"Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time." Marthe Troly-Curtin

Thursday, February 4, 2010

100% Foolproof Pie Dough

From America's Test Kitchen's Newsletter

Our 100% foolproof pie dough relies on an 80-proof secret ingredient!

We wanted to create a foolproof recipe for tender, flavorful, consistently flaky pie dough. Pie dough is theoretically a study in simplicity: mix flour, salt, and sugar together, cut in some fat, add water, roll it out, and bake it. But it can go wrong so easily. The dough is almost always too dry and crumbly to roll out successfully. The crust is either flaky but leathery or tender but flake-free. Most frustrating of all, the results can be so randomly fickle—the same recipe can create a perfect crust one day and a tough-as-nails crust the next. We wanted to figure out why this happens, and how to guarantee a tender, flaky crust every time. We started by using a combination of butter and shortening (instead of just one or the other), for the best of both worlds: shortening's tenderness with butter's rich, savory flavor. The main trouble with creating consistently great dough depended on the amount of water used, and in particular how it was absorbed. After many dry, crumbly dough "don'ts," we were practically driven to drink, trying to discover the perfect liquid to use. There had to be an acceptable substitution that would keep the dough moist but not create too much gluten, which is produced by combining water and flour and makes for a leathery crust. And at that moment the answer became quite obvious. Vodka! Vodka adds moisture but is only 60% water—the other 40% of vodka is ethanol. The alcohol doesn't create dough-toughening gluten, so when we baked up this pie dough, we had a perfectly flaky AND tender pie crust with absolutely no vodka taste. And don't worry about serving this to kids—all the alcohol evaporates in the oven during baking.

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