Published September 1, 2010.
We wanted a recipe that is tender, flavorful, and—most important—consistent.
Pie dough can go wrong so easily: dry dough that is too crumbly to roll out; a flaky but leathery crust; or a tender crust without flakes. And it's hard to get the same results every time.
We wanted a pie dough recipe that bakes up tender and flaky every single time and also rolls out easily.
The first step was to determine the right fat. A combination of butter and shortening provided the best balance of flavor and tenderness. The best method to cut the fat into the flour proved to be the food processor; it was the fastest and most consistent. But we couldn't figure out how to ensure same-sized pieces of butter time after time. The answer was to eliminate the pieces entirely. Rather than starting with all the flour in the processor, we put aside 1 cup of flour and processed the remaining 1 1/2 cups with all of the fat until it formed a unified paste. We added the reserved flour back to the bowl and pulsed it until it was just evenly distributed. Finally, we tackled the tenderness issue, which is partially determined by the amount of water added. The conundrum? In order to roll easily, dough needs more water, but more water makes crusts tough. We found the answer in the liquor cabinet: vodka. While gluten (the protein that makes crust tough) forms readily in water, it doesn't form in ethanol, and vodka is 60 percent water and 40 percent ethanol. So adding 8 tablespoons of vodka produces a moist, easy-to-roll dough that stays tender (because it contains only 6 1/2 tablespoons of water). The alcohol vaporizes in the oven.list of recipes