I love pie.
But many times, piecrust — even of the pies sold in cafes and restaurants — resembles a tasteless cardboard wafer.
Yet a good pie just isn't the same without a really good piecrust.
Over the years, I've experimented with different tips for handmade piecrust.
Here's my disclaimer: I think the best way to make any piecrust is to just dump the ingredients into your food processor, then keep pressing "Pulse" until your pie dough achieves that mealy bunch-of-peas look.
The "pulsed" piecrust turns out well with very little effort on your part.
But my food processor broke down a couple of years ago and we never managed to invest in a new one. So for us, it's either handmade piecrust or nothing.
And it seems like now, for people in quarantine who are looking for something practical and rewarding to do with ingredients they (hopefully) have on hand, improving piecrust-making skills might be a gratifying activity.
Note: The following does not include an actual recipe, just tips for how to use the recipe of your choice. Why? Because I've never found a piecrust recipe that works consistently every time. I find that I always need to adjust the amounts, depending on the level of humidity in the kitchen, type of flour used, etc.
Tips for Piecrust Techniques
Interestingly, the process of rubbing the fat and dough between your fingers lends a good effect to the dough (can't remember the exact chemistry of it all, but it's definitely a helpful process).
It's hard to explain the folding in words, but after you roll out your dough into a circle or square shape (uneven is fine), you start folding like how an envelope is created:
Some like to keep it in a ball for the refrigeration time, then roll it out and place it in the pan.
I found that shaping it in the pan before refrigerating is both easier & more efficient.
Tips for Ingredients
I made a mistake with this vodka tip.
The first time, I used half vodka and half water.
But the second time, I thought to try all vodka, no water.
So I sprinkled in 2 tablespoons of vodka instead of 2 tablespoons of water, but the dough didn't come together.
So I added a third tablespoon, and it still didn't come together.
Finally, I realized that I needed regular liquid instead of alcohol, so I added a tablespoon of ice water. Then the dough was almost too wet, but still workable.
I also regretted my focus on vodka because with 3 tablespoons in only a little more than a cup of flour, the piecrust would probably not taste good.
Anyway, I needed to bake the piecrust before filling it, which called for baking it at a very high heat for 8-10 minutes.
When the piecrust was almost ready, something forced my oven door open with the sound of WHOOSH! and I saw a glow of blue-yellow fire flash out for a split second, then disappear.
I quickly turned off the oven and closed the oven door, racking my brains to figure out what just happened and how I was supposed to make challah if my oven was emitting fire?
Was old baking paper stuck in there? Or oil?
Finally, I realized that the vodka probably emitted alcohol fumes, which probably caught on fire, forcing open the oven and shooting out that burst of fire (which, with the predominant blue color, is what flaming alcohol looks like).
I was also grateful to God for taking care of the vodka-taste by burning the alcohol out of the pie without burning the pie or anything else.
That just goes to show how important it is to say the time-honored phrase l'khvod Shabbat (for the honor of the Sabbath) when cooking & baking for Shabbat — God really helps you make the food turn out well for that holy day!
(The oven continues to work fine, by the way.)
And the piecrust had no alcohol taste.
You can use whatever piecrust recipe you have on hand, and apply the above tips for a piecrust worth eating.
Wishing you bracha v'hatzlacha (blessing & success)!