Happy belated pi day!
I am not a math person, so from Wikipedia:
Pi is a mathematical constant whose value is the ratio of any circle‘s circumference to its diameter in Euclidean space; this is the same value as the ratio of a circle’s area to the square of its radius. It is approximately equal to 3.141593 in the usual decimal notation.
The important part of that definition is the 3.14. For the more math inclined folks, 3.14 or π, is celebrated on none other than 3/14 or March 14th. I’m a little late, but I can’t always coordinate my pie making with mathematical anomalies. This pie was a good one which totally made up for its tardiness. Sadly though, unlike pi, my pie didn’t extend into infinity. There are a few pieces left, but since there is still cardamom (!!) ice cream (!!) in the freezer I doubt they will stick around much past tonight.
This pie crust is one for the record books (or at least the cookbooks). The recipe is from the always dependable America’s Test Kitchen and its secret ingredient shouldn’t remain a secret because it will save many frustrated housewives from imperfect pie crusts.
It employes a kind of science I can understand! Vodka! Straight up vodka (the cheap kind) is the secret ingredient. Replace half of the liquid with vodka which adds moisture to the dough while you are handling it but when it bakes the alcohol evaporates leaving lovely, flakey little pockets. It’s almost infallible!! I trust that you will pass along the secret to any and all who have ever been bested by a pie crust.
Foolproof Vodka Pie Crust
2 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 t. table salt
2 T. sugar
12 T. (1-1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices
½ cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
¼ cup cold vodka
¼ cup cold water
In a food processor pulse 1 1/2 cups flour, salt and sugar until combined, about two 1-second pulses. Add butter and shortening, and process until dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds about the size of small peas). Scrape bowl with rubber spatula to make sure everything gets mixed evenly. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly mixed and dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl. (I don’t have a food processor so I use a hand pastry blender and a large bowl and it works just fine.)
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. (I just stick my hands in and get it done. I know there are rules about your hot hands warming the dough but I never have a problem. Does that just mean I have really cold hands?)
Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into a 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes, up to 2 days. Makes a double crust for 1 pie.