Cook's Illustrated Foolproof Pie Crust

By • November 12, 2013 83 Comments

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Author Notes: The secret pie crust ingredient and technique that changed what we thought we knew about pie from J. Kenji López-Alt and Cook's Illustrated .Genius Recipes

Makes 1 pie crust

  • 1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (3/4 stick), cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1/4 cup chilled solid vegetable shortening, cut into 2 pieces
  • 2 tablespoons vodka, cold
  • 2 tablespoons cold water
  1. Process 3/4 cups flour, salt, and sugar together in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogenous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 10 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds with some very small pieces of butter remaining, but there should be no uncoated flour). Scrape down sides and bottom of bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining 1/2 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.
  2. 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. Flatten dough into 4-inch disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.
  3. Adjust oven rack to lowest position, place rimmed baking sheet on oven rack, and heat oven to 425 degrees. Remove dough from refrigerator and roll out on generously floured (up to 1/4 cup) work surface to 12-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll into pie plate, leaving at least 1-inch overhang on each side. Working around circumference, ease dough into plate by gently lifting edge of dough with one hand while pressing into plate bottom with other hand. Leave overhanging dough in place; refrigerate until dough is firm, about 30 minutes.
  4. Trim overhang to 1/2 inch beyond lip of pie plate. Fold overhang under itself; folded edge should be flush with edge of pie plate. Flute dough or press the tines of a fork against dough to flatten it against rim of pie plate. Refrigerate dough-lined plate until firm, about 15 minutes.
  5. Remove pie pan from refrigerator, line crust with foil, and fill with pie weights or pennies. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove foil and weights, rotate plate, and bake for 5 to 10 minutes additional minutes until crust is golden brown and crisp.
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Comments (83) Questions (4)

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7 months ago Mark

Less work to roll chilled dough out between two sheets of parchment paper (spritz of non-stick spray will help with removal) then freeze the rolled out dough in the parchment. This can be done days ahead and is ready when you are. Just peel the paper off the frozen dough "disc" and center the dough on the pie pan. Let thaw a few minutes before gently lifting the edges to settle the dough into the pan, then flute. Fantastic crust! I endured a few "disasters" with rolling and transferring the sticky dough, before I discovered this trick.

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7 months ago Jennifer

Fantastic crust. I found it very difficult to roll out (even after refrigerating)--but the end result was flaky, tender, tasty, the best...

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7 months ago GreenKitchen

What size pie pan? Is this recipe large enough for a 10" deeper pan?

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7 months ago Mark

It worked fine for my 10 inch Dutch Apple with crumb topping. Just couldn't flute the edges as high, which didn't matter.

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10 months ago Sherry

Can this be used to make lattice crusts?

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10 months ago Cindy

I don't see why not?

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9 months ago Sherry

I realize now that it was a pretty goofy question, haha. It worked really well for lattice... I just remember ATK saying at some point (not sure if it was the video or not) that it was a very tacky crust. So I was afraid it would be too tacky to work with for the lattice. It was just fine, though!

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12 months ago Luvtocook

In my humble opinion, par-baking a pie shell has the advantage of firming up the pie dough before a filling is added, promoting crispness. Lately I've been par-baking pie crusts (even for as little as 5 to 10 minutes at 425) for nearly everything...from quiches to fruit pies.

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12 months ago joann

So...you have to bake the pie crust PRIOR to using pie filling (i.e. apples, apricots, peaches, etc.)? Couldn't you put the pie filling in the pie & then cook it all at once? *sorry if this is a stupid question, but I'm very new to making pies.

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12 months ago Augustina Ragwitz

The trick to this pie crust is to add ALL the water. It will seem to wet and sticky but remember, the vodka will evaporate in cooking. I made the mistake of not adding enough liquid and my crust came out too dry.

I use home rendered leaf lard from pastured pigs for my shortening. I buy the raw lard from the Farmers' Market but butchers usually have it too.

