Thursday, November 18, 2010

Test Kitchen Thursday - Pie Crust

OK - sorry this recipe is a little late this week - kind of a crazy week around here!  I'm going to focus on the pie crust rather than the whole pie.  This past weekend I was sifting through some of my mom's Cook's Illustrated Magazines and found their Fool Proof Pie Crust.  Knew it must be tried at some point.  What better time than just before Thanksgiving.  The other reason being my sister asked for my pumpkin pie recipe this week which reminded me I needed to bake a pie for Friday's church supper!  Of course, I signed up for cherry pie so I could just dump in the Cherry Pie Filling I preserved this spring - what a time saver!

Back to the pie crust - here's the recipe (or go HERE to find it on-line)

2 1/2 Cups unbleached all purpose flour (or pastry flour blend is good too)
1 t table salt
2 T sugar
12 T cold unsalted butter (cut into 1/4" slices)
1/2 C chilled solid vegetable shortening - cut into 4 pieces (like the butter flavor shortening for buttery taste)
1/4 C vodka - cold (taste will completely bake out)
1/4 C cold water
Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about two 1-second pulses.  Add butter and shortening; process until homogenous 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 1 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 spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks down together.  Divide dough into 2 equal balls and flatten each into 4" disk.  Cover each with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.
Remove 1 disk at a time from refrigerator and roll out on generously floured (up to 1/4 cup) work surface to 12 inch circle about 1/8 inch thick.  Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll into pie plate, leaving at least 1 inch overhang.  Ease dough into plate by gently lifting edge of dough with 1 hand while pressing into plate bottom with other hand (do not stretch dough).  Refridgerate again until dough is firm about 45 minutes.  Flute edges.  Pour in filling and bake.

Seriously, for two people who don't drink we have a large supply of hard liquor.  I can now add vodka to the list.  Well, I could have used my husband's 20 year old vodka he brought back from the Soviet Union but decided that might not be a wise choice.  In case you're wondering our stash also includes rum (will be using that soon for stollen), cherry brandy (for the cherry pie filling), cherry liqueur (for the black forest cakes) and some Sam Adam's for when we want some yummy beer bread.  Good thing it lasts a long time since I use it in such small amounts!

Alright, back to pie crusts:

I put the vodka, water and shortening in the freezer to chill.  To chill the shortening I measured it out onto wax paper and divided it into the 4 pieces called for in the recipe.  I wrapped the wax paper up over each section and sat in freezer.  Good thing I cleaned out all my freezer's this week - I had plenty of room to set things flat today!

Of course, I had my little helpers!  Grant enjoyed watching the food processor spin!  This was the first time trying out the food processor for mixing pie crust - it worked quite well.

I should also add I did change the recipe somewhat and used whole wheat pastry flour rather than all purpose flour.  Still made a good looking crust.

After adding the liquids I ended up with two nice balls.  I forgot to weigh them to ensure they were equal but it ended up working out OK.

Here's the rolled crust.  Look at the little lumps of fat throughout!  I have to say this was the easiest crust I have ever rolled out.  Either I'm getting a lot better with my pastry (which trust me, I need all the help and practice I can get) or the recipe is really that good.  I covered it with plastic wrap and set it back in the fridge.

Here is my favorite part!  When I was a little girl I remember my mom rolling pie crusts.  It was exciting to see the rolling pin sock (is that what it's called?) and her canvas with the circle sizes marked come out of the drawer.  After she made the big pie she would re-roll the dough and fill a mini pie tin just for me.  Sometimes I was able to help roll and fill the tin.

And when the pies came out there was a perfect little pie for me.  Strange - now I'm the mom making little mini pies for my boys (ignore the singed crust).  And boy were they excited when they found out this little pie was just for them!

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