Posted by: A Part of the Solution | November 12, 2010

Pie Pastry

I bugged my parents to get me into a beginners cooking class the summer I was seven. It was in that class I made my first pie. I was terrified of the hot oven (which given my size at the time makes some sense, as it was certainly large enough to engulf me with room for sides to cook simultaneously). But I wasn’t afraid of pie pastry.

I spent actual decades making pie crust which ranged from tough and sturdy to flaky and crumbly–with all the textural variations you can imagine in between. Two of my stepmothers took special time with me to teach me everything they knew about pie crust. I worked on whole grain and vegan variations (the latter is easier by far in these modern times with those lovely non-hydrogenated shortenings now on the market). I developed oil based pastry which were easy for inexperienced day laborers in the commercial kitchen to handle.

Only this past year, I tumbled to the core, no-fail, works-like-a-shot pie pastry of which I’d always dreamed. And I am sharing it here with you. This stuff freezes beautifully (double wrapped, and date that package so you use it before it’s been in the freezer more than two months). It isn’t dry and difficult to roll out. It isn’t oily and off-putting when it has finished baking. And the flakes! No, really. This is based on one of the pie pastry recipes in The America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book.

You want that book. If you don’t love to bake, but have to from time to time, this is your book. If you’re a fan of the Test Kitchen on PBS–or their publications, Cook’s Country and Cook’s Illustrated, this is your book. If you love to bake, and would rather have more information than less about why things work the way they do, this is your book. Support the Test Kitchen, make yourself a better baker, buy this book. ‘K?

Pie Pastry

2 1/2 cups all purpose unbleached flour

1 TBSP sugar (or none if you’re making something savory)

1 tsp salt

12 TBSP unsalted butter, or Earth Balance buttery sticks (in which case leave out all but 1/4 tsp salt). Leave this in the fridge ’til the last possible moment, then quarter the sticks long-wise and cut across into 1/3″ pieces

8 TBSP, 1/2 cup, veg shortening, very cold, in a few large pieces

1/4 cup vodka, put this in the freezer before you measure anything else for the recipe

1/4 cup ice water

In a food processor, put 1 1/2 c. flour, the salt and the sugar (if using). Pulse until they’re thoroughly combined. Drop the butter pieces and the shortening all over the top of the flour mixture and give it about 15 pulses with the processor until the mixture clumps and all the flour is caught up with the fat.

Scrape down the processor bowl and add the rest of the flour. Pulse a few more times until the mixture’s broken up and evenly distributed around the work blade.

Put the floury mixture into a medium bowl and pour the vodka and water over it. Stir the dough around with a fork (or a spatula) until the pastry sticks together.

Divide the dough into 2 equal parts. Shape into a flattened disk and wrap well with plastic wrap. Let it chill to relax for at least 1 hour. This uses lots more flour than you’re used to when rolling out, but it cooks just the same as any other pie dough.



  1. Making pear tarts this weekend and will give it a go!

    • You won’t be disappointed. It’s ridiculously good. And appallingly reliable.

  2. […] recipe pie pastry, divided and cold but not […]

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