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I AM NEVER ATTEMPTING PIE CRUST AGAIN!!!!!! (unless you help me)

Can you tell I am frustrated? I have been trying pie dough for years. I actually do quite a bit of baking and I have every piece of equipment you can think of. I have read every blog and every book and I follow every single instruction to the letter. I usually use a food processor, a la Martha Stewart and many others. But every time my filling is prepared and I begin to roll out my dough and think, "This is the one! I've finally done it!" I do that first push of my rolling pin and the dough cracks. Every flipping time!! The only thing I haven't tried is to add vodka (maybe I should drink some right now?) because we don't drink much and I'm not buying a whole bottle just to try it out. Can you tell I have a messed up dough on my counter sitting next to a beautiful pie filling right this very minute? Ok, sorry for feeling sorry for myself, but I could really use your help. Thanks. Nikki

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  1. Recently I do the vodka one and it comes out perfectly. I am a total amateur and am very proud of myself! I could never make a good pie crust before.

    I think the vodka is a sub for vinegar, which a lot of old fashioned recipes called for, so maybe try that instead. I use 1/4 cup vodka and 1/4 cup water. But then again, you don't have to twist my arm to buy a bottle of vodka!

    You know, you could always just buy a pint of vodka that they keep behind the counter. It can't be that expensive, can it? Or even one or two of those airline bottles?

    1. Stick with your food processor. It's worth buying a small bottle of the cheapest vodka too be able to amaze your guests with your pastry, It's that good.

      Be sure to allow your dough to rest long enough to fully hydrate the flour before rolling it. Try making it a day in advance (or more) and refrigerating it overnight. Never fails.

      7 Replies
      1. re: iamafoodie

        I am also a fan of making the dough ahead of time. And of letting the dough come to "nearly" room temp/cool room temp before rolling. Rolling between sheets of parchment or plastic wrap has really been helpful for me.

        1. re: KarenDW

          yes, if using refrigerated dough you really do need to let it come back up to about 65 or 70 degrees. If your kitchen is warmer than about 75 or so you might have problems too.

        2. re: iamafoodie

          I will think about using the vodka. Thanks for the rec.

          1. re: Nikki NYC

            If you have no issue cooking with vodka you could use the rest for Pasta alla vodka. I don't drink vodka but do love the sauce. I bought the smallest bottle I could find and it's lasted for years. I think opened liquor is pretty stable and has a really long shelf life...connoisseurs can tell the difference in taste but for cooking I think it's fine.

            1. re: 16crab

              In my town there are several liquor stores that sell the airplane sized bottles of many different liqueurs and distilled spirits. If all you need is 2 oz. you might try that.

              PS Vodka is EXCELLENT for cleaning, especially bathrooms, believe it or not! I don't drink straight vodka, so I buy the cheap stuff, keep it in the freezer and use it for pies, bloody marys, and cleaning. Isn't that funny? But, someone told me once that coca cola makes a good engine degreaser, so I guess it takes all kinds. At any rate, buying a large bottle of vodka when smaller ones aren't available won't be a total waste.

              1. re: blaireso

                I once cleaned oil spots off a garage floor with coca cola and something else .. can't remember the details, only did it once and it worked.

                Do you use it straight in the bathroom on the floor etc. just as though it's bleach or something?

                1. re: walker

                  Car battery terminals used to become corroded easily, and the standard method for cleaning them was with Coke.

        3. The Cook's Illustrated recipe with the vodka is really fantastic, but you can do it without the vodka as long as you follow the technique to the letter. It is VERY important to make sure the flour and fat are completely incorporated in the first step (I forgot to do this once and the results were disastrous). The flour and fat need to look like Play-Dough in this step. Letting the dough rest and fully hydrate is also very important, and will make rolling easier.

          However, a crack or two as you're rolling it out isn't the end of the world. Just patch the crack with some dough from the edge and it will be fine. I also find it's easier to roll dough that isn't straight from the fridge - you can put it back in the fridge or freezer to firm up before you bake it. I usually let mine sit on the counter for 5 minutes or so before I start rolling it, and I also work it with my hands just a little bit before I roll - I flatten it into a disc shape before I put it in the fridge, of course, but when I take it out I enlarge that disc shape just a bit with my hands, then start to roll it. I wouldn't recommend this (either letting it get a little warm or the hand trick) with a dough that depends on chunks of butter for flakiness, but with the food processor recipes, it works great.

          4 Replies
          1. re: biondanonima

            I've been discovering this with refrigerated cookie dough too, you can ruin the whole batch if you roll it straight out of the fridge.

            1. re: coll

              That used to be MY problem. I took the "keep the dough cold" bit too seriously. Once it's hydrated in the fridge, you can let it warm up some before rolling.

            2. re: biondanonima

              Or, when you take it out of the fridge, you can whack the disk of dough a few times with your rolling pin, a la Julia Child. I do this. I also roll between two sheets of parchment, occasionally lifting the parchment off the dough before putting it back (do this periodically for both pieces of parchment). Seems to help.

              1. re: nofunlatte

                Yeah, if I find that I haven't let it sit long enough, a couple of good whacks with the pin usually loosens it up enough.

            3. Here is some pie troubleshooting help - http://www.piemaven.com/troubleshooti...

              * what type of fat did/do you use? I normally use all shortening most of the time, but I have found that when I do a butter/shortening combo it is sometimes easier to roll.

              * agree that you may be trying to roll the dough when it is too cold.

