There are a lot of mediocre pie crust recipes out there, and most of them have one of two common shortcomings. Either the crust is not tender, or the crust does not have the desired, flaky texture.
There are a variety of methods to address these issues, but most of these techniques are bit of a catch-22. Flakiness can be obtained by using lard as some or all of the fat in the crust. The flaky texture of a crust that uses lard is a byproduct of lard’s larger fat molecules. But as you increase the percentage of lard, both the tenderness and the taste of the crust is compromised.
Conversely, Shortening can make your crust tender, but shortening will result in a less flaky crust. Many modern pie crust recipes eschew lard, the fat of choice a generation ago, for butter. A crust made with butter will generally be tasty, not too tough, and may occasionally turn out to be slightly flaky. In other words, it is a compromise.
I’m not big on compromises, so over the years I have experimented quite a bit with pie crust recipes. This one is my current favorite. It uses Vodka (or brandy) and two different fats (lard and butter) which together ultimately produces a tasty, flaky, and tender crust. Even if you are happy with the the pie crust recipe you are currently using, I urge you to give this one a try. Also, if you want to go that extra step, you may want to render your own lard, which will give you a far better result than the partially hydrogenated lard found in supermarkets.
Ingredients for one double-crust pie
- 2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
- 8 tablespoons leaf lard (cut into small pieces)
- 8 tablespoons butter (cut into small pieces)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons sugar (optional)
- 1/4 cup vodka, cold (brandy works just as well)
- 1/4 cup cold water
- Combine all ingredients except the water and vodka in a medium bowl.
- Blend with a pastry cutter. Be careful to not overwork the dough.
Sprinkle the water and vodka over the mixture and then, with a rubber spatula, use a folding motion to mix the dough together. You are looking for a consistency where the dough just holds together in a ball and is no longer powdery. Add additional water and/or vodka if needed to reach the desired consistency.
- Divide the dough into two balls and flatten each into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.