Pie for Thanksgiving

Time to turn off the computer and head to the kitchen. Thanksgiving is coming fast and I have baking to do. This year we are having dinner at Ronnie’s sister’s home. We will go to the Macy’s parade in the morning and then to Julie and Danny’s home for dinner. What a great day!

Since we are not cooking the whole dinner we can focus on what we really like to do. For me this means pie making. I love to bake pies. And this means the whole pie, from scratch. No store bought pie crusts. Making the pastry is one of the most satisfying experiences in life. It only uses a few ingredients, and, if you use a food processor, it is easy to do, and everyone always loves it. I am amazed at the way it works. I feel that I am only an assistant to the flour and butter as they combine to create a flaky layer of goodness that will support the filling and remain crunchy. It amazes me every time I do it.

This year I have a new pie crust recipe. For years I have used Julia Childs’ recipe, but it has been upgraded by Cooks Illustrated. I like the magazine, but sometimes they go too chemistry professor for me. They had a brainstorm this past year—add vodka to the pie crust. They tell me it works by adding moisture that does not interact with gluten, so making it moist, but still flaky. Whatever they say, it works. Here is the recipe:

Foolproof Pie Dough (serves one 9-inch double-crust pie )

  • 2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
  • 2 tablespoons cold vodka
  • 2 tablespoons cold water

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 homogeneous 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.

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.

Unfortunately, our food processor burned out so I am going old school on this pie crust and mixing it with my fingers—fun! If you, like me, only need to make pies for tomorrow, please do not use a store bought crust. This recipe is easy and your friends will be amazed. I cannot wait to get my fingers in the dough.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving.

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