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Pies 101: Making the Dough

November 21, 2009

Coconut Dreamz 2009 Holiday Edition continues…

Do you remember my post about the apple galette? That was the first time I ate a pie (okay, it was close enough to a pie) with the crust.

I am not joking.

I have, for nearly all of my 24 years, hated pie crust. Whenever I was served pie, I always scraped the filling out of the crust. I was teased mercilessly by my family for this. It also meant double-crust pies were entirely out of the question.

I blame refrigerated and frozen dough for this. I am pretty sure the number of times I have consumed a homemade pie crust can be counted on one hand.

However, I volunteered to cook the pies for my two Thanksgivings this year, and I do not do things in halves. I hope you all know this about me by now. This means I am making the pies entirely from scratch. I decided to break up the stages of preparation so that the prospect of baking between 3 to 5 pies is less daunting than if I made them at the last minute. Sometimes I’m such a perfectionist!

So today I am just going to introduce to you the pie crust. There is one secret ingredients in my pie crust, and it’s the best EVER.


So you all know I studied in Moscow in college, and that meant I drank a lot of vodka, so I am pretty well-versed in what vodkas are the best. I brought back three bottles of Russian Standard (Русский стандарт), and that is what I am using in my crust (you can get it in the US too). I imagine you could use any brand you want – as long as it’s 80 proof – but I am a vodka snob and so only the best will be used in my pie crust!

The rationale for using vodka, as well as the recipe itself can be found here. It’s a Cook’s Illustrated/America’s Test Kitchen recipe, which means they use things like science in developing their recipes. You can use your own recipe for pie crust, or replace the 1/4 cup of vodka with 2 additional Tablespoons of water. I am just a sucker for marketing and a sucker for things like cooking with alcohol!

A good mise en place is important to the success of your pie crust!

Okay, so this is what you do, in addition to following the recipe EXACTLY as printed:

  • It is perfectly acceptable to pour out a shot or two of the vodka for your own immediate consumption. 🙂
  • Bake at 400F/205C for 15 minutes.
  • Line with foil, then pour in a bunch of pennies (I used a secret blend of pennies, euros, and rubles) or a bag of dried beans that you don’t plan on using later.
  • Beyond Salmon has a beautiful guide to making pate brisee/pie crust (they are the same thing) in a stand mixer. Here is part one, and here is part two. This is where I learned how to make pie crust with a KitchenAid, and I don’t think I could explain it as well as Helen has.

Tips before you begin:

  • This makes TWO crusts! Don’t forget to halve if you only need a single crust pie!
  • You can use all butter instead of shortening. In my run-through I used shortening because I had the exact amount on hand. When I make it for realz I will use only butter.

Notes on mise en place and beginning:

  • Cut up your butter into little cubes, then pop them in the freezer for 15 minutes. This is the same whether you are cutting them in by hand, with a pastry blender, or a KitchenAid (but I think if you have a food processor, then you aren’t supposed to put rock-hard things in there? I think).
  • Assemble all your ingredients, utensils, and bowls beforehand.
  • If you have a kitchen scale – one of my indispensable tools – it might be easier to just weigh out your flour.
  • A lot of recipes call for deep-dish pie plates, so keep that in mind!

While you are preparing the dough:

  • Since most people have the heat on right now, the air is drier and you might need a few extra drops of water to make everything come together. The comments I’ve seen for this recipe all say that 1/2 cup of total liquid seems like a lot, but I thought I might have needed to add more!
  • You can refrigerate this according to the times mentioned in the recipe (at least 45 minutes), but if you wrap it in plastic wrap several times and ziploc baggie it up, you can freeze it for a few days too! Just remember to defrost it in the fridge first!
  • The diameter of your pie crust should be like 3 inches more than the diameter of your pie pan! (So, for a 9in pie = 12in)

After you place the dough in the pie pan:

  • Refrigerate the dough for 15 minutes after you’ve transferred it to the pan and pressed into place. (This is a good time to preheat the oven!)
  • After the chilling period, you can crimp the edges. Here is a good video to explain how it’s done.

If you are making a single-crust pie:

  • You can blind-bake the crust before filling, so that it gets done on the bottom!
I need to work on my crimping skillz.

I need to work on my crimping skillz!

Next up on Coconut Dreamz 2009 Holiday Edition: Filling the pie… with pumpkin and chocolate pecan!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Aniekie permalink
    November 24, 2009 02:13

    I love you used money as a blind baking filling :D! Once,when I wasn’t so bright, I thought, why not use rice? I did, however, forget to put something between the dough and the rice
    Can you imagine the result? I nearly died laughing.

    I will for sure get my bottle of Russian Standard and make this dough soon!
    Alcohol in food.. ALWAYS a yes!


  1. Pies 102: Fillings for a single-crust pie « Coconut Dreamz

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