Thursday, October 9, 2008


Kiss the Cook
watercolor by
Judy Westergard
available as giclee print starting at $22
at FineArt

Cool October weather, blazing orange maple trees, and a lazy afternoon at a local apple orchard got me thinking about apple pie. Fillings are easy. It’s the crust that intimidates. But there’s nothing magical about a great pie crust. Two tricks to flaky crusts: keep things cold and don't overwork the dough. The recipe below is a guaranteed winner. (The baking process evaporates the alcohol.) I don’t recall with certainty where I found the recipe; a Williams-Sonoma comes to mind. But trust me...this is a winner!

For one 9-inch Double-Crust Pie
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons sugar
12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 cup chilled solid vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
1/4 cup vodka, cold
1/4 cup cold water

1. Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until a homogenous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds. (Dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour). Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.

2. Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days. (Wrap really well and you can freeze the disks for a couple of weeks.)

3. Roll out on floured surface, cut to fit pie pan, fill with fruit filling of your choice. Adjust top crust, cutting slits for escape of steam. Seal. Bake at 400 F. for40 to 45 minutes.
Leftover pie dough? Cut strips or any other shape, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, place on ungrease cookie sheet and bake at 400 F. for 8-10 minutes, or until light gold around edges. (Baking time depends on thickness of your dough.)

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