Preparing a perfect pie crust is like plowing through a jigsaw puzzle - the kind with 1,000 pieces.

To complete either project seems to require an inherited skill.Puzzle prowess must be connected to some unknown spiral of DNA. Every time I ponder jigsaw pieces, I clearly recall visions of the many-sided boxes tipping in every direction - the boxes from the high school IQ tests. Years later, the spatial-relations test remains a haunting memory.

I suffer the same pangs of impossibility when I pursue pastry. Pastry skill seems to be attached to that same double-helix DNA configuration - the one I missed.

Yet the pastry gene runs in my family.

My mom produced pie after pie, but I best remember the cinnamon-sugar-glazed pastry scraps, still flaky as leftovers.

Grandma Mary put out a lemon meringue pie with a perfect crumble-in-your-mouth crust.

My sister Gayle makes a raspberry pie I'd walk to Mapleton to eat.

Then my mother-in-law, Avis Allen, shared her pies . . . she must have boxes of blue-ribbon awards for her crust. The folks at Crisco ought to invest in Grandma Allen's recipes.

In the face of all this competition, I finally found a successful alternative.

I'm terrific at graham cracker crusts. Chocolate or vanilla wafers and a bit of butter are my best friends. Filling a crumb crust with a custard or cream layer makes its own statement - I can whip up a wonderful pie.

And now, thanks to my neighbor Sue Anderson's recipe, I can make an apple pie in a paper bag that's as good as the real thing.

Pastry production is perplexing, yet palatable pies are possible with other types of crusts.

Deseret News readers suggested a wide variety of alternatives to pastry: spaghetti, rice, hash browns, hamburger, crackers, cookie crumbs, cheese, cornmeal and cookie-dough crusts.

Each alternative group of ingredients molded easily into a pie pan and then came out of the pan in a whole wedge. Gone was the saga of the pastry stuck to the cloth, the collapse of the pastry during transfer to the pie pan or the inevitable flop of the filling onto the plate.

Main dish, appetizer or dessert pie fillings complement a wide selection of crust ingredients.

Try some of our reader's solutions to the pie crust puzzle problem. You'll find the pieces fit comfortably together.


Recipes listed:

Pumpkin Crunch Cream Pie

Robbie's Ice Cream Pie

Coconut Chocolate Chiffon Pie

Frosty Ice Cream Pie

Cranberry Cream Pie

Apple-cheese Tarts

Spaghetti Pie

Peppermint Surprise

Ice Cream Pie