I think the most exciting and useful recipe I can post is for pie crust. At Thanksgiving, I made a delicious apple-cranberry pie. The recipe came from Cook's Illustrated, as did the recipe for the dough. The secret ingredient is vodka, which apparently keeps the dough wet while inhibiting gluten formation (which tends to make the finished crust tough). I made the dough again at Christmas time, for an apple pie. It was absolutely delicious both times: crunchy, crusty, crackly, and very easy to work with.
So here is the recipe, for your baking pleasure.
Foolproof Pie Dough
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
12 tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
1/2 cup cold vegtable shortening
1/4 cup cold vodka
1/4 cup cold water
- Mix 1 1/2 cups flour, sugar, and salt together in large bowl. Cut the butter and shortening into pieces and work into the flour mixture with two knives or a pastry blender, until the pieces are the size of quarters. Add the remaining cup flour and cut it in until the fat pieces are the size of peas. (Alternately, you can do this in a food processor.)
- Sprinkle water and vodka over mixture. With rubber spatula, using folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until it is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten into disks. Wrap each in Saran wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes or overnight.
- Follow your pie recipe from here. This dough will make enough for one bottom and one top shell. Half it if you prefer to make just a bottom, as for custard pie.
*This recipe comes from Cook's Illustrated, November 2007.