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Prepared pie crusts

By Leigh Lambert
Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Members of the Food staff and a few other committed Post colleagues tasted store-bought frozen pie shells and roll-out refrigerated doughs to see whether any brands are worth using in a pinch.

The short answer: They are not.

We baked identical pumpkin pie filling in 16 crusts purchased at area grocery stores. No crust scored higher than a 2.3 out of a possible top score of 5. The most common complaints were a lack of flavor and a flabby consistency. The most obvious reason the crusts lack flavor is that most of them contain no butter.

We were pretty sure nothing could match a from-scratch crust, but we were willing to be surprised. We weren't.

The two top-ranked crusts were of the roll-out variety. They have the advantage of fitting into your own pie plate for a more homemade look -- provided you want to claim any pie with a store-bought crust as your own.

If the results of our taste test inspire you to make your own crust, we recommend Rose Levy Beranbaum's Flaky Cream Cheese Pie Crust. The recipe gives detailed directions for first-timers and reassurance for those of us who dust off our pie-baking skills only once or twice a year.

Here are the results, including scores. The crusts were sold unbaked and in reusable aluminum pie plates unless otherwise noted.

TOPS (in order)

Giant (roll-out), 2.3
(two 9-inch crusts, 15 ounces total, $2)
Tasters' comments: The crust actually has flakes . . . The taste isn't buttery, but it tries . . . Closer to homemade . . . Saltier than others, but at least flavor.

Wegmans (roll-out),
2.2 (two 9-inch crusts, 15 ounces total, $2.49)
Tasters' comments: Biscuity crumble on edge, but gummy on bottom . . . Flaky but bland.

Safeway, 2
(two 9-inch crusts, 15 ounces total, $3.19)
Tasters' comments: The rim stayed crisp, but the bottom deteriorated to a thick, unpalatable slab . . . A little dense, but has more-even flavor than most of the crusts.

Wholly Wholesome regular flour, 2
(two 9-inch crusts, 14 ou nces total, $2.99 )
Tasters' comments: Floury aftertaste . . . Has some flavor of butter and salt . . . A bit chemical . . . Bland, but decent texture.

MIDDLE OF THE PACK

Pet-Ritz, 1.9
(two 9-inch crusts, 10 ounces total, $2.79)

Giant, 1.8
(two 9-inch crusts, 15 ounces total, $2)

Harris Teeter, 1.8
(two 9-inch crusts, 15 ounces total, $1.97)

Oronoque Orchards, 1.5
(two 9-inch crusts, 16 ounces total, $4.29)

Marie Callender's, 1.4
(two 9-inch crusts, 16 ounces total, $4.29)

NOT RECOMMENDED

Mrs. Smith's, Pillsbury (roll- out), Dufour, Harris Teeter (roll-out), Wholly Wholesome spelt, Wholly Wholesome whole-wheat, Gillian's.

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