December 17th, 2009

Try It With Me: Cook's Illustrated's Foolproof Pie Dough

pie dough

Photo: Sassy Radish who also offers great tips on working with pie dough---just scroll down on this post

And so let the holiday preparations begin! Actually, they’ve already begun at my house and I have a freezer full of cookie dough to prove it (these Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies and two others—Chewy Chocolate Toffee Chip and Molasses Spice—to be posted soon). But, for now, next up is pie crust.

I usually make a simple pate brisee—this one from Martha is great—but I’ve been swayed by Serious Eats to try something new. Two years ago, they spoke with Christopher Kimball about best recipes of the year and he mentioned this pie dough. That’s enough to convince me to try something new. How about you? Want to try it with me?

What makes this dough so interesting (and, apparently, so yummy, too)?

The trick to this pie crust is the inclusion of vodka. Eighty-proof vodka, which is 60 percent water and 40 percent alcohol, adds moistness to the dough without aiding in gluten formation since gluten doesn’t form in ethanol. Although the recipe includes 8 tablespoons of liquid, the alcohol vaporizes during baking, resulting in a tender crust that only contains 6 1/2 tablespoons of water. Because of the extra liquid, the dough will be moister than most standard pie doughs and will require up to 1/4 cup more flour.

How interesting is that? I’m going to make mine this weekend and freeze it until the 23rd or 24th, when I’m ready to bake. Why don’t you do the same. Then we’ll meet here after Christmas to report the results to each other. You in?!

Cook’s Illustrated Foolproof Pie Dough
via Serious Eats
(can be fed to kids 10+ mos)

2 1/2 c (12 1/2 oz) organic unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp table salt
2 tbsp organic sugar
12 tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) cold organic unsalted butter, cut into 1/4″ slices
1/2 c cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
1/4 c cold vodka
1/4 c cold water

1. Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt and sugar in a food processor until well combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogeneous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour). Scrape bowl with a rubber spatula and redistributed dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining cup of flour and pulse until the mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and a mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into a medium bowl.

2. Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With a rubber spatula, use a folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until it is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into a 4″ disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.

7 Responses

  1. Annie says:

    This is the pie crust I always use now, I love it, so easy with the food processor.

  2. Rosie says:

    I made this crust for my thanksgiving pumpkin pie and I was very disappointed with the way it handled. No matter how long I kept it chilled and how frequently I would throw it back in the fridge/freezer to cool it down, this dough broke apart on me and had to be patched together. Not a fan.

  3. i’ve been using the Cook’s Illustrated pie crust recipe for a while now, though I use all butter, no shortening. I don’t know that it’s the best pie crust I’ve ever had, but it has worked well for me. (Here’s my pumpkin pie in that crust: http://foodietots.com/2008/11/11/rustic-pumpkin-pie/)

  4. [...] I get to making the two pies I promised to bring to Christmas dinner (I can always bring them the dough that I just barely found time to make!) But no matter what, there will be cookies for Santa, damn [...]

  5. Cindy says:

    I just tried this dough for the first time because of the same mention on serious eats. It worked well enough in the hands of a novice – that’s me. I tried Martha Stewart’s pate a choux recipe alongside this one and ended up liking it better. It was flakier (sp?).

  6. stacie says:

    hi all,

    thanks for sharing your experiences and opinions on this dough. i wasn’t in love with this recipes, i must say. it made yummy pie crust, but not so spectacularly good that i understand the fuss that’s made over this recipe.

    i found it kind of hard to work with. i froze the dough and defrosted it on the counter. it got a tiny bit too warm, so i put it in the fridge before starting to work with it. still, it was so tacky, that i could barely roll it out. i put it back in the fridge, but it still got sticky after just a min or so of rolling. i ended up using a ton of flour during the roll out process, which worried me. i’d read somewhere that someone else had a similar experience and the dough held up fine. i have to say, mine did too. it totally handled the extra flour. but still.

    once i finally got on a roll, so to speak, the dough did have an amazing feel to it. velvety smooth. like cindy, though, i think i’ll stick with my Martha recipe in the future.

  7. [...] on some new holiday desserts in my ol’ reliable KitchenAid stand mixer and, of course, pie dough for my annual Chocolate Espresso Pecan [...]

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