Better Than Butter?

As Strunk and White somehow failed to say about newspaper articles, complimenting your mother-in-law in the first paragraph is not a good way to build credibility with readers, especially if you’re proposing something incredible. So I was suspicious when the Oregonian’s Danielle Centoni began her story on pie crusts by saying, “My mother-in-law, Cathy, is beloved for many reasons, not least of which is her apple pie.”

But as Centoni explains, she had her in-laws over for Thanksgiving recently and wandered into the kitchen to spy on her mother-in-law’s pie-making method:

I noticed she had the olive oil out.

‘What’s the oil for?’ I asked.

‘For the pie,’ she said.

I was confused.

‘Do you put it in the topping?’

‘No, the crust.’

Centoni’s bewildered. As she writes, “How could that possibly make flaky layers?” It turns out that the oil crust is adapted from a seriously old-school pie crust recipe from a Better Homes and Gardens cookbook: Mix oil, flour, water; roll out. And as she points out, that only seems unusual in the context of our regimented pie-crust rule book: In Mediterranean cooking, olive oil is used frequently in doughs and crusts. Plus, there’s no saturated fat in olive-oil crusts, and there’s less total fat, period. That said, as cookbook author Flo Braker admits, there’s also, well, less flavor.

The story’s reminiscent of this New York Times profile (registration required) of a cook who uses liquid lard for crusts—although I’d figure that has no flavor problems whatsoever. Slashfood’s excited about the concept and tracks down this savory olive-oil pie crust that’s even made using a recipe from Colavita’s website. Who knew?

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