Food Lab: Pumpkin pie (frozen pie crust vs. from scratch & canned pumpkin pie filling vs. canned pumpkin)

Part 1: Pie crust

Pie crust #1: tenderflake_c
Tenderflake frozen pie crust.
Available in the freezer section of most grocery stores.

 

Pie crust #2:
Pie crust made from scratch.

piecrust_scratchIngredients:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup shortening, chilled
3 Tbsp ice water

Directions:
  1. Whisk the flour and salt together in a medium size bowl. With a pastry blender cut in the cold shortening until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Drizzle 2 to 3 tablespoons ice water over flour. Toss mixture with a fork to moisten, adding more water a few drops at a time until the dough comes together.
  2. Gently gather dough particles together into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes before rolling.
  3. Roll out dough, and put in a pie plate. Fill with desired filling and bake.
As you can see, making your own pie crust is a lot more involved than buying a frozen pie crust at the grocery store. Frozen pie crust aren’t that expensive ($2.99 for two) and you’ll save considerable time and effort. Home made pie crust only takes pennies to make in comparison from a cost of ingredients perspective (however, keep in mind that you’ll still need tools like a rolling pin and pie pan on hand plus a little bit of skill). However, judging by the end results, if you’re a pie crust snob, it’s worth the extra effort. The crust is flakier, more tender and less oily. But there are some people who actually preferred the frozen pie crust (thinking it was home made). It turns out, that it really depends on personal preference.Here are some side by side comparisons between the two pie crusts:
Frozen pie crust…
tenderflake_c
Home made pie crust…
piecrust_homemade
…just fill and bake…
piecrust_tenderflake
…roll out, shape and bake…
piecrust_homemade2
 pie crust is small and not as deep – some food waste

piecrust_tenderflake_filling

pie crust is slighter bigger and deeper – no food waste

piecrust_homemade_filling

side by side – empty  side by side – filled
piecrust_compare piecrust_filling_compare

 

I found this to be the most interesting part of the experiment in that Tenderflake indicates that their pie crust is 9 inches in diameter but if you compare it against the 8 3/4 inch pie pan that I used, it definitely looks smaller. This is because it measures 9 inches in diameter from rim to rim whereas the pie pan I bought measures 8 3/4 from the lip of the pan but measures 9 1/4 inches from rim to rim. The pie pan I bought was also slightly deeper and was able to take all the filling that was prepared resulting in no food wastage. (Note: Tenderflake does carry a “Deep Dish” variety. I will make a point to choose that one next time).

The results:
The taste test results indicated that while more people preferred the home made pie crust, an almost equal number of people preferred the frozen pie crust over the home made one. In fact, some people mistakened the Tenderflake frozen pie crust for the home made one. It looks like Tenderflake makes a pretty good product.

 

Part 2: Pie Filling
Filling #1:
1 can (540 mL) pumpkin pie filling
1/3 cup evapourated milk
1 egg
pumpkin_piefilling

Filling #2:
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
2 eggs
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt

pumpkin_canned

 

The results:

There was no contest with this one. The canned pumpkin was the clear winner from a texture, flavour and appearance standpoint. If you have a choice between using canned pumpkin or canned pumpkin pie filling, choose canned pumpkin and do the extra step of adding the additional ingredients – it’s definitely worth it!

The bottom line:
If you want to save time and take shortcuts, use a frozen pie crust but use canned pumpkin for the filling (not canned pumpkin pie filling).