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Tart (or pie) crust recipe, made with vodka

I’ve always approached making tart crusts with some amount of trepidation. What are the right amounts of ingredients? How do I avoid overworking the dough so it doesn’t turn out like cardboard?

I’m still a wimp about how to roll out and shape the dough. Simon has that skill down pat. But I have figured out how to make the dough itself, thanks to Sonya and Robert, who pointed out that using chilled vodka greatly reduces the gluten development.

Update (19 December 2010): Simon found the dough a bit too crumbly without any water added: it does help the dough stick together better while rolling out. We now incorporate a little bit of ice-cold water at the end of step 4.

Update (19 July 2012): I wrote up tips on how to more easily roll out and store crusts.

Update (9 October 2012): More simplification, by adding dry ingredients all together, and processing shortening all at once.

This pastry is similar to a pâte brisée dough. It’s flaky and slightly sweet, perfect for rustic tarts, tart Tatin, or even pie. If using a pie dish, I’d advise pre-baking the crust, then allowing it to cool, before filling and finally baking the pie.

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated. This makes enough for 2 very large (uh, oversized) crusts. I also keep the vodka in the freezer, where it remains liquid, primarily for this recipe. O:-)


  • 12 ounces pastry flour; unbleached white or whole wheat is fine, or a mix thereof.
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 ounces (1 1/2 cubes) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 to 1/4 inch pieces; keep in the fridge until needed
  • 3 1/2 ounces vegetable shortening, cut into 3 to 4 large chunks
  • 1/4 cup ice-cold vodka
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons ice-cold water


  1. Place all the flour, sugar, and salt into a food processor with the blade attachment. Pulse briefly twice to “sift” the dry ingredients.
  2. Add the shortening, and pulse in increments of 5 to 10 seconds, until the shortening has been well incorporated. The overall texture should be like an even, fine cornmeal.
  3. Scrape down the sides of the processor bowl. Add the butter, and pulse in 3-5 second increments until the texture is like rough cornmeal, but containing a bunch of butter particles about 1/8 to 1/4 inch in size.
  4. Empty the contents into a large bowl. Add in the chilled vodka, about 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time, finishing with 1 to 3 tablespoons of ice-cold water, folding and pressing with a spatula, until the dough just barely clings together into a ball.
  5. Split dough in half, pressing each into a 1 inch thick disc or square, then wrapping in plastic film. Store in freezer; or, if you’re going to use it, in the refrigerator for at least an hour or two.
  6. Before use, Simon encourages consistent flakiness by:
    1. Roll out into a rough rectangle, about twice as long as wide, on a floured surface.
    2. Fold dough over in half so that it’s squarish again.
    3. Turn dough 90º degrees, and repeat steps 1 and 2. Do this for a total of 3 or 4 turns.
    4. If the dough gets too warm at any point, place it in the fridge for about 20 to 30 minutes. Or the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes, if you’re in a hurry.
  7. Roll out into final shape, and apply to your tart or pie recipe of choice.

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