Yesterday my girls participated in the 5th Grade Science Fair.
It is a joy to have two daughters who share many of my interests…. they love to sew, they love to watch “Jane Eyre” and “Dial M for Murder” with me. And they also love to bake.
So when we were wading through ideas for the Science Fair, they were thrilled to come across food experiment ideas. And after excited discussion, they decided on the question: “Which fat makes the best pie?”
Well of course, this mama was supremely confident in the outcome…
My girls shared my bias since they’ve made pies with me ever since they were old enough to help in the kitchen.
Here was their hypothesis:
“We think that lard will make the best pie, because our Great-Grandmother, our Grandmother, and our Mother all make their pies with lard. Their pies are really good.”
To test our theory we made 6 pies together. 3 Banana cream pies – each using one of the pie fats and 3 pumpkin pies – again one of each pie fat.
The recipe was the same for each pie, the only change was the fat.
We took notes making each pie. The lard and the shortening were similarly easy to make. The butter was not easy to cut the cold fat into the flour. The butter was also more fiddly to work in the liquid and roll out the crust.
When all the pies were made, we invited some friends over for a blind taste test.
The girls gave each of our testers a slice of pie from each pie- A, B, and C and a test sheet. They rated each pie on a scale of 1-5, 5 being best. The girls decided the categories should be flakiness, flavor, looks, texture and strength.
When the results were calculated, I think my jaw dropped.
Guess what pie fat won?
I didn’t guess it that’s for sure.
While my favorite fat, lard, won on flakiness, the shortening pie was the hands down winner in every other category.
The butter crust was a dismal last place.
The results were so surprising for me, I’d like to do more experiments… my own test kitchens to find my perfect pie crust.
But for now I’ll just have to serve myself up a slice of humble pie… made with shortening.