America's Test Kitchen's Foolproof Pie Dough
The Leonard Lopate Show
Monday, December 14, 2009
Why This Recipe Works: Unless you’re a practiced pie baker, it’s hard to get the same results every time. While we think our All-Butter Pie Dough (page 560) and Basic Pie Dough (page 558) are great, we wanted a recipe for pie dough that rolls out easily every time and produces a tender, flaky crust.
The first step was to determine the right fat. As with our basic dough, a combination of butter and shortening provided the best balance of flavor and tenderness. Once again, the best tool to cut the fat into the flour was the food processor. To ensure same-sized pieces of butter time after time, we eliminated the pieces entirely and made a paste instead. Rather than starting with all the flour in the processor, we put aside 1 cup of flour and processed the remaining 11/2 cups with all of the fat until it formed a unified paste. We added the reserved flour to the bowl and pulsed it until it was just evenly distributed. Finally, we tackled the tenderness issue, which is partially determined by the amount of water added. In order to roll easily, dough needs a generous amount of water, but more water makes crusts tough. We found the answer in the liquor cabinet: vodka. While gluten (the protein that makes crust tough) forms readily in water, it doesn’t form in ethanol, and vodka is 60 percent water and 40 percent ethanol. So adding 1/4 cup of vodka produced a moist, easy-to-roll dough that stayed tender. (The alcohol vaporizes in the oven, so you won’t taste it in the baked crust.)
(Makes enough for one 9-inch pie)
Vodka is essential to the tender texture of this crust and imparts no flavor—do not substitute water. This dough is moister than most standard pie doughs and will require lots of flour to roll out (up to 1/4 cup). The dough, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, can be refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen for up to 1 month. If frozen, let the dough thaw completely on the counter before rolling it out.
21/2 cups (121/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour,
plus extra for the work surface (see note)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon table salt
12 tablespoons (11/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/4‑inch pieces and chilled
1/2 cup vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces and chilled
1/4 cup vodka, chilled (see note)
1/4 cup ice water
1. Process 11/2 cups of the flour, the sugar, and salt together in a food processor until combined. Scatter the butter and shortening over the top and continue to process until incorporated and the mixture begins to form uneven clumps with no remaining floury bits, about 15 seconds.
2. Scrape down the workbowl and redistribute the dough evenly around the processor blade. Sprinkle the remaining 1 cup flour over the dough and pulse until the mixture has broken up into pieces and is evenly distributed around the bowl, 4 to 6 pulses.
3. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl. Sprinkle the vodka and water over the mixture. Stir and press the dough together, using a stiff rubber spatula, until the dough sticks together.
4. Divide the dough into two even pieces. Turn each piece of dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and flatten each into a 4‑inch disk. Wrap each piece tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. Before rolling the dough out, let it sit on the counter to soften slightly, about 10 minutes.