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over 1 year ago Leslie Svanevik

This was fantastic! I doubled the recipe to make an apple pie for Pi Day on Friday, and it was probably the best homemade crust recipe I've encountered. Flavorful, flaky yet sturdy.

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over 1 year ago pattyposy

Solid shortening is available in our local grocery store, either in 1 lb cans or in cubes. Simply chill in your refrig until needed.
Pat
Williamsburg, VA

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over 1 year ago Kristen goh

Hello, may i know where can I find chilled solid vegetable shortening? Please advise...

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over 1 year ago Susan Richmond

This is the best recipe for pie crust. You can substitute different liquor as well. I did Gin in a savory pie and it did add some flavor. Moonshine, however, did not add any flavor and my friends thought it very funny!

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over 1 year ago BonnieontheBlock

This pie crust is just like a standard pastry made with water. As is the case for any pastry, it can be easily stored in the freezer if properly wrapped. When it is worked on, it is best when allowed to rest in the fridge after every step. Refrigerating dough rolled into a pan allows the gluten to relax and thus prevents shrinkage during baking so that the crust wont slump and the crimps remain sharply defined.

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over 1 year ago Amy

Can be used for any type of pie. I refrigerate in a zip lock not a pan. Divide into two rounds and either put into individual zip locks or wrap in plastic.

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over 1 year ago Cindy

Do you have to refrigerate the dough in the pan if you are making a 2 crusted pie?

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over 1 year ago Cheryl Hayes

is this pie crust for any type of pies

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over 1 year ago pattyposy

I'd like to try this recipe again. Is pre-baking the crust necessary for pies such as pumpkin, apple, etc. that will be baked to cook the filling?

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over 1 year ago albanyville

Made this recipe exactly as written. I appreciated the precise mixing instructions as it left no doubt in my mind (is THIS homogenous dough???) My pie was perfect and the crust was superb. I swear, I smiled for two days afterwards.

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over 1 year ago Justine

I have tripled this recipe and substituted milk for water with the vodka for years. I get one two crust pie, one single. Perfect for Thanksgiving dinner. Pumpkin and apple. The milk makes it a little shorter, but everyone eats all the crust on the plate.

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over 1 year ago Amy

Love this recipe. Works great as it is. Don't over mix. I have a food processor but I use a pastry cutter for this. I don't add sugar but depending on the pie, I will do an egg wash before putting it in the oven.

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over 1 year ago a

I have tried this twice and have not found that my experience mimics what is supposed to happen. I always have at least one piece of butter that fails to clump, forcing me to process for longer than indicate, which ends up giving me a dough that is too gooey to roll out. The vodka may make this cook better, but that's a moot point if the prepatory instructions don't work correctly.

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over 1 year ago JohnL

If you just have one chunk of butter that has failed to clump but the rest of the mixture has achieved the desired texture, rather than over-process the rest of the dough, you could take out that errant piece of butter and cut it up into smaller pieces and add it back and continue with the recipe and without danger of over mixed dough. Other than that, I always just make sure to cut the butter into uniform slices (I like it stone cold from the fridge), and it doesn't hurt if your processor's blade is good & sharp! This dough needs to be well-chilled before roll out. Hope this helps.

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over 1 year ago pattyposy

I proudly served an apple galette for Christmas, using this pie crust recipe. As I mixed the ingredients, I thought 2 T each of vodka and water would be too much so I added one each. Chilled my dough overnight and brought it to room temp for about 30 minutes before rolling it on a silpat mat and completing the galette. Think this was an error; dough was quite soft. It was also a challenge to get the pie from the mat to the platter but we did it. Compliments all around but why was my dough so soft and difficult to manage? I will try this again, rum in the crust intrigues me! Suggestions welcome.

