It’s that time of year! Yep, berry season and that means pie. Even health nuts need to indulge every now and then (moderation is the key). There is no better way to take advantage of fresh berries than pie. This comes from someone who believes there are two types of people – cake lovers and pie lovers (I’m a pie love in case you couldn’t guess). At the heart of every great pie, is a perfect crust. It makes or breaks it, in my humble opinion and there aint no filling that can save a bad crust. So, I bring you….the perfect crust!

It’s taken me years to get the hang of a good crust. I started baking when I was just a kid and I found something therapeutic about it. When I was a teenager my mom bought me a cookbook and started letting me go to town. I thought I was pretty top-notch – cooking new dinners and special treats. Then, I found something I wasn’t good at (downright terrible in fact). Pie crust was my Achilles heel. It had me in tears and carrying on like a two-year old with a broken toy. My first attempt was so hard that we literally took turns throwing it across the kitchen like a frisbee cause it was so hard. I was making the classic mistake of over fondling the dough. After an exhausting number of attempts (I was not letting the crust win!), I finally bought myself a pastry cutter and adopted the “less is more” philosophy. Once that liquid hits the crust, the less you can touch it to mix in the water (or milk if that’s your style), the better. I have gotten to the point now where I more or less toss the dry ingredients with the pastry cutter until the water has moistened everything.

Now, my grandma was one of the best cooks I know and she could bake like there was no tomorrow. She made it her business to know a good crust. She even baked pies for a good ol’ country-style restaurant. Her trade secret was Crisco shortening. I too used Crisco for years and did her proud too. I can fondly remember the time I made a strawberry-raspberry-rhubarb pie when she came to visit. We were all so full from dinner, that no one had room for pie. I insisted that her and my grandpa couldn’t leave unless they at least took some home with them. A few hours later, she called just to tell me how amazing my pie crust was. I beamed with joy to know that I had finally overcome my battle with pie crust.

One day though, I learned the truth about my beloved Crisco shortening….soybean oil and fully hydrogenated palm oil! Oh sweet mercy! I couldn’t put that in my body once I learned the truth. It’s a slippery slope when you start reading ingredients…between the health impacts of soy (to get you started on soy:http://www.naturalnews.com/053251_soy_health_risks_pesticides.html)  and hydrogenated oils (not to mention the poor orangutans losing habitat to the palm industry), it was over for me. I had to find a better alternative and it was in my cupboard all along – coconut oil.

Coconut oil has so many uses, it’s endless. It also has several health benefits. So, that was it. I was using coconut oil. With a few tweaks here and there, I found just the right combo to make my pie crust pop (not to mention organic). Oh sweet victory! Once I was able to substitute the shortening, I adapted the Crisco recipe in honor of my grandma. I use all organic ingredients whenever possible in my recipes and I encourage you to do so as well. If you are vegan or have an allergy to butter, simply substitute the butter for coconut oil. I like the taste of butter myself (mmmm….butter).  I’m not going to lie, this can be a tricky crust because its sooo flaky, but it’s worth it. Don’t despair if it cracks a little or breaks some while you are moving it. Just squish those pieces back together the best you can and enjoy the taste over appearance.




Perfect Pie Crust Recipe



2 C Flour

¾ tsp Salt

½ C Coconut Oil (solid or chilled)

¼ C Butter (chilled)

3-6 Tbps Ice Water



Mix flour and salt until blended well. Using a pastry cutter, cut in coconut oil and butter (If your coconut oil is liquid make sure that you chill it first or it won’t work well.) until the mixture is fine. Sprinkle in the first 3 tablespoons of ice water and toss mixture until it’s all coated. Add more water as needed until the whole mixture is moist and sticks together. Be careful not to over work the dough or it will become too hard.

Divide the dough in half and shape into balls. Lay out parchment paper and flour it (I like using parchment because it’s easier to move the dough when finished.). Flour both sides of the dough and rolling pin. Roll out dough, dusting it and rolling pin as needed to prevent sticking. Don’t over flour though or the dough will become too dry. When it is the desired size, carefully flip the dough into pie plate. Pour in filling. Repeat process with other dough ball for the top. Pinch edges together around the pie. Make cuts in the top to allow air to escape and bake pie according to filling directions.


*To prevent edges from becoming too dark, cover with foil. This recipe is for a double crust.

*If the crust breaks apart when moving it, just pinch it back together when in place.

Cover picture provided by: globe-views.com

Published by JM Sayles