Figuring it out – Round One

September 16, 2011


Lloyd’s brother Aaron is up to visit for the weekend. Hi, Aaron!

I don't think they're playing poker.

They were going to play a game, and since I’m allergic to games and somebody donated a bunch of apples to my school, I announced that I was going to make a pie. Ha! At the time of this writing, it is an hour and a half after I have begun, and there is still no pie. Note to self: Making a pie takes a long, long time. Dairy Queen is very close. Go to Dairy Queen instead.

The crust did not go well. I was irritated because I really want to get the basic flour, fat, ice water method down, but I’m just so, so bad at it. I blame Alton Brown and his pie crust episode, that while helpful, made me even more nervous about overworking the dough or adding too much water and making a tough crust. I have Toughcrustophobia.

(I should just tell you now that I expect no comments on this, nor do I expect that you will read the rest. This is just a letter to myself today. Sorry, everyone.)

It’s the adding of the water that I don’t get. I can cut in the fat (butter and shortening in this case), but I always freak about about adding too much water and I don’t know how to stir it in so I wind up not adding enough and then it crumbles and winds up mostly on the counter and floor, resulting in not enough crust for the top, dang it all!!

Dang it! Now I have to patch it, and there ain't no patching material.

That reminds me – I need to sweep.

So I made the first pie, and when then told Lloyd jokingly that someday I was going to buy a can of Crisco and a bag of flour and just work out the water thing. There would be no pie, but lots and lots of pie dough.

I’ve started that system now. I followed this recipe, which makes one crust. What I stupidly failed to read was the ‘add more water after you feel the dough’. I only added two tablespoons, then sprayed like Alton Brown with great fear.

My ‘water’ is a glug of vodka with some ice cubes thrown in. By the time I get around to using it the ice has melted somewhat and it’s cold. I read somewhere that the alcohol evaporates out and the crust is more flaky? ….tender?

I don’t know what I’m doing.

The second round went better, I think. I wound up adding almost 4 tablespoons of water (yikes!!), and it came together with just a few cracks, and didn’t feel wet when I wrapped it up. I’m actually going to let it sit in the fridge overnight like the recipe recommends and check it tomorrow.

This looks much better than the first batch, but will it be tough?

Is that good? Is that bad?

So let’s remember what you did, Lauren:

glug of vodka, add ice
put 1 1/2 T Crisco in freezer
cut up 1/2 a stick of cold butter
1 cup flour
1 T sugar
pinch of salt
mix dry, cut in fat
measure out 2 T of water, add 1/4 at a time and mix with fork
measure out 2 more T of water and add 1/4 at a time, stir with fork then push the dough around the bowl with your hand. (Don’t freak out that your hand is melting the fat! All will be well. or awful. What do you really care? Lloyd will eat anything.) You might not need the last two doses.
Wrap in plastic wrap and put in fridge. Make another of these if you’re making a big pie.

About Lauren

Lauren Sommerer is a preschool teacher who likes to build prototypes, grow cats, cook things once, save money, reduce, reuse and recycle.

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9 Responses to “Figuring it out – Round One”

  1. Brad Said on:

    When you started talking about adding vodka to your pie crust, it reminded me of this old email forward:


  2. Lauren's dad Said on:

    The perfect solution is your mother’s recipe! On the other hand, some people won’t eat it, and so I have to dispose of it—a real pleasure!


  3. Peggy Said on:

    I say don’t worry about how it looks….just how it tastes. I’m sure it will be delicious.

    I haven’t made an apple pie in years (I switched to making Apple Crisp--same thing only different, easier & more buttery). I always used Betty Crockers pie crust recipe….she never let me down. And I like to sprinkle my pie crust or Apple Crisp with cinnamon sugar.

    I hope you show us a baked picture of your pie today!


  4. bekahcubed Said on:

    I enjoyed hearing about your process.

    When I was teaching Scientific Principles of Food Preparation, I never let the students mix the pie crust for our comparisons of the effects of different fats--so much is affected by technique. But, when one person (me) does the preparation with different fats, the results are as follows: lard or shortening result in a tender/flaky crust, butter or margarine result in a flaky but tough crust (because butter and margarine are 16% water), oil results in a very tender but not at all flaky crust (no solid fat globules to melt and produce flakes).

    I’ve heard of the vodka technique but haven’t yet tried it. (Even though the vodka was going to evaporate out before the product was eaten, I couldn’t bring vodka into my university lab without special dispensations--and the sad truth is that I rarely make pie at home.)


  5. Gretchen Said on:

    Alton Brown has the same effect on me -- makes me completely insecure about a cooking process I’ve previously done successfully.


  6. Deborah Said on:

    America’s Test Kitchen does the vodka thing.


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