This is the wedding photo of my grandmother Dora’s younger sister, Dava Barbaresi, taken sometime in the early 1940’s. Dora [Barbaresi] Donroe was her maid-of-honor. Dava’s husband, Eddie Apuzzo, and Dora’s husband, Freddie Donroe, were best friends. On the far right is my great grandfather, George Barbaresi. On the far left, I’m not sure, but it looks like maybe a brother of Eddie’s. The young men, as well as Freddie, were getting ready to ship out with the military, headed for Europe during World War II.
Dava was the baker in the family. She used this pie crust for her famous rice and Italian cream pies. The crust, I was told by Dava’s daughter, Roseann, is temperamental, and no one in the family has been able to master it. After my first attempt, it was clear that I hadn’t mastered it, either. Unless Dava’s technique happened to involve causing the dough to fall apart into a million pieces and then pressing them into the pie dish in a perturbed fashion. Could that have been it?
So, I’ve taken some liberties to make the recipe easier to work with. My apologies in advance for inserting a food processor into an otherwise vintage recipe. Also, under normal circumstances, you want to handle your pie dough as little as possible so the gluten doesn’t develop and cause the crust to toughen up. But, in this case, I found that gently kneading the dough really helps the eggs to incorporate and allows just enough gluten to develop to hold everything together. It also improved the texture, making the finished crust flakier.
Anyway, it meets my specs as far as crusts go, but I’ll need someone else in the family to try this and see if the crust tastes the way you remember it. The rice pie filling is coming up next week and, by god, if you do decide to try it, make sure your wills are in order.
Italian Sweet Crust
3 cups flour
¾ cup sugar
3 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. nutmeg
¼ tsp. cinnamon
¾ cup shortening, cut into medium hunks
2 tsp. vanilla
By hand: In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and spices. Cut in shortening.
In a food processor: Mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and spices. Add shortening and, using the on/off turns, pulse 10-12 times until the shortening pieces are the size of peas. Dump mixture into a bowl.
Make a well in the ingredients, and add eggs and vanilla. Fluff until eggs are incorporated. Knead gently until dough is smooth. If you’re worried you overdid it, just wrap in plastic wrap and set in the refrigerator for a half hour to relax the gluten. Dough will be soft. Cut into three parts. Roll as a pie crust.
Dava [Barbaresi] Catone
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