Plain Pie Crust

I’ve made a lot of pies to arrive at the lard and butter crust I make now.

Many times I’ve heard myself say that the ratio of flour to fats as well as the kind of fats must have been figured out before. I mean, it’s just a pie.


You bet. And here’s the proof.

White House Cookbook (1898)

My dear neighbor, Omma, and I were pouring over her collection of antique cookbooks this winter enjoying a cup of tea near the woodstove in her kitchen. She pulled out her copy of The White House Cook Book (1898) by Hugo Ziemann (Steward of the White House) and Mrs. F. L. Gillette. I felt like I should be touching it with white gloves but she said “hogwash” and we delved right in.

Of course, in every cookbook I come across, old or new, I head to the pastry section first and last.  No exception here.  The section on Pastry, Pies and Tarts starts out with words I say in every class, too.

Use the very best ingredients.

My favorite sentence comes a few paragraphs later describing how to test the temperature of a pre-heated oven.

“If you can hold your hand in the heated oven while you count twenty, the oven has just the proper temperature.”

And further on it says,

“If you suffer the heat to abate, the under crust will become heavy and clammy and the upper crust will fall in.

I think I may add the words “suffer the heat to abate” in my classes and see just who might know what I’m talking about!

Now, I don’t recommend holding your hand in a hot oven but I do strongly suggest getting an oven thermometer to test it’s accuracy. Even 25 degrees off in one direction or the other can make a big difference.

Five pages later comes the recipe “Plain Pie Crust“. I was just about jumping up and down when I saw that this 1898 recipe is nearly identical to the one I share weekly at my Art of the Pie classes.

So, if you’ve been wondering just what it is that I do, this recipe is pretty darn close.

I do omit the baking powder* but everything else is a go.

Be Happy and Make Pie!

PLAIN PIE CRUST from The White House Cook Book (1898)
Two and a half cupfuls of sifted flour, one cupful of shortening, half butter and half lard cold, a pinch of salt, a heaping teaspoonful of baking powder* sifted through the flour. Rub thoroughly the shortening into the flour. Mix together with half a teacupful of cold water, or enough to form a rather stiff dough; mix as little as possible, just enough to get it into shape to roll out; it must be handled very lightly. This rule is for two pies.

( I love this next part!)

Plain Pie Crust

When you have a little pie crust left do not throw it away; roll it thin, cut it in small squares and bake. Just before tea put a spoonful of raspberry jelly on each square.

(Good advice!)

(P.S. I don’t sift.)

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  1. says

    Hi Kelly- Thanks for checking in. I’ve never used lard that has a papery coating. Did it come from the farmer that way? Leaf lard has somewhat of a nutty aroma. 1st time I rendered it was a porcine aroma that I was introduced to…not unpleasant but something I had not smelled before. I love to make tastie little rollups too! Kate

  2. says

    Oh I just cannot wait to take one of your classes! It will probably end up being a birthday present to myself next year. A question about the lard… I recently rendered some from a very good source, but it has a barnyard-y smell to it. I did forget to take off the papery coating, but I was wondering what it should smell like. I have a very sensitive nose and I wonder if it is just me. (I grew up with… crisco crusts. Hangs head in shame.) We did love our pie cookies though, docked crust leftovers spread thinly with butter and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and rolled up and sliced like cinnamon rolls, then baked off. The most fabulous treats. They always tasted better with scraps than with a batch just dedicated to pie cookies for some reason, but a good way to practice pie crusts.

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