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November 4, 2011

January 23rd in National Pie Day, but why wait until then to enjoy the dessert which – I’ve read – is supposed to be very trendy at the moment. In the South, pie never, ever goes out of style and whether creamed, baked or fried, pies are Southern staples at all times of the year.  However, I suspect that more pie is consumed in November than any other month. Cakes seem to be more popular in December.  I’ll begin this month’s Foodie Fridays with a pie crust recipe that I would be willing to bet is not in your recipe repertoire but once you try this, I’ll bet it will be. Vodka keeps the dough from getting tough and lard – well – let’s just say it adds something to a pie crust that old time cooks knew about but has just now come back into vogue as a cooking fat. My other posts this month will  include some of my family’s favorite pie recipes. So stayed tuned!

Lard & Vodka Pie Crust

(makes a single, 9” pie crust)

 1 1/4 cups flour

½ tsp. salt

1 TBSP. sugar

¼ cup + 2 TBSPS. cold, unsalted butter

¼ cup cold lard OR cold vegetable shortening

2 TBSPS. chilled vodka

2 TBSPS. of ice water

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar and salt. Cut the butter into 1/4″ slices and the cold lard/shortening into 4 pieces. Add the butter and lard/shortening to the flour mixture and cut in using a pastry blender until crumbly. In a small bowl, combine the vodka and water and sprinkle over the flour mixture.  Using a rubber spatula, fold the dough – pressing down – until it is tacky and sticks together.

Using your hands, form the dough into a ball and then flatten into a 4″ disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes or up to 3 days.

To prepare pie shell, remove the disc from the refrigerator and let it rest for 10 minutes at room temperature. Lightly flour both sides of the disc and starting in the center, roll it out on a lightly floured surface. Rotate the dough 1/4 turn and repeat rolling.  Continue to rotate and roll until the dough is the right size and thickness.  Dust the round with flour as necessary to prevent sticking, flipping the dough over halfway through. Adjust as necessary to make an even circle.

Lightly spray a 9″ pie pan/plate with vegetable oil spray. Place the rolling pin at one end of the dough and loosely roll the dough around it.  Then drape the hanging edge of the dough over one end of the pie plate and gently unroll it into place. Don’t stretch the dough as doing so will make it shrink in the oven.  Instead, fit the dough to the pie plate by using one hand to support the dough overhang and the other hand to gently press the dough into the plate, working your way around the pie.

If the dough tears, patch it with a little excess dough from the overhang and moisten with some water and press it into the crack.

Trim the overhang with either kitchen scissors or a sharp knife so that the overhang dough is a uniform 1/2 inch.  Tuck this overhang dough under to form a thick, even, stable edge on the rim of the pie plate.

For a decorative edge, pinch the dough into ridges around the rim using the index finger of one hand and the thumb and index finger of the other hand. Work your way around the perimeter of the pie, using a gentle downward pressure to help the crust adhere to the rim of the pie plate.

Refrigerate the shell for 40 minutes (this allows the gluten in the flour to relax and minimizes shrinkage when baked). Freeze the dough for an additional 20 minutes so that the fat in the dough solidifies.

To pre-bake for pumpkin and baked custard pies, preheat oven to 325°. Line the frozen pie crust with a double layer of aluminum foil covering the edges to prevent burning. Fill the aluminum lined pie crust with pie weights, pennies or dried beans and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and carefully remove the liner and weights.

To bake completely, after pre-baking and removing the aluminum foil and weights, use a fork and poke holes randomly along the bottom and sides. Return to oven and bake for an additional 15 minutes.

Note: You can leave this dough in the refrigerator for up to 3 days OR after rolling and making a pie shell, you can freeze the shell until ready to use and bake.


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