Don’t Mess with a Classic (Crust)

One of the challenges of making a monthly pie is that is it very easy to fall behind, especially as the holidays approach.  We usually stay on schedule, but occasionally we use a savory pie recipe as a chance to get caught up if we’re off schedule.

This was the hot water crust that topped our last pot pie.  It just appeared in the Chicago Tribune on November 2, 2016.

Hot water pastry

Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 5 minutes, plus baking time
Makes: Enough for a double-crust pie

2 cups flour, plus a little extra for dusting
1 pinch of salt
1/4 cup water, or 2 tablespoons water and 2 tablespoons whole milk
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) butter, lard or shortening

1 large egg yolk, beaten

1. In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt; whisk until well-combined. Set aside.

2. Place water and butter or lard into a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook until the fat has melted; turn heat to medium-high and bring just to the boil.

3. Immediately pour the fat-water mixture over the flour mixture and stir until a soft, pliable dough forms. Tip the dough out onto a counter dusted with flour and, while the dough is still hot, knead it lightly and quickly. It’s OK if you can only work the dough for a moment at a time but this dough becomes harder to work with as it cools.

4. Pinch off about a quarter of the dough, pat it into a disk and set it aside, covered with plastic wrap. This will be the lid.

5. Roll the rest of the dough into a flattened disk and use it to line an 8-inch springform pan, using your hands to work the dough up the sides as high as the top of the pan. Place your filling into the pastry, then quickly roll out the disk you set aside for the lid into a disk big enough to seal the filled pie. Place lid atop filled pie; crimp edges to seal well. Make a hole in the center of the lid to vent steam and brush the lid with the beaten egg yolk.

6. Bake the filled pie at 350 degrees for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until golden brown. Remove the filled pie from the oven and cool completely at room temperature. If the recipe you’re following requires it, when the pie is fully cooled, pour the gelatin through the vent, little by little, to fill in any gaps where the filling shrank from the crust in baking. Refrigerate the pie overnight, and serve chilled.

Nutrition information per serving (for 6 servings): 248 calories, 13 g fat, 7 g saturated fat, 61 mg cholesterol, 29 g carbohydrates, 0 g sugar, 4 g protein, 28 mg sodium, 1 g fiber

This dough was awful to work with.  It immediately became tough and crumbly as I rolled it out.  I didn’t worry since the I’ve patched pie dough before and it isn’t that noticeable.  There were modifications I had to make based on the pie filling itself (post coming soon).  There was no chance that our pie was going to fit in an 8-inch springform pan.  The idea of a bottom crust was cast aside; the entire portion of the dough became a top crust.  Our filling was ready, so there was no need to cover the dough while we finished prepping.  It did transfer relatively easily from the rolling surface to the casserole dish, where we had to do a little more patching before the pie went in the oven.  The breaking as we tried to tuck the crust under the edges was ridiculous; you can see it in the picture below.  We didn’t bother with the egg wash.


Verdict:  There’s a reason pie crust comes together with cold water:  the butter remains solid, creating pillows of flakiness to melt in your mouth.  This crust was not a pleasant eating experience.  It tasted as tough and dry as it looked, and needed more than a pinch of salt.  I have used a crust recipe where the butter was left cold during mixing but the 1 or 2 tablespoons of water added at the end was hot.  That crust was much better.  If I made this crust again, I would leave the butter alone and add the hot water at the end.  Oddly, there is no need to wrap and chill that crust; the hot water makes the dough pliable enough to roll immediately.  Lesson learned:  trust the experts and don’t mess with years of baking wisdom.



When I was in elementary school, my mom shared with me her love of the Ginny and Geneva books (Catherine Woolley, 1968), a sweet children’s book series about dear friends in the 1950s(ish) era.  It was all housewifey and gender stereotypical, with the young friends playing with their cats, starting a babysitting business, sewing, and a bunch of other activities that would make me crazy if presented now as the only life options for girls.  I bring this distant memory back to the surface–and believe me, I had to dig around on the internet to find the books–for one reason.  In one book, Ginny wants to have a bake stand of sorts– I guess I should be impressed that this girl was obsessed with starting a small business– and is trying to decide what her product should be.  The conversation with her mother includes popovers (“they almost always pop”) but she finally settles on brownies.

I’ve never made a popover in my life. I don’t remember my mother, baker extraordinaire, ever making popovers.  They are an odd concept to me, as I am a bread lover, and these little gems just aren’t, well, anything.  But I’ve never forgotten the scene in that book, and I had to see for myself.  This recipe promised to be simple (Good Housekeeping, October 2015) .

Classic Popovers

3 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons butter, melted, plus more for greasing
1/2 teaspoon salt


Preheat oven to 375°F.  Generously grease cups of popover pan or eight 6- to 8-ounce ramekins.

 In a blender, puree eggs, milk, flour, butter and salt until smooth.
 Divide evenly among cups. Bake for 40 minutes.
 With a small paring knife, cut a small slit in the top of each popover. Bake 10 minutes more. Remove from oven; immediately transfer from cups to wire rack. Serve warm. Cooled popovers can be kept at room temperature up to 3 hours or frozen up to 1 month.

Reheat at 350°F until crisp.


Sweet Cocoa: 

Reduce flour to 3/4 c. Blend 1/4 unsweetened cocoa and 3 T sugar into batter.

Bacon Cheese

Reduce salt to 1/4 t. Blend 4 strips cooked chopped bacon, 1/2 c cheddar, and 1/4 c parmesan cheese into batter.

Savory Spiced

Blend 1 1/2 t cumin, 1 t smoked paprika, and 1/4 t black pepper into batter.

The variations are not listed on the GH website, but they were in the printed recipe.  I chose the Savory Spiced variation for this attempt.  I loved the idea of whipping these babies up in the blender.  I used both sizes of the ramekins– the smaller I keep around for creme brulee, and the larger I keep on hand for lava cakes.  I sprayed the cups with lots of non-stick spray.  As I poured the batter into the cups, I realized I completely forgot the salt!  Rookie mistake. UGH!


The salt obviously affected the flavor, but I don’t know if it affected the rising and popping of the rolls.  They definitely rose over the sides of the cups, and released nicely.  They were light and airy, but I think they could have baked longer– they seemed a tad wet in the center.  It was just so weird to bite into a hollow biscuit.  I didn’t get a lot of the spice flavors, maybe the cumin a little bit.  I would say they were bland at best; even sprinkling salt over them post-baking only livened them up a little.  I will try again, but I think I will add cheese and go heavy on herbs or spices.  I’d also like to try smaller sized popovers, so I may use muffin cups and fill them only halfway.  Verdict: not a complete fail, but not necessarily a recipe that’s going to get a lot of replay here.  Also, take the 3 hour room temperature rule to heart.  I left my leftovers out (in a plastic airtight container) in the dining room and they were moldy 2 days later.