              * how much liquid are you incorporating? You could also be using too little liquid so that the dough doesn't have sufficient to hydrate well enough to roll.

              21 Replies
              1. re: DiningDiva

                I usually stick to Smart Balance because of cholesterol issues. I let my dough warm up but that did not solve the problem. And I always use the most liquid called for in the recipe, which is a few tablespoons.

                1. re: Nikki NYC

                  Margaine is simply bad in pie. Either splurge on the butter or use a recipe for Crisco, which IMHO is also gross tasting in pie but will give a better texutre.

                  1. re: JudiAU

                    Ugh, I agree. I think Crisco is even grosser than margarine, though. If you must have a low-cholesterol fat in your pie crust, I'd try an oil-based recipe or try using coconut oil (which is solid when cold) in a butter/solid fat based recipe.

                    1. re: biondanonima

                      I use the Crisco product made for baking and it I think it makes a fine piecrust.

                      I used to use corn oil magarine for piecrust, and it was quite good.

                      There are probably a million ways to make piecrust. Honestly, I'd never use butter in a piecrust, and I never heard of doing so until just recently. I've been making pies since the 1960s.

                      1. re: biondanonima

                        I have coconut oil!! Does it really work?

                        1. re: Nikki NYC

                          I have not tried it but I believe it would be far better than Smart Balance.

                      2. re: Nikki NYC

                        Add a tablespoon or two more. it won't hurt. you'll know it if you go over (and you can add more flour if needed -- harder than adding more water, but still pretty easy.).

                        1. re: Nikki NYC

                          I'm confused, you are following these recipes "to the letter," but are subbing the fat with Smart Balance?
                          I wouldn't expect the results to be similar in any way.

                          1. re: wyogal

                            Agreed. I trust crisco shortening. I've done butter crusts. But Smart Balance? Seems weird.

                            1. re: wyogal

                              See how dumb I am at this pie baking business? I had no idea the type of fat mattered! Oops. I have a non-hydrogenated shortening I could use. Would that work? What about the coconut oil?

                              1. re: Nikki NYC

                                If it's solid at room temp, you're probably fine.

                                1. re: Nikki NYC

                                  I just use butter, a wholesome ingredient, and limit my intake of crusts. Moderation.
                                  Fat is a big deal in baking, especially crusts. Have you googled recipes? There are tons out there that use coconut oil.

                                  1. re: Nikki NYC

                                    How much pie do you make/eat that using butter or even lard would be a health issue? I mean, a stick of butter divided into 6 or 8 servings, once in a while, is not really an issue. Assuming that cholesterol from food is really that big an issue anyway, and assuming that cholesterol (in the broad sense) is really the issue that Big PharmA wants you to think it is. The research is finding that it is more a question of LDL-P (actual number of LDL particles)/mMol and whether or not your lipids are "discordant" and not just a matter of numbers. Read Barbara Roberts (M.D.) The Truth About Statins and then enjoy your pie dough made with butter.

                                    1. re: Just Visiting

                                      I've eaten a quarter of a pie, per day, for months.
                                      /lazy

                                      1. re: Chowrin

                                        My husband could do that, too! But honestly, most people don't eat that much pie, and if they do, well I guess they aren't all that worried about their health given all the sugar, fat, flour...

                                        1. re: Just Visiting

                                          it makes a good breakfast and lunch. i don't see the problem.

                                      2. re: Just Visiting

                                        On your suggestion, I got this book from the library and am very glad I read it. She advises people to follow a mediterranean diet instead of taking meds like statins. Even tho I love pepperoni, salami, mortadella, etc, I'm going to try very hard to avoid cured meats. I'm also making a real effort to eat more fish and trying to learn how to cook it. Tonight I made fresh, wild King Salmon filets, they were perfect, not fishy BUT $20 lb, so to feed 3, it cost me $29. But, the same meal in a restaurant would have cost much more. Somehow, I don't like the fresh wild Sockeye from Costco.

                                  2. re: Nikki NYC

                                    I think that the melting point of regular Smart Balance is too low, and light Smart Balance is too high.

                                    Traditionally used in pies:
                                    Lard: 30°C (below body temp of 37°C)
                                    Crisco: 47-48°C
                                    Butter: 32–35°C

                                    Hmmmmmm.... I just noticed the melting point of cocoa butter is 34 - 38°C. I wonder......

                                    1. re: soychicka

                                      Someone posted about using peanut oil on this thread.
                                      Maybe liquids do work?? I 'unno...

                                      1. re: soychicka

                                        Cocoa butter has different properties that will yield quite surprisingly different results, because of its different fat composition. Unlike the 3 fats above, it's hard and crystalline at room temperature, not plastic. So it doesn't "cut" in in the same way. The beta(VI) phase crystal form of cocoa butter (which is the normal one for tempering) has a nominal melting point of 36° C.

                                        The upshot of all this is that cocoa butter will behave somewhat more like suet. You won't get the same amount of flakiness and, baked, the result will be tougher unless you use a hot-water method. It could work for a steamed crust, although I've never attempted that with cocoa butter.

                                  3. I made a pie earlier this week and rolled it out on my silicone baking mat. This made it quite easy to get the rolled out dough into the pie pan with minimum damage.

                                    For what it's worth I use smitten kitchens recipe for an all butter pie crust and mix by hand.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: corneygirl

                                      I don't like to use silicon for my own unscientific crazy reasons. But I looove the recipes from Smitten Kitchen.