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over 1 year ago Rob Ciampa

I've made this three times now, and am going to use it for Christmas as well. This is the best pie crust recipe I've come across so far, and it has become my go-to for all things pie-related! I also put the butter in the freezer about 20-30 minutes before I make the dough, and when I'm ready to make the dough. I pull it out and grate it into the mixture using a box grater...prefect consistency every time :)

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over 1 year ago Tom Salamone

Rob. I believe you have made my day with freeze then grate using a box grater. Thanks.

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over 1 year ago Rob Ciampa

Thanks! I forget where I learned that, but it works so well and I've used it when making scones and tarts too.

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over 1 year ago pattyposy

hope to try this crust for Christmas. It sounds wonderful! Would it work well if making a galette (rustic free-form tart? Would pre-baking be needed or advised?

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over 1 year ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

I think it would work wonderfully in a free-form galette -- no pre-baking needed.

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over 1 year ago arcane54

Made it and loved it! I made a pecan-pumpkin pie recipe and used fresh pumpkin (baked, scraped and whizzed in the food processor to break down any stringiness). I was worried that the moisture would wreak havoc on this crust and it didn't! Could be the tip that Bonnieontheblock mentioned below -- glass pie plate, pre-heated sheet pan. I've been a big fan of the Chez Panisse crust recipes (and will still use their galette dough -- amazing) but this is now my go-to pie crust recipe.

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over 1 year ago minissimus

For years I have used the pastry dough recipe from the excellent Baking with Julia cookbook, which calls for about half each of butter and shortening. Distracted by one of my children, I stumbled onto the thoroughly blended butter trick, but I've always cut the shortening in by hand afterwards with a pastry blender. The vodka was a new twist though, so I used half water and half vodka, plus the tablespoon of sugar, in my last 4-crust batch of dough. On the plus side, the dough holds its shape better--a pattern pressed into the rim of a blind-baked crust with the back of a knife came out practically as sharp as when it went in the oven. On the minus side, the crust browned considerably darker than my usual water-only crust does. The sugar, which I usually don't add, may have contributed to that, but the reduced water content probably did too.

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over 1 year ago Zozo

Sounds fantastic! Have heard of the vodka trick before but have always been a pea-sized-butter-chunks gal. Now that I live in a warm apartment I'm rethinking this!! If anyone has a picture of the cooked crust I'd love to see it, but otherwise will try this anyway.

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over 1 year ago Kathryn Seiler

can this pie crust recipe be doubled for two crust pies

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3 months ago Debbie

Yes.

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over 1 year ago Sandra L Trautwein

thought this was a great idea. Can't wait to try.

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over 1 year ago Sandie

Patricia, I think that butter flavored Crisco tastes SOOO Fake. Better to use a Crisco/Butter combination. (Just my humble opinion…)

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over 1 year ago Patricia Copeland

I never use shortening. Thanks for the tip Sandie!

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over 1 year ago Patricia Copeland

Can you use the butter flavor Crisco shortening, or does the shortening need to be the traditional white color?

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over 1 year ago Fran McGinty

The recipe does not need to be adjusted to fill. I made apple, pecan and orange meringue they all turned out fantastic.

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over 1 year ago BonnieontheBlock

I've used this recipe for filled pies for a long time--since it came out in Cooks originally. In my experience, filled pies turn out just fine with no adjustment. However, another useful insight from ATK comes in their very useful book, The Science of Good Cooking. In the page after their reprint of the vodka recipe (p. 281), they have a box titled 'How to Prevent a Soggy Crust' the gist of which is use glass pie plates on a preheated baking sheet. It works extremely well.

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over 1 year ago The Far Flung Foodie

Will someone PLEASE answer the question about how to adjust the recipe for filled pies? Thanks!

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over 1 year ago CarlaCooks

Hi Far Flung Foodie! I don't see you question about filled pied, but I made this crust last night for an apple pie and it came out great. I didn't blind bake the crust since I was using a top crust, but even so, I found both the bottom and top crusts to be delicious and cooked through. I hope this answers your question!

