As I’ve posted so many pie recipes already, it’s about time I put up grandma’s pastry recipe so that you can make the pie shells!
My childhood is filled with memories of homemade shortcrust pastry. We had regular servings of apple pie made by Ah Kum Che but actually, I loved the plain shortcrust pastry more than the pies :). Extra pastry cut into biscuit shapes were made for me, sprinkled with granulated sugar on top but I preferred them plain – please don’t adulterate my wonderfully ‘short’ pastry with hard crystals! I can’t quite remember now how old I was when I learnt to make shortcrust pastry, certainly my first baking adventures are an enduring memory of my pre-school years, but probably I only started seriously making shortcrust pastry after Ah Kum Che retired and I had to find some way to fulfil my craving for pastry biscuits and once-a-year Christmas mincepies (we always used ready-made supermarket mince, Robertson’s brand – which I now realise, reading through grandma’s recipes, was a convenience strategy that grandmother didn’t hesitate to use).
Anyway, grandma’s instructions to make shortcrust pastry with ‘half butter and half Crisco’ in order to get a really ‘short’ texture has always stayed with me. As you can see, this recipe asks for all Crisco, no butter. I’ve never tried it that way myself.
Crisco was introduced in 1911 as the first shortening to use only vegetable oil. In the early days, the cans came with recipe books to teach consumers how to cook with this new product. See the Crisco history timeline here, together with pictures of the first advertisement, the first cookbook, early manufacturing and more. I have also commented on Crisco in other entries on this blog, such as here.
Crisco, being a type of hydrogenated vegetable oil, originally contained four grams of trans fats per tablespoon, but since January 2007, Crisco has been reformulated to contain ‘zero trans fats per serving’ (read the press release), which doesn’t necessarily no trans fats at all, simply that one serving has less than the mandatory minimum required for the item to be declared on the nutritional label (see here).
Reading this review of the new Crisco, it seems to me that even if I did follow grandma’s recipe, the results would never be identical to hers because the very nature of the key ingredient has changed over the years according to new developments in nutritional science and food technology.
Personally, I think I’d rather stick to butter rather than an industrial product like Crisco. I haven’t made shortcrust pastry in recent years, I hope my future Crisco-less attempt will be as good as the shortcrust pastry I remembered in the old days…!
[Update 17/11/07: read all about shortcrust pastry and making the perfect pie crust here. Thanks to Ann Mah for the link, and her report on how well it worked with my grandmother’s Pineapple Pie recipe.]