I’ve been baking pies since the nineties, as well as sweating over making my own pie crust. But I am here today to tell you how silly it is to fear something that is so simple to make. I’m writing this post not just for you, but for me as well. Because even though I finally feel like I can do it — make my own darn good pie crust, I’m telling you, that the very next time I decide to bake a pie, I’m going to sweat a little.
What is it that has so many home bakers so nervous? I can’t tell you how often I hear, especially at this time of year, “I can’t make pie crust.” You can. And so can I, make really great pie crust that’s flaky and tasty. Now let’s get on with our flaky, tasty bad selves and get over our pie crust making fears once and for all!
Let’s begin with vodka and the genius’ behind the Cooks’ Illustrated Foolproof Pie Dough that appeared in the November 2007 issue. Now, full disclosure here…I never actually saw this issue, but I did hear about it around the foodie water cooler.
It seems that a little vodka added when mixing the pie crust will boost the crust’s flakiness, and that good pie crust can really use the extra liquid when bringing the dough together. Unlike water, however, vodka will evaporate when baking, leaving behind a very tender and flaky crust. Important Note!! Remember that even though the finished baked pie crust will have no trace of alcohol in it, the raw crust is very boozy. Keep this in mind if your kids, like mine, like to take a nibble at the pie dough scraps left behind on the table.
I’ve got to credit Smitten Kitchen http://smittenkitchen.com/ again for this one. I found the Cooks Illustrated recipe on her site, because, much to my disappointment you cannot get recipes off the Cooks Illustrated website unless you pay for an online subscription, which, by the way, doesn’t just come along with the magazine subscription, of which I pay for and look forward to finding in my mailbox every month. I’m just saying I think it’s a disservice to home bakers, but we do have our ways of getting the recipes we need.
Time to break this down. This pie crust recipe has only seven ingredients, one of which is water. Easy right? And you probably have all of these in your kitchen right now: all-purpose flour, salt, sugar, unsalted butter, vegetable shortening, vodka (Go, check your freezer. I’m sure it’s still there from that last party you threw. I’ll wait….).
A food processor is great, if you have one, but an even better appliance to have that will make this pie crust the best ever and make you a culinary sorceress among friends? A refrigerator/freezer! We’ve all got one. See that!
And away we go!
Foolproof Pie Dough — Cooks Illustrated, November 2007 as it appears on http://smittenkitchen.com/.
Makes enough for a one 9-inch double-crust pie
- 2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon table salt
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch slices
- 1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening (I keep mine in the freezer and use it straight from there.), cut into small bits
- 1/4 cup vodka
- 1/4 cup water ( I took my water from my Brita and kept it in the measuring cup in the fridge until I needed it.)
First, slice the butter and cut up the shortening into small bits, then put it all back in the fridge until you need it. Mix the flour salt and sugar in a large bowl until combined.
Add butter and shortening and blend using a hand-held pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse corn meal.
Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With a rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.
To freeze: Triple wrap each disk and place in the freezer.
You have just made pie crust! All your ingredients were icy-cold and you barely touched it at all with your warm hands. It is going to be great.
So, let’s get rolling! Take only one disk out of the fridge at a time. The best method I’ve learned and the one that works well for me is rolling each disk out between two sheets of clear wrap. If your clear wrap isn’t wide enough, you might want to overlap two sheets on the bottom as well as two sheets on the top. Give your dough a couple of good whacks with your rolling pin then begin to roll back and forth a couple of times to get it going. Then, and this is from Julia Child, lay your pin about 1/4 way from the bottom of the dough and roll up, stopping about an inch from the top, give your dough a 1/4 turn clockwise and repeat with one smooth motion toward the top. Repeat, always a 1/4 turn and always clockwise until you have a pretty nice looking circle about 12 inches in diameter.
Gently peel back and remove the top piece of plastic wrap. Begin to roll it up onto your pin while removing the bottom piece of plastic wrap. Gently, unwind it from your pin laying it down into your pie plate. Carefully lift up the edges of the pie crust while lightly pressing the crust down into the bottom edges of the pan. Easy does it.
Now back into the refrigerator until you’re ready to fill it with something delicious. Repeat for the top crust. Don’t forget to vent. I used a small leaf-shaped cookie cutter to let the steam out of this apple pie.