Woman’s Home Companion Cook Book – Part 14

Woman’s Home Companion Cook Book – Part 14

It is just short of 5 months since I shared a chapter from our ever loved book; The Woman’s Home Companion Book Book.  I think half the reason is due to the fact that we are nearing the end of the book so I am trying to make it last.

The chapter on Pastry reads:

“Even in the movies people like pies; but here our concern is with pastry to be eaten, not tossed at comedians.  It is saddening instead of funny that, in homes as well as in restaurants, the great American yearning for pie is so often thwarted by pastry that armorplates a delicious filling.  Sometimes the cruel crust is of the anaemic variety, place, underbaked, in need of a little healthy oven-tan.  Or it may be of the cardboard type, thick and doughy, of unappealing texture and lacking in flavor because it has been cheated on shortening.  Or it may be tough and leathery, requiring main force to pry it apart.  In the last case the cook has used too much water, or worked so hard in mixing that the eater must work, too.

In happy contrast, good pastry is tinted golden brown, with a blistered surface.  It is light, crisp and flaky, tender enough to break easily, but not so tender that it crumbles when cut.  Undercrusts should never resist the fork, but neither should they be soggy absorbers of filling.

This hight standard is achieved by combining ingredients in the proper proportions, by chilling and careful handling of the dough and by watchful baking.  Recipes which follow were carefully tested to give you the best of many methods, but in no other baking is your own manipulation of materials so important as it is in pastry-making.


Flour, slat, shortening and water are the basic ingredients of pastry,  Others may be added in special instances – herbs in meat-pie crusts; spices, chopped nuts, grated orange or lemon rind or fruit juice in place of part or all of the water in the crusts for pumpkin or fruit pies; sugar in pastry shells and the crusts for dep-dish fruit pies; grated cheese to take the place of part of the shortening in apple-pie crusts.

Shortening:  Vegetable shortening, lard or vegetable oil may be used in pastry.  If vegetable oil is used a special procedure is recommenced.  If an extra flaky crust is desired the shortening should be well chilled.

Lard makes a very short or tender crust, but its flavor is objectionable to some people.  Certain brands of lard, however, are now given  a special treatment which makes the flavor less strong and improves the texture and keeping qualities.

Chicken fat produces a tender and beautifully brown crust, but its distinctive flavor is more suitable for meat-pie crust than for dessert pastries.  It should be rendered over hot water, strained and thoroughly chilled before using – then handled quickly, for it liquefies at room temperature.

Vegetable shortenings, with their bland flavor and creamy texture at room temperature, are suitable for all types of pastry.

Butter, unless used in large proportions and given special treatment as in puff paste, tends to make a hard brittle crust.  But a little butter may be added for flavor. brush butter melted and cooled over the surface of the pastry after it has been rolled and placed in the pan.

Flour:  All-purpose flour is very satisfactory for pastry; the recipes in this chapter are based upon it.  One cup of sifted all-purpose flour to 1/3 cup of shortening is the proportion which gives the ideal crust if manipulation and baking are correctly done.  When pastry flour is used the proportion of flour to shortening can make the difference between a crisp tender flaky crust and those that fall short of this ideal.  To little shortening make a thick doughy crust; too much makes a too-delicate crust.

Water:  With too little water the dough will be crumbly and will not hold together when rolled; with too much it will be sricky and hard to roll, and as the proportion of water is increased the finished pastry will be increasingly tough.  About 3 tablespoons of water to 1 cup fo all purpose flour and 1.3 cup of shortening is the correct proportion.


Standard Method:  Correct mixing is as important as correct proportions of ingredients.  The flour and salt should be mixed and the shortening cut in with a pastry blender or two tables knives.  Cutting the shortening in very thoroughly gives a tender crust, cutting it in coarsely a flaky one; the manipulation described under plain pastry suggests that half of the shortening be cut in until the mixture resembles corn meal – this for tenderness; and the remaining half be cut in only until the particles of fat are about the size of navy beans – this for flakiness.

The water should be sprinkled a little at a time over the surface of the flour and fat mixture, then blended by pressing the wet particles of flour together and tossing them to one side while a dry portion is sprinkled,  Never use a stirring motion.  The tines of a fork rather than a spoon should be used for this purpose.

When the dough has all been moistened it should be gathered together in a ball with a fork or fingers, then pressed together, avoiding a kneading motion.  An easy way to do this is to turn the dough out on a piece of waxed paper, wrap it up and press.

Too much mixing or too much handling after the water has been added makes a tough crust with a smooth pale surface.

The dough may be rolled out immediately or it may be chilled before rolling.  Chilling helps to make a flakier pastry.  Care should be taken, however, not to overchill it, especially it it is put into a mechanical refrigerator.  Twenty minutes to a half-hour should be enough.

