Unless otherwise noted, I use King Arthur all-purpose, unbleached flour
I prefer European butter, such as Plugra or Kerrygold, which has a higher fat content than American butter. Frankly though, I'm happy to use whatever is on sale too.
I use Diamond crystal kosher salt which, because of its crystal size, is less salty by volume than other salts. If you are using table salt, reduce the measurement by half.
My standard pie dough
Most pie dough recipes are pretty similar. My dough -- all-butter for best flavor -- is supple and easy to roll out.
The vodka -- which is about 60% water -- moistens the dough while reducing gluten development making for easier handling.
This makes one 9 inch crust, so double this for a two-crust pie.
1 1/4 cups (178 grams) all purpose flour
1/2 tsp table salt
1 TB sugar
6 TB butter, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
2 TB cold water
2 TB cold vodka
Combine vodka and water with an ice cube in a small bowl or cup. (Make sure to remove any remaining unmelted ice before adding the liquid.)
Place flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor and pulse until combined, about 5 seconds.
Add butter to processor and pulse until the butter is reduced to small pebbles.
Drizzle the water/vodka liquid over the dough. Then pulse until the dough forms a mass.
Gather the dough into a disc, wrap in plastic and refrigerate overnight.
How to pre-bake a pie shell
Lightly butter your pie pan. Roll out the pie dough on a lightly floured surface. I roll and then rotate the dough in quarter turns which helps it keep a round shape. Don't worry if there are any holes; you can gently patch those together. The dough should be slightly larger than your pie pan. Roll the dough partly over the rolling pin to lift it up and set inside your pie pan. The pie should extend to the edges of your pan or slightly beyond it; otherwise the dough may "sink" while baking. Gently poke the bottom and sides of the dough with a fork several times (I usually count to sixty). This will help prevent bubbles rising in the dough. Crimp the edge of the dough using your fingers or a fork.
Put a sheet of parchment over the dough and fill the parchment with pie weights (I use dried beans.) The weights help prevent bubbles and stop the sides from sinking. Bake on a foil-lined pan in a 375-degree oven for 20 minutes, then remove from the oven and carefully remove the parchment and weights; set aside. Bake the uncovered pie dough another 15 minutes or so until a light golden brown, remove from the oven and let cool completely.
Note: Pre-baking only works for a single-crust pie.
Making your pies egg-cellent
We are lucky to have a farm stand not too far from us that sells fresh local eggs. Yes, they cost a bit more, but it's worth it to know where the eggs come from - and as the farm stand sells out quickly, I know the eggs are fresh!
What to do if you don't have access to a farm stand with fresh local eggs? Store bought is fine, and, despite the higher price, I recommend buying organic, if you can find them. 'Certified Humane' is also something to look for, as it means the chickens are treated in a humane way, with more space per bird, and they are given enriched food to keep them healthier. If at all possible, look for eggs that say "Pasture-Raised," meaning the chickens are raised cage-free and are allowed access to the outdoors.
Another great trick that I just learned? Take a look at the side of your store-bought egg carton. Just below the "Sell-by" date, to the left, are three numbers that represent the day of the year. For instance, 001 is January 1st, while 365 is December 31st. I was happy to see that the eggs I just used were from a container reading 004, so they were only a week old.