The secret to this perfect dough is vodka which adds moistness without aiding in gluten formation. Because the alcohol vaporizes when baked the result is a more tender and flaky crust. I’ll also use cold juice instead of the cold water (a trick used by Chef Viola, my grandmother). Why add water when you have other flavor-adding liquids available! It’s always best to keep the butter cold so after mixing it’s best to chill for at least an hour before use. When chilled and ready to use, remove the wrapper and knead it a few times to soften slightly before rolling out.
Yield: 2 (10-inch) crusts
4 cups (24 oz) flour, divided
2 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup (4 oz) ice water or vodka (add up to 1/4 cup more if dough is too dry to come together)
2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups (12 oz) butter, chilled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces (using butter adds flavor)
1/2 cup (4 oz) vegetable shortening (using shortening or lard improves flakiness. Use butter if not available.)
Place 2 cups flour, sugar and salt in food processor. Pulse a few times to incorporate
Add the butter and shortening then pulse to combine.
Add remaining flour. Add the ice water a little at a time, pulsing between additions. Then let the blade run; dough will start to gather together. It should feel smooth, not sticky. If not, add more liquid.
Remove dough and form into a ball. Divide and pat the dough into two discs, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour or up to a day. This will help the dough not to shrink during baking. After removing chilled discs, let warm slightly for 15 minutes. Before rolling, bang the disc with the roller a few times to loosen up. (FYI, if you’re in a hurry you can skip chilling and just use it immediately.)
Note: If making only single crust, use half the ingredient amounts. Roll and line the pan, poke the bottom and sides with a fork, then put into refrigerator or freezer for 20 minutes. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. When ready, line shell with 15-inch parchment paper or foil and fill shell with pie weights or dried beans. Place on a sheet pan and bake for 20-30 minutes, or until very light golden brown.
*Using vodka instead of water increases the flaky texture since the alcohol evaporates.
Tricks to prevent a single crust from puffing during baking:
1. Take two identical metal pie pans. Put your pie shell in one of them, as usual. Put the second pie pan in the pie shell. Flip over and bake on a baking sheet.
2. Freeze it for 15 minutes before baking; it rarely puffs at all.
3. Line pastry with foil (bottom and up sides) and fill 1/3 with dry beans or lentils. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove foil/beans and bake 5 to 6 minutes more or until golden.
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