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Secret Ingredient in no-fail pie crust

For years it was like a gray “culinary” cloud over my head. I called it pie crust envy. My mom was the first to try to teach me to make a flaky and tender pie crust. “Just don’t overwork the dough, use a light hand” she told me. At the time I read something in a cookbook that said “work the shortening into the flour until it’s all the size of small peas.” So I tried to do just that. The crust rolled out easily and I baked what I thought was the most beautiful apple pie in the world.
I took it to our church kitchen for bingo and I’ll never forget the look on Ruth Haglage’s face as she tried to cut into the crust. She sawed and sawed at that crust and finally broke through. I was so embarrassed. Ruth knew I was a novice pie baker and told me not to worry, that the filling was delicious and the crust was OK.
After that disaster, every time I made pie crust by hand I was filled with anxiety. (When I used my food processor recipe for crust, it turned out fine but I wanted to master crust by hand). Then I met Perrin Rountree. Perrin is an Anderson township reader and excellent southern cook and baker. She worked with me at my cooking school at McAlpins. Perrin shared her recipe for pie crust with a “secret” ingredient. That was years ago and the crust has never let me down. No more pie crust envy!
Perrin Rountree’s no fail pie crust
You’ll think you’re in cooking class with these detailed instructions, but they are worth following.
2 cups all purpose flour – I use King Arthur
1/2 teaspoon baking powder (the secret ingredient)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup Crisco shortening, chilled (I use Crisco sticks)
1/2 cup ice cold water
Whisk together dry ingredients. Cut shortening into 1/2” pieces.  Scatter over flour mixture and using a fork or pastry blender, cut shortening into flour until mixture resembles coarse crumbs with some large pieces remaining (about the size of peas – yes, it will work!). This is what will give you flakiness.
Sprinkle half the cold water over and stir and draw flour with fork from bottom to top, distributing water evenly. Add more water until dough is moist enough to hold together when you roll a little bit into a ball. I usually use up all the water.
Divide in half and shape into 2 balls. Flatten into round disks. I like to refrigerate dough anywhere from 30 minutes to overnight, but that’s not necessary. (You can also freeze the dough for a couple of months, thawing in frig before using).
Roll out on lightly floured surface from center out. I sprinkle a bit of flour on top of the dough so it doesn’t stick to the rolling pin, or you can skip flour and roll it out between wax or parchment paper. Roll into a circle 2’ wider than pie plate. If I’m baking the crust unfilled, I’ll prick it all around with a fork so it doesn’t puff up in the oven. Some folks use pie weights instead, or dry beans.

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