Thursday, November 20, 2008

Whole-Wheat Pie Crusts...

...for all your Thanksgiving pie and quiche needs. This uses a great ATK discovery of alcohol for non-gluten forming flour hydration and it evaporates during baking, so you won't harm any children with it; and by completely combining the butter with half the flour, you get more even fat distribution for flakiness. Pro chefs I know look at me like I'm crazy when they see me make pastry this way, but it works. You can roll it out multiple times if you must and it will stay tender and flaky. I highly recommend using bourbon for pecan or pumpkin pie crusts and rum for meringues.

Recipe: Never Fail Whole Wheat Pie Crust

(makes 2 crusts)

I use a combination of whole-wheat flour and whole-wheat pastry flour, but you can use either/or. I also brown half my butter [and I use only butter... I did have olive oil trans-fat free shortening but it went bad. If you have some that's still good, feel free to sub ~4-8 tablespoons.]

16 tsb butter cut into med. dice
1 1/4 cup flour [ whole-wheat or all-purpose]
2 tsb sugar (for dessert crusts; omit for quiches)
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup pastry flour [preferably whole wheat]
cup water
cup vodka [or whiskey, bourbon, rum]

2 1-gallon Ziploc-type bags
cup flour for work surface

in a food processor:
Combine first 4 ingredients and process until it gets very clumpy or forms a ball. Add pastry flour and pulse to distribute. Add liquids and pulse until just combined. Divide evenly into 2 zippered bags and press each with the heel of your palm to form a cohesive disk [or dump into pie plate and pat into place!]. Refrigerate at least 20 minutes.

To roll out: Flour your counter or pastry cloth. Open the Ziploc and cut down the sides of the bag, pull away one side, and flip dough onto work surface. Roll out until at least 1.5” larger than the top of the pie plate. Fold dough over rolling pin to transfer to the dish, and gently push dough into bottom corners of the plate. With scissors, trim excess to no more than 1” and pop it back into the fridge to cool for ~5 minutes. Once it’s firmed up a bit, roll/fold the excess crust underneath, making the edge flush with the plate. Crimp edges or smash with a fork, peanut butter cookie style. Fill or parbake according to your recipe.
or by hand:
Pre-measure all your ingredients and set them around you (your hands will be messy and you won’t want to open any cupboards). In a large mixing bowl, combine first 4 ingredients and squish them together with your fingers until mostly uniform… a few blobs of butter are okay. Break dough into nickel-sized clumps and sprinkle remaining pastry flour over. With the heel of your hand, flatten out most of the clumps against the bottom of the bowl and toss with the dry flour. Sprinkle vodka and most of water over dough. Stir it around with your fingers and lightly squeeze it into the dough until you have a fairly cohesive mass. If the dough is still dry, add remaining water and combine. Divide evenly into bags and press each with the heel of your palm to form a cohesive disk. Refrigerate at least 20 minutes before rolling out as above.
Brown butter -- in a skillet until the milk solids turn a nutty brown color. Pour into a small bowl and chill ~ 3 hours to resolidify. This will make for a very tender crust with much smaller flakes.
Spice -- add a tiny pinch of nutmeg and a bigger pinch of allspice to flour for dessert pies or finely ground black pepper and herbs (sage, thyme) for savory pies.


  1. Hard to believe this technique works as well as it does... alcohol, is there anything you can't do?

  2. I need to try this over the holidays. Very intriguing. Altho now I have reason to work on a perfect pizza dough. . . .any plans to post those recipes soon?

  3. Too bad I did not see this before I went grocery shopping! It will definitely be tried on my next pie!

  4. Love this crust! I brown half of the butter, melt the other half, add everything else and stir it up. Cool it for about 20 minutes in the fridge and it's ready to use! Yummy!!