Light, crisp and flakey; sweet and buttery rich. Our love for pie crust is all but unconditional. For us to love it, pie crust must strike a delicate balance, or it’s got no use. Over work the dough, and you’ll end up with an unwieldy texture; if the butter’s too soft, you can kiss the flakey crumb goodbye; and a drop too many of water will sink your aspirations of lightness.
Appreciating pie crust means reliving our childhood passion for dessert with the rational approach of adulthood as taste and texture must hit one very specific spot to make us happy. We want the flavors and texture to meld in our mouth – not on the work-table – because we want to distinctly taste butter and toasted flour. It’s a fine balance, so to speak, and there isn’t much wiggle-room; pie crust must hold cream, jam, and other moisture without getting soggy while gently giving in under a fork’s light pressure – not in a clean-cut fashion but a semi-messy crumble; not with a crack, but a flakey crush.
Such contrivance is made possible by a fine balance between fiber, moisture, and fat all meshed into a complex structure rather than a solid, homogenous block. In a way it’s a rustic reorganization of the concept of mille-feuille (puff-pastry – but French) but instead of a series of fine sheets layered on top of each other like a multiple story parking structure set to collapse on itself crackling under the lightest of pressures, pie crust is a micro-composition of bricks and soft mortar ready to give the gentle prod of a sweet tooth a way to a savory-sweet crunch that quickly dissolves into buttery rich paste.
How to mix all ingredients without really letting them combine thoroughly? First and foremost: heat is your biggest enemy, here. Overworking too. Overworking creates heat. Heat melts the butter and warms the flour enough to bind gluten (read glue). You’ll see how in this recipe we keep the ingredients and the dough chilled throughout the process. Every ingredient should be refrigerated before being combined. And we return to the refrigerator twice before baking in order to maintain the fat solid.
And the combination process should be swift and there’s no need to worry about perfection. Imperfection is perfection with pie crust dough. This pastry totalitarian Newspeak should be your prime directive.
2 cups Whole Wheat Pastry flour, possibly chilled
1/2 cup unbleached White Pastry flour, possibly chilled
1 tsp Sea Salt
1/2 cup vegan Butter, cubed and chilled
2 Tbsp Coconut shortening, cubed and chilled
3 Tbsp Water, chilled
3 Tbsp Vodka, chilled
1 Tbsp Apple Cider vinegar, chilled
Pulse the chilled vegan butter and the chilled flour and salt two seconds at a time checking in between pulses to make sure you don’t go past a coarse meal. Three or four times should do. Don’t worry about the larger granules of butter, there’s more pulsing ahead and you’re gonna need them there in the finished dough to give your crust a nice and flakey texture.
Add the chilled water and vodka carefully a tablespoon a the time pulsing briefly and checking in between pulses. Your dough is ready when the meal clumps together between your fingers. Add half a tablespoon of water if it’s still dry.
Toss it on a working surface and start compressing together the dough to form a large disk about one inch thick. Your hands are warm, so work swiftly. Don’t knead!
Just clump it together, wrap it and put back in the fridge for an hour before use.
After one hour refrigeration, roll your dough to about 1/4″ thick and gently slide over a pie dish. With your fingers push the dough to coat the entire surface of the plate leaving a good margin over the edges. Pinch the edges between two fingers to garnish the crust. Refrigerate for one more hour before use.