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I'm interested in trying to make this "water whip" pie crust. Unlike a typical pie crust where lard/butter/shortening is cut into the flour, the shortening is apparently melted and whipped before the flour is added. I'm curious to try it. But the method will only work with a particular brand of shortening (allegedly):

It's Spry's easy "Water-Whip" Method.... This time-saving method is possible only because Spry is homogenized -- pre-creamed to mix directly with liquids.

The recipe is from ~1950 and Spry shortening isn't around anymore. I am wondering whether another shortening (Crisco, etc.) would work in its place, or perhaps even another fat (butter, lard) -- is there really something special about Spry, or was that just a marketing claim?

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Note that this recipe is the manufacturer's take on one standard recipe, called the Boiling Water Pie Crust. See, for example: allrecipes.com/recipe/boiling-water-pie-crust – SAJ14SAJ May 16 '13 at 9:30
    
Or sometimes Hot Water Pie Crust. – SAJ14SAJ May 16 '13 at 9:34
up vote 2 down vote accepted

There is no way to know what they meant when they said "homogenized" - this really sounds like marketing-speak.

But if you are trying to whip shortening with water, you will need emulsifiers. I could imagine that the Spry already had them in. The "With cake improver" sentence in the can also points in this direction, as cake improver often contains lecithine.

You can try normal vegetable shortening. If it does not whip but stays separated from the water (it will probably break up into tiny droplets swimming on the surface under the mixer, but if you let it sit around for a few minutes, they will start coalescing into larger droplets, with the tendency to join into a single oily layer on top of the water), then throw it out and make a second batch, but add an emulsifier to the water first. Lecithine, xanthan, or guar will all work. Then you will get a really whipped shortening, something of a poor man's hollandaise. Work this with your flour.

You must be aware that while the crust made this way will be tender, it won't be flaky. A flaky crust is flaky because it is made from two different textures, the flour-fat mixture and the flour-water mixture, and they separate each other in sheets after kneading. If you mix the water and fat into a whip first, you will not get any flakes. You will get a shortbread crust, which is fine - it tends to be the standard pie crust in continental Europe. But if your goal is flaky, then you should follow the traditional cutting method, Kenji's easy flaky method, or the traditional boiling method.

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While Spry made marketing claims, their product does not appear to have been terribly unique. The current category leader in the US, Crisco, lists its ingredietns as SOYBEAN OIL, FULLY HYDROGENATED PALM OIL, PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED PALM AND SOYBEAN OILS, MONO AND DIGLYCERIDES, TBHQ AND CITRIC ACID (ANTIOXIDANTS). Note that the mono- and diglycerides are emulsifiers and are already an ingredient in the shortening. – SAJ14SAJ May 16 '13 at 8:49
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@SAJ14SAJ I don't know much about shortening ingredients, either today or historically. I don't know if the amount of emulsifiers will be enough for it to whip with water. But the test I propose should be enough to solve any doubts - if it whips, everything is OK, if it doesn't, just add more emulsifier. – rumtscho May 16 '13 at 8:58
    
Given the application--being immediately mixed into the flour--it almost certainly doesn't matter. The mechanical agitation will leave it sufficiently mixed for long enough to be incorporated, much like a shaken salad dressing that is not truly emuslified. Once in the flour, the water will get absorbed anyway. Note that at least one blogger does attest it works with Crisco. – SAJ14SAJ May 16 '13 at 9:02

The blogger at The Simple Front Porch recommends the recipe, using Crisco in lieu of the Spry's.

This vintage advertisement shows a drawing of the can, which is clearly labeled "pure vegetable shortening." The homogenized is clearly marketing speak--after all, any pure vegetable shortening is going to be very homogeneous.

enter image description here

It was obviously simply a competitor in the market now dominated by Crisco (at least in the US).

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Hahaha, good point, I wonder what a non-homogenous shortening would even look like! – Erica May 16 '13 at 0:03

Homogenized means homogenized. All milk has been homogenized for 50 years. It's so common you don't hear the term anymore. It's a process of breaking down the fat particles so they stay in suspension. In other words you don't want the product to separate. Shortening would separate if not homogenized. All shortenings, as we know them, are homogenized. I remember shortening that wasn't homogenized and when you opened the can, it had separated into water and oil and solids.

Spring came out 30 years before Crisco. Crisco is the new comer on the block. Spry in the 20's. Crisco in the 50's. Spry is still made and distributed in England, but not in the US anymore.

In the 50's, when Crisco came out, many women tried it just to see. They ALL went back to their Spry. Spry was the superior product.

To answer your question, yes, you can use Crisco for the hot water method. In fact, the hot water method was preferable up until quite recently. Somewhere along in the 70's and 80's TV chefs made you feel guilty if you weren't using the cold water method.

Pie crusts for centuries used the hot water method.

Cold water will give you a flakier crust, but that is a train load of more information. The hot water method was preferred because it was less tricky. It gave more consistent results. My grandmother never attempted cold water until I managed to do it in the 60's, and subsequently showed her. I was not the better cook, I got lucky.

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This is informative, but also really rude to other people who are answering. So -1 even though you did eventually answer my question. – Erica Apr 19 at 21:41
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The number one rule on Stack Exchange sites is "be nice". Please keep that in mind when answering and asking questions. Consistently ignoring this rule can prevent you from retaining access to the site. – Catija Apr 19 at 21:53

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