America’s Test Kitchen Pie Crust

America's Test Kitchen Pie Crust

Want the perfect pie crust? Christopher Kimball from America’s Test Kitchen says the secret is to substitute half of the recipe’s water with vodka, for a dry, flaky crust. iStockphoto.com hide caption
america's test kitchen pie crust 1

America's Test Kitchen Pie Crust

Want the perfect pie crust? Christopher Kimball from America’s Test Kitchen says the secret is to substitute half of the recipe’s water with vodka, for a dry, flaky crust. iStockphoto.com hide caption toggle caption iStockphoto.com
america's test kitchen pie crust 2

America's Test Kitchen Pie Crust

Want the perfect pie crust? Christopher Kimball from America’s Test Kitchen says the secret is to substitute half of the recipe’s water with vodka, for a dry, flaky crust. iStockphoto.com hide caption toggle caption
america's test kitchen pie crust 3

America's Test Kitchen Pie Crust

Vodka is essential to the texture of the crust and imparts no flavor — do not substitute. This dough, which was developed by a test-kitchen team led by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt for “America’s Test Kitchen,” will be moister and more supple than most standard pie doughs and will require more flour to roll out (up to 1/4 cup).
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America's Test Kitchen Pie Crust

Ingredients 2 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour (12 1/2 ounces) 1 teaspoon table salt 2 tablespoons sugar 12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), cut into 1/4-inch slices ½ cup chilled solid vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces ¼ cup vodka, cold ¼ cup cold water Preparation 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. Tip Correction: December 9, 2012 Because of an editing error, a headline for a recipe that accompanied an article on Oct. 14 about Christopher Kimball, the host of the TV show ‘‘America’s Test Kitchen,’’ referred imprecisely to the discoverer of ‘‘Foolproof Pie Dough.’’ It was developed by a test-kitchen team led by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, not by Kimball. Like this recipe? Save To Recipe Box Save Saved Add to a collection Print this recipe Share on FacebookShare on PinterestShare on TwitterEmail
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America's Test Kitchen Pie Crust

When we talked to Cook’s Illustrated publisher Chris Kimball about the November 2007 issue of the magazine, we asked what recipes really stood out in it this year. This pie crust is one of them, he said. “It’s a brilliant recipe,” Kimball said. “The secret ingredient in it? Vodka.” Read the Whole Story
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America's Test Kitchen Pie Crust

When we talked to Cook’s Illustrated publisher Chris Kimball about the November 2007 issue of the magazine, we asked what recipes really stood out in it this year. This pie crust is one of them, he said. “It’s a brilliant recipe,” Kimball said. “The secret ingredient in it? Vodka.”
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America's Test Kitchen Pie Crust

On the best pie crust ever: Kimball recommends substituting vodka for half of the water used in your recipe. “You end up using more total liquid ,” he says. “When you bake it, half of the vodka, which is one-quarter of the total liquid, is alcohol, and almost all of that dissipates in the heat of the oven. So you end up with a dry, flaky dough, which you can also roll out.”
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On one of the biggest mistakes made in the Test Kitchen: Kimball says you should never put a hot glass casserole dish on a wet countertop. Why not? He says it can break into about a thousand pieces. Lancaster adds that one incident with a roux, a glass container and a wet countertop once left the Test Kitchen looking like a scene from Lethal Weapon. “Test cooks were diving across the counter to get away from it,” she says.
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On working in the Test Kitchen: Think working in a test kitchen and tasting food all day would be enjoyable? It is, but there are downsides to the job — like the “five-pound-a-year rule,” which is how much weight the typical test chef gains in a year. And then there are the constant tastings.
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Directions Lay out three-quarters of the butter pieces on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and freeze until hard, at least 30 minutes. Refrigerate remaining butter. Combine flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor. Add refrigerated butter, and pulse to combine, about 10 times. Add frozen butter, and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, with some blueberry-size clumps. Add ice water, and immediately pulse until water is just incorporated, about 10 times. Squeeze a small amount of dough to make sure it holds together. Pulse a few more times if needed. Lay out 2 pieces of plastic wrap. Empty half the dough onto each piece. Bring edges of wrap together to gather dough. Press into disks. Roll out disks, still wrapped in plastic, to 1/2-inch-thick rounds (8 inches in diameter). Refrigerate at least 45 minutes and up to 2 days. Dough can be frozen up to 1 month. Cook’s Notes Some large clumps (about the size of small blueberries) should remain after pulsing the butter with the dry ingredients. The finished dough should be mottled with large pieces of butter. The best way to transfer the rolled-out dough to a pie plate is by rolling it over the pin and unfurling it onto the plate.
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The mission of America’s Test Kitchen is simple: to make “recipes that work.” The syndicated PBS cooking show, hosted by Christopher Kimball, simplifies recipes in ways that home chefs can easily replicate with a fairly high degree of success.
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Making piecrust can leave a cook feeling like a magician. Combine flour, water, and butter with just a bit of sugar and salt and — presto! — the result is a tender, flaky pastry that elevates just about any filling. The trick, of course, is in the method — a simple but precise series of steps that, through baking thousands of pies, our test-kitchen staff has trial-and-errored down to a science.
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“Well, 40 minutes of cooking shrimp in a skillet is simply not going to come out very well,” Kimball says. “And guess whose fault that was? Mine. So most of recipe writing is what the person at home is going to do to your recipe. It’s not whether you can make it in your test kitchen.”
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Note: Be sure to use very ripe, heavily speckled (or even black) bananas in this recipe. This recipe can be made using 5 thawed frozen bananas; since they release a lot of liquid naturally, they can bypass the microwaving in step 2 and go directly into the fine-mesh strainer. Do not use a thawed frozen banana in step 4; it will be too soft to slice. Instead, simply sprinkle the top of the loaf with sugar. The test kitchen’s preferred loaf pan measures 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inches; if you use a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan, start checking for doneness five minutes earlier than advised in the recipe. The texture is best when the loaf is eaten fresh, but it can be stored (cool completely first), covered tightly with plastic wrap, for up to 3 days.
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“One of the worst things was brownie tastings,” says Lancaster. “Because, of course, you don’t just have to taste them, you have to feed on them all day. One of the test cooks that works there, she and I counted up the calories we consume in one day. And it was frightening.”
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“We bring people into our kitchen and watch people cook our recipes and send our recipes out by email, and we know that what people do with those recipes bears little resemblance to what we do with them,” says Kimball. “For example, they will substitute ingredients with great abandon. They will never read the recipe ahead of time.”