Cooks Illustrated's Foolproof Pie Dough

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How was your weekend?  Mine flew by.  I understand now why when I was younger, older people (you know, old like 40) used to talk about how quickly time passed.  Now I am that old person, and I know exactly what they're talking about.  I digress.  

Want to know something kind of funny?  This is my first homemade pie crust.  I've been cooking and baking since my childhood, and regularly doing it since I graduated college.  I'm pretty daring and don't mind failing, but I never tried pie crust.  The main reason?  Once, when I called my mom for a tried-and-true recipe, she consulted her coworker and resident baking queen, who told me, "honey, just buy one!  They're so much trouble to make."  And that was that.  I bought the refrigerated, roll it out dough and would unabashedly admit that the crust was not homemade.  It's just so much quicker and easier to buy a pre-made dough.  There is no shame in that.  

But the homemade pie crust concept sat there in the back of my mind, reminding me it was still there, and it wanted its time in my kitchen.  So, one day I decided to make it, and I decided to make it right after I got my first issue of Cooks Illustrated, which was its best recipes special edition.  Titled Foolproof Pie Dough, this recipe is truly a good pie crust, easy to make, with decent room for error.  If you, like me, might want to try a pie crust from scratch, this is a good one to try.

The instructions are clear, and even though I think I took the dough a little too far in the food processor, the crust still turned out well. The dough was easy to roll out, and baked nicely.  I used part of the recipe to make a quiche, and it worked well in this application.

Foolproof Pie Dough
makes enough for a double-crusted, 9" diameter pie

2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons sugar
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
1/4 cup cold vodka
1/4 cup cold water

Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until 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 rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.

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


  • Not being a vodka drinker, I bought two mini bottles of Absolut vodka.  One bottle didn't quite have enough liquid.  It worked well here.  I do not know how the quality of vodka affects the crust, but I chose to go with slightly higher quality stuff.  

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