Why is pie crust so hard to make? You would think that with so few ingredients, it would be as easy as…pie. I have tried so many different recipes and even took a pie class. When we made the pies at the class using the pre-measured ingredients they had sent out for us, the pie crust was phenomenal. However, when I use that recipe at home, it turns out miserably. It's tough and so frustrating. This recipe, though, will work every time. It’s tender, buttery, and flaky--everything a crust should be. 

I've also tried many recipes that are so difficult to roll out. The recipe says don't add extra flour because your crust will be tough, but then it sticks to your counter. Other recipes say to roll the crust between parchment paper, but the parchment slides around as you're trying to roll it. What a pain! This crust is really easy to roll out, you can add flour to it without damaging the texture, and it's easy to shape into your pie plate.

Here's how easy it is: first you add the flour, sugar, and salt into a food processor. Pulse that together and then add in the cold butter and shortening. I use butter-flavored shortening, but regular will work just fine, too. Pulse it together until it’s in clumps and add in the rest of the flour. Pulse that together until it looks like crumbs. I've never tried with this recipe, but I'm sure you could use a pastry blender or knives if you don't have a food processor.
Then dump that mixture into a bowl and sprinkle the cold water and cold vodka over it. I bought a small bottle of very cheap vodka and keep it in the freezer just for pie crust so that it's always cold when I need it. Using your hands, gather the dough together into a ball. You want to dough to stay cold, so don't work with it too much. Then wrap it in plastic and chill in the fridge for at least 45 minutes. When I was making this, I was running out of daylight and didn't chill it. It worked just fine, but it's best to have very cold dough.
The purpose of the vodka in this recipe is that it gives you more moisture when you're rolling it out. Therefore, you can use more flour to roll out the crust and keep it from sticking to everything. The vodka vaporizes during baking, leaving you with a perfect and alcohol-free crust.

When you roll the crust out, you should start from the middle and roll outwards. Then turn the crust and roll from the middle out again. Don't roll back and forth; by turning the crust as you go, you'll help to ensure that it doesn't stick to the counter.  
You know your crust is big enough when you have a couple of inches extra around the upside down pie plate.
Lightly fold the dough into quarters or drape the crust over the rolling pin to place it into your pie plate. Then cut or tear off anything that's hanging on the counter, tuck the excess under itself to build up the edge, crimp the edges, and you’re ready to go. See all those extra pieces? That's what was touching the counter that I tore off. I’ll show you a very delicious treat with them in a later post.
I like to make my crusts the day before I need them so they can chill in the refrigerator overnight. This will help them keep their shape when they bake. I just stick the formed crust in a zippered bag and put it in the coldest part of my fridge. If your pie plate is too big for a zippered bag, just wrap it very well in plastic wrap. If you leave anything exposed, it'll get dry. 

If you need a pre-baked crust in your recipe, here’s how you blind bake it:

Place a piece of aluminum foil over the crust and loosely wrap it around the edges. Then fill it with beans or pie weights.
Bake it at 375 degrees for 25 minutes. Then take the beans and foil out and continue to bake it for 10 more minutes until it’s lightly browned.

Pie Crust
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Makes 1 pie

1 1/4 cup flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter cut into pieces, very cold
1/4 cup vegetable shortening, chilled
2 tablespoons cold water
2 tablespoons cold vodka

Pulse 3/4 cup flour, sugar, and salt in food processor until combined. Add butter and shortening and pulse until it collects in clumps. Add remaining flour and pulse until mixed into crumbs. Empty into a bowl and sprinkle cold water and vodka over it. Gather the dough into a ball. Chill for 45 minutes and then roll out using flour as needed so it doesn't stick to your counter. Place in pie plate, trim excess, tuck under, and form edges. If possible, chill formed crust overnight. 

To blind bake: Place a piece of aluminum foil over the crust and loosely wrap it around the edges. Fill it with beans or pie weights. Bake it at 375 degrees for 25 minutes. Take the beans and foil out and continue to bake for 10 more minutes or until it’s lightly browned. 

Source: The geniuses at Cook’s Illustrated


Melissa Schultz
03/07/2012 1:23pm

Thanks! I will have to try this pie crust recipe next time I make a pie - usually pie crusts are not my friend.

She Makes and Bakes
03/08/2012 9:33am

They have never been a friend of mine either, but this recipe is so easy. Love it--the kids could even help as long as they don't eat the vodka dough! Enjoy Melissa!

08/30/2013 5:01am

The pie crust that you made is simple and I liked the design of it. I am thanking you for sharing the recipe and baking method. I will definitely try this and keep sharing these kinds of wonderful recipes through your blog.


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