New Method:  A recently developed method for mixing pastry features an exact measurement for the water.  The standard method necessarily leaves the amount of water to personal judgement – not always an accurate guide.  In the new method the water is combined with part of the four to make paste, the fat is combined with remaining flour by the standard method, then the two mixtures are combined, taking care to avoid overmanipluation.


Deft, light strokes of the rolling pin and not too much flour on the board are the essentials.  Place a ball of pastry dough on a board lightly floured to prevent sticking.  A correctly mixed pastry may still be turned into a tough streaked doughy crust by letting it take up too much flour from the rolling board.  A pastry cloth or heavy canvas  cover for the board and a stockinet cover for the rolling pin take all the risks out of rolling pastry.  Flour canvas and stockinet liberally – more flour may be used than with the uncovered board and rolling pin because the flour sticks to the canvas so that less is taken up into the pastry.

Roll quickly and lightly, always from the centre out, until the dough is about an eighth of an inch thick.  As the rolling pin approaches the edge of the dough on each stroke, it should be lifted, never rolled over the edge.  Rolling over the edge makes the edge too thin, hence gives it a tendency to split.  Any split that does occur should be pinched together before the rolling is continued.

If the dough stick to the board it should be loosened with a spatula slipped under it and a little flour sprinkled on the spot.  the dough should be lifted frequently during the rolling, but should not be turned over.

Panning Piecrust

When the dough has been rolled to a shape and size to fit the pan in which it is to be baked, fold it in half and lift it carefully into the pan, with the fold in the centre (a very large piece of dough may be folder in half again before lifting).

Unfold the dough and fit it loosely into the pan, taking care to make it fit snugly into the seam where the sides and bottom of the pan join.  Stretching the dough in the pan will make a pastry shell shrink during baking.  When the dough fits properly, pat it all over its surface to eliminate any air pockets underneath – a little ball of dough is useful for this.  Then the edges should be cut according to the kind of pie.


Pastry Shell:  Prick the pastry shell with a fork to allow the escape of any air between crust and pan.  Bake on the upper shelf of an oven preheated to 450 °F to set the edges quickly and prevent the shell from shrinking.  Transfer to the lower shelf of the oven after the crust is et if the edges are in danger of getting too brown before the rest of the crust is baked.

If the shell bulges during the first moments of baking despite the preliminary pricking, prick it again and it will lie flat.  Once the pastry has set it will l not bulge.

Another way to prevent bulging is to place a second pie pan of the same size inside the pastry-lined pan  – or a double layer of dried beans will hold the pastry flat.  The pie pan or beans should be removed before the shell is fully baked to allow the bottom to crisp.

Filled Pies:  Pies filled before baking should be baked on the lower shelf of an oven preheated to 425°F to allow the filling to cook through before the crust is too brown.  Brushing the top of a double-crust pie with milk or diluted egg yolk will give it a rich brown color when baked.

The greatest problem in baking pies with a soft filling, such as custard, pumpkin, and fruit, is the prevention of a soggy undercrust.  The method which work best with the least trouble are the following:

Custard Pies:  Have the shell thoroughly chilled before putting in the filling.  Having the filling hot and put it in the shell at the last moment before the pie goes into the oven.

Fruit Pies:  Mix the flour and sugar in the proportions recommended in the individual recipes.  Spread half of the mixture over the bottom of the pastry-lined pan.  Add the fruit and sprinkle the remainder of the flour-sugar mixture on top.  the flour and sugar under the fruit catches the juices of the fruit as they run out and thickens them before they are soaked up by the pastry.”

So there you have it, everything you will ever need to know about making pastry.  The chapter has 29 pages of wonderful recipes ranging from grape pies to rhubarb meringue pies and orange custard pies plus loads of tarts and specialitiy pastries.


32 thoughts on “Woman’s Home Companion Cook Book – Part 14

  1. I just made a very fast pastry for the old Codgers Dutch Apple pie. Thank goodness i did not read this first .. so much to take in. and I do make mine with butter which was a no no back then i guess. but I am generous with the butter in pastry, ah well.. i cannot bring myself to use lard, i should try it though.. I love this book too.. what a great chapter.. thank you mandy.c

  2. 5 months, Mandy? Are your sure? Well, that’s why Spring/Summer flew by. May yours go more slowly!
    This book may be from another time but the instructions still hold. You know I enjoy these posts and thanks for sharing another section.

    • I had to double check John but yip, nearly 5 months it is – scary stuff. Oh John, I do hope that when Spring/Summer FINALLY arrives that it will be around for a long while. I promise not to wait 5 months before sharing the next chapter. Have a beautiful weekend. 🙂

  3. There’s nothing like an old cooking book. I love the language and the way they assume there’re certain things that we should already know because we are housewives after all 😉
    Thanks for sharing!

    • I wonder if you would still be able to source on of these books Belle – it was printed long before ISBN’s so not sure if it will be available – I would love to hear if you do find one. Good luck. Have a super week ahead. 🙂

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