personally. Don't make assumptions. Do your best. Don Miguel Ruiz
Be impeccable with your word. Don't take anything personally. Don't make assumptions. Do your best. Don Miguel Ruiz
mvlsi's picture

(post #65253, reply #10 of 34)

I should add that this all started when I made some pies from the book I believe is called "Sweetie Pies" which gives a shortening only crust recipe and while it was an absolute terror to handle the texture was amazing, like nothing I'd had before. I would love to retain that texture while instilling a better handling characteristic.


If anyone hasn't made a shortening only crust it's worth a try. Just don't do it when impressionable children are around. : )

bonnieruth's picture

(post #65253, reply #13 of 34)

I used to understand that one should use about 50-50 butter and shortening, to get both tenderness and flakiness (and of course the butter flavor - definitely do not use all shortening).  And I also understood that the different melting temperatures of the butter and shortening contributed to the flakiness.  From what I've read more recently, it seems a skilled pastry maker can get  the flakiness with just a butter crust, through better handling.  I do not have the pie crust gene and do not think I could do that.  However, I have been using homemade lard rather than shortening,  in Edna Lewis's proportions of quite a bit more butter than lard (I do not have her recipe by me, but think she says 2 tablespoons of lard and the rest butter for a one-crust pie).  The flavor and handling are good, but the butter and lard seem to have a pretty similar consistency at room temperature, and I'm wondering whether lard has a different melting temperature from butter as shortening does -  and if not,  would I be getting more flakiness with the shortening?  Edna Lewis also calls for combining the fats and flour by hand (as the latest FC issue with the all butter crust does), and maybe that is the better handling we're talking about.  I sm still sticking with my food processor, although I do mix in the liquid by hand.

Gary's picture

(post #65253, reply #14 of 34)

The ultimate melting point of butter is about 94F. Crisco is about 118F. According to Wikipedia, the melting points of lard are:

Melting point backfat: 30–40 °C (86–104 °F)
leaf fat: 43–48 °C (109–118 °F)
mixed fat: 36–45 °C (97–113 °F)

The people who gave us golf and called it a game are the same people who gave us bag pipes and called it music and haggis and called it food.

The people who gave us golf and called it a game are the same people who gave us bag pipes and called it music and haggis and called it food.

bonnieruth's picture

(post #65253, reply #17 of 34)

Wow!  Thanks for the informative reply.  My lard is from back fat, so I was right in my suspicion that the melting point isn't that much different from butter's.  What is leaf  fat? 

Gary's picture

(post #65253, reply #18 of 34)

It is the fat that surround the kidneys and is considered the highest quality.

The people who gave us golf and called it a game are the same people who gave us bag pipes and called it music and haggis and called it food.

The people who gave us golf and called it a game are the same people who gave us bag pipes and called it music and haggis and called it food.

bonnieruth's picture

(post #65253, reply #19 of 34)

Ah, that is the fat Edna Lewis says to use.

leonap's picture

(post #65253, reply #20 of 34)

I thought you were disparaging Edna Lewis at first read! lol.

bonnieruth's picture

(post #65253, reply #21 of 34)

You thought I was calling her the fat Edna Lewis?  LOL!

leonap's picture

(post #65253, reply #22 of 34)

Yes! lol!

mvlsi's picture

(post #65253, reply #15 of 34)

Thanks for all the input.


I'd like to restate my original interest here is the handling characterisitics of the dough not necessarily the resulting flakiness or even flavor. The more butter that is used in the recipe seems to make the dough more resilient and easier to handle. But I was really impressed with the outcome of the pie crusts that I made from recipes in the book Sweetie Pies, which is promoted on the Fine Cooking site, which use shortening only. The only problem is that they were nearly impossible to work with once they were rolled out. They simply fell apart. Doughs made with some butter seem to get increasingly easier to handle the more butter is used. I wonder what is so different about the butter that this is so. Perhaps it is the melting points of the two fats as has been brought up here recently. But I wonder if it's the protein or moisture in the butter that gives it the ability to bend without breaking. I thought perhaps there would be someone out there with some food chemistry who could provide some definitive reasons for this.


Again, thanks for all the feedback.

Gary's picture

(post #65253, reply #16 of 34)

What you are asking is why butter and shortening have different plasticity under the same conditions (in this case a pie dough). That's not really a food science question; it's a materials science question. So, if you are interested in whether or not butter and shortening follow Hooke's law during plastic deformation, you are probably in the wrong place. Two alternatives are:

http://www.cookingforengineers.com/
http://www.amazon.com/Food-Cooking-Science-Lore-Kitchen/dp/0684800012

Good luck with your quest.


Edited 11/8/2009 7:46 am ET by Gary

The people who gave us golf and called it a game are the same people who gave us bag pipes and called it music and haggis and called it food.

SuB's picture

(post #65253, reply #23 of 34)

Here's my totally unscientific opinion:  If your Crisco pie crust falls apart when you roll it out, you either haven't added enough water or haven't let it rest long enough in the refrigerator before rolling for the flour to hydrate, or both.  Crisco is 100% fat whereas butter is something like 18% water, so your all-butter crust includes more water and therefore more gluten development (assuming the same fat/flour ratio as your Crisco crust).  The difference might be only a teaspoon or so of water but it might account for your difficulty.


Just my 2 cents, hope it helps...



Cheers, Sue B.


The older I get, the better I was.


Edited 11/10/2009 1:18 am by SuB

Cheers, Sue B.

The older I get, the better I was.

Gary's picture

(post #65253, reply #24 of 34)

Good points. I'm betting that's it. Not enough hydration and/or rest before rolling.

The people who gave us golf and called it a game are the same people who gave us bag pipes and called it music and haggis and called it food.

The people who gave us golf and called it a game are the same people who gave us bag pipes and called it music and haggis and called it food.

cookgreen's picture

(post #65253, reply #25 of 34)

That does sound right or rather familiar. At work we use only vegetable shortening and while I don't find it that different to work with, (at home I use only lard/butter) I have been amazed a few times in watching them incorporate liquid into the dry mix. They, the bakery people, pour the liquid on way past way past what I think it needs.

I work in the kitchen and we make bison tourtiere and galettes, mostly using their prepared crusts or sometimes I make our own. We keep the dry and liquid parts separate until needed.

A few years ago my older cousin was showing us how to reach the ideal feel of the crust dough. "I don't know how to tell you except it has to feel exactly like a woman's b**b." And his wife was standing right there too. Me thinks that 'feel' might vary!

Canuck's picture

(post #65253, reply #26 of 34)

Me thinks that 'feel' might vary!>


Well then, you'll just have to have your cousin's wife handy LOL!


 

cookgreen's picture

(post #65253, reply #31 of 34)

She is also my maternal cousin and a great friend, so it could work. Not, LOL! Besides they moved out to a lovely small town and loving it.

I'm happy for them, I don't mind driving in to work in a big city, but sure love coming home to my "bedroom community". What a weird expression, makes it sound like we're all sleeping together, OR all we do is sleep.

Canuck's picture

(post #65253, reply #32 of 34)

:) Whatever works for you in your bedroom community :)


 

thecooktoo's picture

(post #65253, reply #27 of 34)

I may have mentioned this in another thread, but a year or so ago I read the article in CI about using vodka as additional liquid in the pie crust to make it easier to roll...it really works.  I added about 2 or 3 tablespoons and ended up with a much easier crust to handle and roll and remained flaky.


Jim

Gretchen's picture

(post #65253, reply #28 of 34)

I have read that tip several places and it really gets kudos.

Gretchen

Gretchen