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Jun 28, 2010 06:49 PM

Best-Ever Pie Crust?

I'm going to a 4th of July block party this weekend and they're throwing an American pie contest. I have heard of tons of pie crust ideas: cream cheese, butter, shortening, adding alcohol... but some of them sound tough or complicated. There is also tons of options. I have a few in cookbooks and I've also looked at among others. I'd love to win the prize as it is a Le Cruset Pie Dish plus a nice server. Anyone have particularly good luck with a pie crust recipe? Tasty filling ideas welcome too.

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  1. Cook's Illustrated pie crust using vodka. Never fails. Will make you look and taste like a culinary savant.

    9 Replies
    1. re: ipsedixit

      Ditto. I threw over my tried and true Gourmet Best Desserts recipe that I used for 20+ years for this one and never looked back.

      1. re: bushwickgirl

        I have never tried this method. I have always had success with a regular old 50 butter/50 shortening pie crust using water, but if you say so, I may have to give it a whirl...

        1. re: roxlet

          Oh, please do, it's really great, plus it uses butter and vegetable shortening. I don't make it in the FP though, just by hand. There was a larger discussion about this pie crust in the "do you cook with vodka" thread.

          It combines three of my favorite things, fat, carbs and alcohol.

          1. re: bushwickgirl

            lol! I actually make my pie crusts by hand anyway since I'm usually too lazy to get the food processor out and then have to wash the darn thing -- unless I'm making lots of pies. I also feel that it gives you much more control when adding the water (and now vodka?)...

        2. re: ipsedixit

          Agreed. The Cook's Illustrated recipe is the best. Even more important, however, is to replace the shortening with lard. REAL rendered leaf lard. Not vegetable shortening, crisco, or that fake hydrogenated crap you sometimes see labeled as lard. Real lard. Makes ALL the difference.

          1. re: mdzehnder

            There are few things in life that are not better with lard, esp. lard that is self-rendered.

            If I could get away with it, I would slather it on brioche toast, dust it with some sea salt and be one quite happy 'Hound.

          2. re: ipsedixit

            Do you know why does this recipe contains so much more fat than most? Almost all the pie crust recipes I know call for around 1/3 cup fat per cup of flour. This includes Julia Child's pate brisee recipe, and she ain't exactly known for her low-fat recipes.

            1. re: visciole

              Not sure, but I think the additiona fat (from the butter) may be to add additional moisture because most of the vodka burns off during the cooking. Just a guess, though.

          3. My mother made the best pie crust in the world. No, REALLY! I started out using her recipe, but mine never came out quite as good. So I started researching...and experimenting...and finally I came up with a recipe of my own that I'm pretty happy with. It's a hybrid of Mom's (the egg and the vinegar), Cook's Illustrated (the vodka), and an article from the NY Times (the proportions of butter and lard). There are a lot of fiddly little steps and tricks and caveats, but I wouldn't call the recipe hard, really. Mine has gotten better with practice, but you can make a very respectable pie crust just starting out with this recipe.

            Good luck on your contest!


            1 Reply
            1. re: MsMaryMc

              I am submitting a link to a thread on making apple pie that also includes a slideshow which is helpful for making the crust. For this one, I use Crisco no hydrogenated fats. I have also had very good luck making a crust with all butter. But that one I use mostly for free form fruit tarts. It is quite good and easy to make in the food processor. Let me know if interested.


              For filling ideas, here is a thread with pix of a Raspberry Cream Pie I like to make. One caveat - make sure the raspberry gelatin mixture is cool before folding in whipped cream, otherwise the cream will melt.


              Whatever you decide to do, have fun with it!

            2. You should consider sealing the bottom crust too. Keeps it crisp so fruit juices don't cause a white, sticky mess out of it. Egg white wash, or melted white or dark chocolate, depending on what your filling is.

              1. I hope it's not too late for my reply - but I hope to dissuade you from baking your pie with the vodka crust. I've made it numerous times and I've found the vodka in pie crust creates a very pliable, easy-to-maneuver pie crust. For inexperienced bakers, this is a prime asset as your pie crust will look pretty in the dish. But ultimately vodka-laden pie crust lacks the delicious taste and texture that take pies to the award-winning level. To win the Le Cruset pie dish, I suggest considering Mark Bittman's "Flakey Pie Crust" recipe from the latest edition of How to Cook Everything. While this recipe is deceptively simple, it rendered a crust that appeared superior in texture, thickness and taste. Another alternative is a Lard and Butter Pie Crust. This recipe also renders an extraordinary flakey crust with a delicious taste and even better mouth feel. (For a recipe, Google Lard & butter pie crust and click on the 4th entry Leite's Culinaria.) Despite loving this pie crust, I stopped making it because my vegetarian friends couldn't partake. Whichever recipe you choose, always use the best quality butter available, preferably a high-fat European style like Plugra. Also, I suggest spending some time reading about crust making techniques. Just having a little background and exceptional ingredients can go a long way to winning the prize! Good luck!

                1 Reply
                1. re: nursesara

                  I wouldn't dissuade from using vodka, but I wouldn't use the CI recipe (with very thorough incorporation in a processor). I use a typical all butter crust recipe, but use half vodka instead of water (and a touch more water than standard, but not nearly as much as the CI recipe). This way, I get the advantage of vodka as far as low gluten development, but also the flaky texture from hand cutting in the butter and keeping liquid to a minimum.