Enough babbling already. I’ll get on with it.
When I serve pie to my friends and they graciously compliment me on the pastry crust, I often tell them that I will give them $5 if they can guess the secret ingredient. I’ll tell them that it has five letters, that it’s something that they’ve never heard of putting into pie crust, and that it has no taste. I invariably get the answer, “Water!” Nice try, but all pastry crusts have water. Guess again!
Cook’s Illustrated explains their choice of the secret ingredient at length in their introduction to the recipe. Pie crusts fall somewhere between gloriously flaky and rather ungloriously dense. There are a couple of things that can make a pie crust dense. One: handling it too much. You always want to use a light touch with the dough. Two: too much water. The problem is, water is what allows you to roll the pastry out without it crumbling into a hundred pieces. A dilemma for anyone, but Cook’s Illustrated has found the solution: Vodka! Vodka has the important qualities of water (tasteless, wet) but it evaporates in cooking, meaning that the water isn’t really there! So there you have it. Go to the store and buy a huge bottle of vodka, because once you make this pie crust, you’ll never go back to another recipe again.
2 1/2 cups of flour, divided
2 tbsp white sugar
1 tsp salt
8 oz (one stick) cold butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup cold Crisco shortening
1/4 cup cold water
1/4 cup cold vodka
In a food processor, pulse together 1 1/2 cups of flour, sugar, and salt.
Add cold butter and Crisco and pulse 5 or 6 times until mixed.
Add remaining 1 cup of flour and pulse 5 or 6 times until mixture resembles coarse pea-sized crumbs. Place mixture in a separate bowl. Add water and vodka and using a spatula, gently blend just until all the flour is mixed in. Do not over mix.
Spread out two pieces of plastic wrap and divide the dough between these two sheets. No need to make them pretty.
Fold the plastic wrap and press the dough into 4″ squares. Refrigerate for at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days. See my entry on rolling out pastry doughs.