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over 1 year ago CarlaCooks

I made this last night to use with the Truly Scrumptious Apple Pie. I doubled the recipe so I could have two crusts, and I used coconut oil instead of vegetable shortening (I still used the butter called for in the recipe). Aside from those changed, I followed the recipe. When rolling the dough, I was worried that it would be a tough crust, but man was I wrong! The crust turned out perfectly; flaky, wonderful taste, and beautiful color. It wasn't too difficult to roll, was easy to patch, and worked like a charm. I will use this recipe and method from now on. Thanks for sharing such a great recipe!

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over 1 year ago Sandie

If this works, I'm creating a new Pinterest Board titled GTFOOH!*. (As in *Get The Food Off of Here) haha Food52 will be my new fav!

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over 1 year ago Fran McGinty

I have made this several times and it is the best. My new favorite!

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over 1 year ago sel

have used apple cider vinegar for my pie crusts....works very well, after many years...now the vodka, this is just another resource to use for that demon 'gluten'....the enemy of excellent pie crusts. i enjoy what i have been using all these years, the vodka worked well, in this case either one is fine.

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over 1 year ago J.B.

Most all who read/s Cook's Illustrated or has watched the show has seen this, plus the recipe has been featured in other blogs. King Arthur Flour alludes to it. But...no one ever gives a reason for why sugar is now being added matter-of-factly to so many crusts. Anyone have a scientific reason for adding sugar? Recently, I've seen sugar used in savory and dessert crusts(dessert crusts I can understand somewhat). Wondered why it is needful?

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over 1 year ago Belinda Rolicheck

Hi J.B.
I've been adding a teaspoon of sugar or two (depending on whether it is a single or double crust) to my pie crust for some time. It adds a little flavor and also aids in browning. I'm not sure if it does anything more than that, but that's the explanation in one of my Mark Bittman cookbooks.

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over 1 year ago Jacqui Bishop

This recipe calls for the empty pie crust to be baked, . If I'm making a fruit pie wouldn't that overcook the crust. Or can I fill it and bake it right away?

Jacqui

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over 1 year ago BonnieontheBlock

This recipe has been widely touted and discussed since it came out in Cooks six years ago. The vodka part of it is useful and interesting. But you chose to republish it on the very week that the FDA issued its intent to ban hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils from the American diet. Why no comment on the fat content of this recipe or at least a discussion of alternative fat(s)within the recipe?

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over 1 year ago Bob

My grandma lived to be 89 using Crisco all the way. Move to Cuba, Venezuela or China if you need a daddy government to DICTATE how you can eat, drink, sleep, breathe, live. Grandma was HEALTHY right up until the end, went quick, great life.

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over 1 year ago sel

that is an excellent point, so now
editors what say you?

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over 1 year ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

I believe the Spectrum organic shortening is made without any hydrogenated fats. I don't have the label in front of me, but I've come to believe that's part of the reason more and more good cooks are using shortening in certain baked goods. I happen to like what it does to the structure of a cookie, so I'm glad to have the Spectrum alternative. ;o)

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over 1 year ago Cairn Catherine Morrison

I'm with Antonia James, above. I've used Spectrum organic non-hydrogenated shortening for years and it does cause pie crust and cookies to behave better than all butter in my experience.

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over 1 year ago java&foam

I made this for the first time 2 years ago when I saw the recipe in an issue of America's Test Kitchen and have never gone back. Doesn't matter the time of year or the humidity...always been a success. Highly recommended if you are looking for a new reliable go-to.

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over 1 year ago marsha rockitter

can only margarine be used?

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over 1 year ago Ajnine

Can this stay good in the freezer longer than 2 days?

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over 1 year ago Christina

Does this crust have to be baked pre-filling? If I bake it as instructed (what temp, btw?), then how would that alter baking time/temp when I want to bake pumpkin pie?

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over 1 year ago welshchick

I started using vodka in my crusts after seeing this recipe demo on Cook's Country. Rolls out beautifully and doesn't tear. I used Stoli Vanilla because it was all I had at the time. Fabulous!

