pie crust (part 2) – tips and techniques

by Patricia on November 13, 2009 · 10 comments


A new batch of mini-pies are cooling in the kitchen right now. Once the taste tests are done I will share the results with you. I have four crusts in the test: all butter, butter + shortening (both of these are repeats from round 1), butter + lard, and Cook’s Illustrated fool-proof pie dough which uses vodka.

But for today, I thought I’d share a few tips about making pie dough. Many of these are common knowledge (among those who make pie), but now that I’ve made four different batches of dough in the last couple days I feel like I can add my two cents:

  1. Keep everything cold. Especially the fats and liquid. Before I start measuring the flour, I like to put the water into the freezer so that by the time I am ready to use it, it is ice cold. Also, Alton Brown recommends putting your fats (butter and lard in his case) in the freezer for fifteen minutes before you use them. I did this for some and didn’t for others and didn’t see much of a difference as long as the butter was already cold.
  2. Work quickly. This kind of goes with point 1 because the faster you work, the less likely it is for the fats to warm up. You want it to stay cold and solid. So I think the food processor is best for this for two reasons: 1. it is fast, and 2. your warm hands don’t touch it much. So if you don’t have a food processor, just keep everything extra cold or chill it after each step.
  3. Relax. It is only pie dough. And if there are tears or if it crumbles, patch it together and do your best to hide it… chances are no one will notice.
  4. Let your dough relax. Yep, just like you, your dough needs to chillax so don’t overwork it. Don’t take your frustrations out on it… if you’re frustrated, make pizza. Also, this is a good time to be a slacker… do just enough to make it work.

Finally, here are a couple of videos I put together as I made my pie dough. In the first one, I use a food processor, and the Cook’s Illustrated recipe (with vodka)… I like saying I used vodka in the pie crust…

In the second video, for those of you who don’t have a food processor (I was one of you until last Christmas), I make pie dough using a pastry blender (one of my favorite kitchen tools), and the pie crust recipe from Good Eats that uses a little bit of lard…


1 Veronica November 14, 2009 at 9:24 pm

Your videos are so great–love the music you picked. :) I’m so happy I finally bought a food processor–it’s so much easier to make pie crust now! I’m on the edge of my seat, waiting to see which pie crust wins.

2 Patricia November 22, 2009 at 9:52 am

The food processor has made several things easier. I can’t believe I waited so long to get one.

3 Brit Hammer November 14, 2009 at 1:38 am

Two thumbs up, P!!! And she SCORES! Great vids, too. Might have to get us a food processor now (we’re Luddites with our pastry blender)…and some vodka.

4 Patricia November 22, 2009 at 9:48 am

Thanks Brit. Don’t fear the pastry blender… it’s your friend. And a lot cheaper than the food processor (then again, you can make hummus and pesto with the food processor. can’t do that with the pastry blender).

5 Christine November 13, 2009 at 10:32 pm

Thanks for the demo! Love the visuals. Did Sergeant Pepper help you out with the videos?

Hey we’ve had a bottle of vodka in the freezer for about 7 years. Is it still good to use in a crust?

6 Patricia November 22, 2009 at 9:45 am

I say if the vodka is still drinkable, then it is good for the crust as well. Liquor keeps for a long time in the bottle, so I’d guess it’s probably still okay (especially if it’s been in the freezer).

7 Joy November 13, 2009 at 7:29 pm

LOVED the videos! I find that I actually like making the crust by hand with a pastry blender, even though the food processor is just a click away. And ever since I discovered the CI vodka pie crust last spring, I never used another recipe again. It works all the time. :)

8 Patricia November 22, 2009 at 9:46 am

I do like the pastry blender method… it’s therapeutic. And there’s less chance that I’ll pulverize the fats too much. But sometimes I am lazy and the food processor is just so easy…

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