Fool Proof Pie Crust Recipe

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When it’s pie time, can’t you resist the urge to grab a ready-made pie crust at the grocery store? It could be that making the crust feels like more work than all other cooking and baking, or maybe you haven’t made a good crust in the past so you don’t want to take the risk. You can leave it all behind! This recipe is great because it’s easy, it makes the perfect crust, and you can make the crusts ahead of time and freeze them for the intended pie. It doesn’t take much effort, and the payoff is amazing.

Why use vodka in pie crust? Can I replace it with something else?

Vodka prevents gluten from forming once the flour in the recipe is hydrated. Gluten gives flour its elasticity, which is great for making bread, but not so much for pastries and pie crusts. By inhibiting this elasticity, the crust will stay flaky even if you have to roll it out multiple times.

Substitution: You can replace the vodka in this pie crust recipe with an equal amount of cold water in addition to the cold water already called for in the recipe.

Some bakers swear by adding a little vinegar to their pie crusts. Although it is claimed to prevent the formation of gluten, science cannot prove this claim to be true. However, a little vinegar might give your pie crust a slightly better color as it prevents oxidation. It also affects the final flavor of the pie and gives it a slightly sour taste. If you use vinegar, use only a little vinegar so as not to overpower the flavor.

Do I have to refrigerate the dough?

Yes. Refrigerating the dough allows the butter and shortening to cool again. This prevents it from being overworked in the dough and allows it to melt quickly when baking. It’s this quick melting that creates those lovely little flaky layers in a good crust that we love.

Pie Weight:

pie weights are small ceramic or metal balls designed to depress pie crusts during “blind baking” or pre-baking. If you don’t have pie weights, you can also substitute uncooked rice or dry, uncooked beans for the pie weights. This weight keeps the pie crust from sliding or bubbling.

Butter vs. Shortening in Pie Crust

Pie crust requires fat, and which fat you choose is a matter of personal preference. Butter, shortening, and even lard are some of the most popular choices. Each of these can be used interchangeably in equal amounts, but the results will vary slightly due to how each of these fats interacts with the flour and is exposed to high heat.

butter: Provides the best flavor, but the fat doesn’t separate from the flour as quickly, resulting in a less flaky crust. Butter-based pie crusts may also slip or shrink slightly more than other fats because it contains up to 15% water that evaporates during cooking.

shorten: Provides a flaky crust because when the crust bakes, the flour and shortening are forced to separate until the shortening melts. By this point, the pie crust will have set, developing that much-sought-for flaky texture. Shortening, however, often lacks flavor. For better flavor, use butter-flavored shortening.

lard: Very similar to shortening in that they have similar melting points, but are usually derived from pork fat. It has a distinct taste that can be overwhelming depending on your personal taste preference.

coconut oil: A popular trend in baking today is to use coconut oil. Coconut oil can be used for pie crust, but you will need to measure and freeze the coconut oil before increasing the oven temperature by 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Because coconut oil has a low melting point, it works better with smaller pies, so the baking process will be faster and more even, separating the fat from the flour as quickly as possible.

How to cut butter or shortening into flour:

Grater: The easiest way to cut fat into flour is to grate it with a cheese grater. This only works with cold butter. Be sure to grate the butter as finely as possible so that the fat bits are more evenly distributed throughout the dough.

Pastry cutter: The old fashioned way of cutting fat into flour is with a pastry cutter. This specialty kitchen tool has 3 to 4 curved blades on the handle so you can chop the fat into the flour with a shake.

Food processors: A food processor is a great little modern kitchen appliance that makes it easy to chop fat into flour. Simply place the flour mixture in the bowl of a food processor along with the cold fat. Use the S-blade to whisk the mixture together until it resembles coarse meal or sand.

Two-knife method: The hardest way is to use two knives and cut the solid fat into the flour by cutting the knives parallel to each other. This can be more physically difficult, but doesn’t require any specialized kitchen tools. Hold a butter knife in each hand. Two knives cross in an X shape, with the flat faces of the blades touching each other. Put a knife of this shape into the fat and flour and repeatedly cut the blades through each other in an outward motion, similar to how scissors work.