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over 1 year ago Alice Epstein

can you use all butter?

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over 1 year ago welshchick

Yes, I've used all butter. Turns out fine.

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over 1 year ago Nora

Yes, I do, it comes out great

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over 1 year ago Megakid

Is it an even exchange, 1/4 c of butter for 1/4 c of shortening?

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over 1 year ago Tom Salamone

I have a partial bottle of 100 proof vodka. Can I use it without changing recipe measurements? Thanks.

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over 1 year ago Lorrie Burkes

Thank you Masi'sMothi76. I am so going to try this!

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over 1 year ago Kristin Nicole

This is simply genius, I mean who doesn't like vodka with their dessert? I have yet to try my own pie and pie crust, but seriously, how does this not make anyone want to try this?

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over 1 year ago Leeshy

Do you have any suggestions for alternative flour to use to make this wheat-free? I'm finding that the non-wheat flours tends to make my baked goods dry and crumbly. Thanks for any help you can provide!

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over 1 year ago vivanat

There is a recipe for a gluten free pastry crust in today's NY Times food section. Shauna Ahern also has a recommended flour blend on her website, glutenfreegirl.com. And finally, I use Cup4Cup, which is expensive, but works really well for special things like pies for the holidays.

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over 1 year ago Francesca Murphy

Any chance of getting the weight measurement for the flour, butter and shortening? :)

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over 1 year ago pbf

I'd like to second the request! We are always being told that in baking especially, weight measurements are so much more accurate --not to mention being easier to use - so why are recipe writers not giving weights?

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over 1 year ago Geeandfi

One cup of flour weighs 5 oz and one tablespoon of butter weighs 1/2 oz per Cook's Illustrated Baking Book.

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over 1 year ago Martha

I need weight measurements, it´s more proffesional.
6 Tablespoons of cold unsalted butter??? 1/4cup chilled vegetable shortening?? How can I put it correctly in a spoon or a cup if it's cold?

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over 1 year ago Francesca Murphy

Thanks Geeandfi. So that would be 177g of flour and 85g of butter. Any tips for the chilled vegetable shortening?

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over 1 year ago Geeandfi

That is correct for grams Francesca. There is no weight mentioned for shortening. The easiest to measure would probably be Crisco in sticks. A unit weight could be derived from there.

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over 1 year ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

I find this conversion tool most helpful, as I prefer to weigh whenever possible: http://www.traditionaloven... The butter conversion can be linked through from the right. If you are buying shortening in the U.S., you can look at the nutrition label, where you will see volume and grams. That's how I do conversions for ingredients for which I cannot find a table. It works really well (provided that you know how many tablespoons are in a cup, etc.) ;o)

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over 1 year ago Martha

I live in Mexico, so I need weight measurements.
:(

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over 1 year ago Francesca Murphy

Thank you, Antonia. I have used that website before, but it can be a lot of work sometimes depending on the ingredient you are trying to convert and the measurement involved. I am becoming more and more inclined to pass up recipes that don't provide weight measurements. Since I already have a basic pâte brisée recipe that I use for everything, including sweet tarts, and I am already using chilled vodka instead of water, I think I'll stick with that. Getting more set in my metric ways as I get older…

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over 1 year ago Lorrie Burkes

Vodka?? What does it do to the crust?

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over 1 year ago Masi'sMothi76

It prevents gluten formation, thus promoting a flakier crust.

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over 1 year ago BeansNFranks

Could you substitute lard for the shortening. I live in the UK and it is not easy to find.

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over 1 year ago Gary Sage

Waitrose Asda Aldi Morrisons & Sainsbury's have vegetable shortening (immediately next to the butter section) it's called Atora Light Shredded Vegetable Suet which is is a good match to the US stuff. Look out for a red yellow and green pack.

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over 1 year ago BeansNFranks

Great! I can't believe it has been there the whole time!