i love pie…which is actually a gross understatement. i have always preferred pie to other desserts, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that i decided to make my first pie with a homemade crust. it all began while working in griffith park, where there was a quaint little place across the street from where we were shooting called the trails, and it served pie. i collected some money from interested individuals, and bought one of their apple pies. the filling was good, but they chose not to peel their apples, which i personally don’t care for. what was unbelievable was the crust. it was flaky, thick, buttery and ultimately so much better than the filling, that it made me realize…it’s all about the crust. i began my mission to make a pie with the best crust…ever. i have tried a few different recipes, but the one i settled on is pretty much based on the cook’s illustrated version of basic pie dough.

shortly after making my first pie i entered the  kcrw 1st annual good food pie contest. i made a sweet potato pecan pie with jack daniels whipped cream. i didn’t even make it to the 2nd round, but it sure was a lot of fun.

photo courtesy of dennis barth jr.

since then, pies have been my contribution to many a cookout, holiday gathering, and birthday celebration. in fact, i have made several different pies over the past few years, but this is my first plum pie, and it might just be in the running for the 3rd annual good food pie contest.

ingredients

pie dough/crust:

  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 12 tbsp unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), cold and cut into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening, cut into tablespoon sized chunks
  • 3-4 tbsp ice water
  • 3-4 tbsp cold vodka
  • 2 tbsp whole milk, or and an egg beaten
  • 1 tbsp raw sugar (turbinado)

filling:

  • 5 cups pitted plums, sliced and drained
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp cloves
  • 1/8 tsp allspice
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

instructions

make your dough first, so while it chills in the fridge you can make the filling. cut up your butter and shortening, and put it in the freezer, so it is extra cold when making the dough.

while they are in the chillin’ with your frozen goods pull out your food processor. put 1 1/2 cups of the flour, 2 tbsp sugar, and 1 tsp salt and pulse to mix.

by this time your butter and shortening will have chilled enough.  add the shortening.

i use the crisco sticks so it is easier to cut them up into tablespoon sized chunks, but if you use the tub kind, just dollop in equal amounts, and process for about 10 seconds. it will look like coarse sand.

then add the butter pieces, scattering them over the flour mixture.

process again, about 10 1-second pulses. the butter bits should be no larger than the size of a pea. add the remaining 1 cup of flour and process about 4-6 quick pulses.

turn the mixture into medium bowl.

sprinkle in 3 tbsp of the cold water, and 3 tbsp of the cold vodka.

with a rubber spatula using a folding mixing motion, pressing down with the broad side of the spatula as you turn the dough letting it stick together. you will more than likely have to add an additional tbsp each of water and vodka if it isn’t coming together.

divide the dough into 2 flattened circular discs about 4 inches in diameter, and wrap in plastic.

refrigerate for an hour, or up to 2 days, before rolling out.

in the meantime, make your filling. pit and slice up the plums. my plums were especially ripe, so many of them didn’t need to be sliced because they basically became pulp in my hands. let them drain.

whisk the sugar, cornstarch, salt, cloves and allspice together in a large bowl. add the plums, lemon juice and vanilla and mix to combine.

adjust a rack to the middle position and pre-heat oven to 450º.

once you take the dough out of the refrigerator, let it sit for a few minutes, or even more if it has been in longer than an hour. flour your work space and roll out the bottom. christopher kimball, from america’s test kitchen, has an excellent video on his blog as to how to roll out dough.

pour in the filling.

re-flour your work space and roll out the top. cover the filling. trim the edges leaving about 1 1/2 inches hanging over the edge of the pie pan.

fold both layers of dough under.

using your thumb and pointer finger on one hand and your thumb on the other, crimp the edges. (i had to hold the camera, so imagine using all three digits at the same time.)

with a brush wash the top of the dough with milk or egg. cut 6 1-inch slits on the top to vent, and sprinkle with raw sugar.

place on a baking sheet and put it in the oven. reduce the temperature to 375º.

start checking on it at 45 minutes, but mine took just over an hour. the crust should be golden brown.