Quite a few questions from some confused American readers on the pork pie crust recipe: is there no “cutting in” step? I thought pie crusts couldn’t stand water. And what’s with all the mixing? Won’t it end up rather tough with lots of developed gluten in it?
All very valid concerns from an American pie maker’s perspective. Our crusts aren’t built to stand up on their own. Rather they’re made to be fall-apart flaky, thus we take extreme measures to deprive our crusts of moisture and ensure that the fat isn’t evenly distributed.
British crusts by comparison are made to be tough. People only recently started eating the things, remember. Before that durability was prized over almost all else. Cornish pasties are a great example of this principle. I once went to a festival in Cornwall where the prize pie was not only delicious, it could survive a 30-foot fall into a waiting tin miner’s hands. Try that with an American fruit pie at a county fair. You’ll never get the blueberry stains out of your clothes.
So this is the reason for all the mixing, even distribution of fat and copious amounts of water or milk. You still get a very nice crust, it’s just made according to a different set of standards than our own. In Britain they expect the pie crust to resist a bit when it’s bitten. And that’s OK.