Unfortunately, I married and moved a thousand miles away without getting that recipe and the special instructions that probably went along with it. I lived closer to my in-laws then and, as luck would have it, they had owned a small town bakery, so I asked them for their recipe. What I got was a ratio; otherwise I would have wound up with a recipe beginning, “fifty pounds of flour…” It went like this: half as much shortening as flour, half as much water as shortening.
It took a few years, but I finally got the hang of it. I also discovered the proper ratio of salt (a scant teaspoon per two cups of flour), the advantage of ice water rather than plain tap water (it makes the crust flakier), and the need to handle the dough as little as possible if you want to be able to eat it instead of use it as a Frisbee.
I still have a little difficulty passing this recipe along. You see, flour changes according to the humidity. If it has soaked up moisture from the air, it will take less water. How do you tell? By the way it feels. How does it feel? Here the problem lies. When everything is right, it feels right, that’s how you tell. But how does “right” feel? It feels like pie crust dough that is “right.” There is no way to describe it if you haven’t ever put your hands in it before.
The same thing happens when I am trying to help a person with just about any recipe—biscuits, cookie dough, cake batter, gravy, cream sauce—when it’s right, you know it. In fact, when teaching someone to make gravy or béchamel, I have to take the spoon from them into my hand and give it a stir so I can feel it in order to really know. That’s why I never make my pastry crust in a food processor—I can’t feel it!
The trick is to do it over and over and over for years. That’s how you know what “right” is. Yes, you must have a good recipe, but even a good recipe can turn out wrong if you are not familiar with it.
Do you want to know how to avoid false doctrine? It has nothing to do with studying every possible false teaching out there. You would have no time for it. What you do is study the real thing over and over and over for years. Then when the false one comes along it won’t feel quite the same, and you will suddenly catch yourself saying, “Unh, unh. Something’s not right here.” Because you are so familiar with what “right” is, you will have far less trouble seeing what “wrong” is.
Learning the facts may seem formalistic. It may seem like our religion is lacking some “heart.” Don’t be so quick to judge. Some of the people most likely to be taken captive by false prophets are those who love the whir and excitement of “food processor” religion. “Wow! Look at it go. Look how fast it comes together. This must surely be the real thing.” It is certainly more rousing than watching someone cut a cup of shortening into 2 cups of flour with a handheld pastry blender, up and down, over and over, for several tedious minutes. But that food processor religion is more likely to be tough and overworked or wet and hard to handle, while the handmade religion will separate into flaky layers of depth, and rival the filling itself for the starring role.
There is no short cut for this kind of experience. If it takes years of handling pastry crust to reach this level of comfortable, secure familiarity, God’s word certainly won’t be any easier, but what should we expect? God didn’t write pulp fiction.
And this I pray that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and all discernment; so that you may distinguish the things that differ; that you may be sincere and void of offence unto the day of Christ; being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are through Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God, Phil 1:9-11.