By your pie, this holiday season, you shall be judged | On The Side | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

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By your pie, this holiday season, you shall be judged

Fear not: There's some easier ways to make a pie crust

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Holiday pies used to be something grandma made, or dad pulled out of the freezer section. Now, in these artisanal times, from-scratch pies are de rigueur at any gathering, and yet another way for foodies to get judge-y, especially about your crust.

A classic pie crust can be tricky, and novice pastry makers can be undone by the assorted "secrets," such as ice water (or hot water), which shortening to use, to roll or pat, and the politics of lard.

Speaking of lard, pie purists love it for the flaky pastry it delivers, but it can be tough to find. Supermarkets stash it in meat, dairy, the freezer near the chitterlings. (Asking after it once, I was directed to the kosher fridge, where the block of pig fat was unlikely to be.) Strip District Meats carries block lard.

A fruit-tart-style shortbread crust (butter, flour, sugar) is easier, and if goes wrong, you can eat it as a cookie.

Speaking of cookies, crumbled up fine and combined with melted butter, they make an excellent "cheater's crust." Graham crackers make a good base for cream-type pies, and so do ginger snaps. (Put cookies in a clean bag, and kids can help smash them with hammer. Fun!) Consider tossing in crushed nuts (almonds, walnuts or pecans), pretzels or pine nuts for an even more flavorful crust.

And honestly, it's not a crime to purchase a pre-made pie shell. It can be your secret, and simply add more whipped cream on top to compensate.

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