My husband's grandmother is famous for her pies. Every time we go to visit, there is always at least one (usually three) waiting for us when we get there. I haven't had a chance to make a pie along with her to learn her secret, but I did ask her once how she made the crust. She's a very modest lady, and her reply was "oh, it's nothing special, you just mix it all together until it looks right". Her recipe is so much a part of her, she needs no recipe, and the "looking right" part is what I really want to understand.
I think I may have found a crust recipe that rivals that of my grandmother-in-law. It's a little unorthodox, but I've tried it and it works like a champ, so I'm sold. The secret ingredient is...vodka. I'm not sure why it works, something to do with the alcohol to water ratio in the vodka allowing for the optimal amount of gluten formation in the dough. The alcohol does evaporate in the oven, so don't worry about your pie crust tasting like booze (I also tried some dough raw, and even then I could barely taste the vodka).
So all this talk about crust, I haven't even mentioned the filling. Grandma-in-law always has at least a blueberry, cherry and a chocolate pie waiting for us upon our arrival. So when I found this recipe for blueberry pie, this was just calling my name. It is almost as good as hers...
From Cook's Illustrated All-Time Best Recipes
Pie Dough (for one 9" double crust pie)
2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour (plus extra for work surface)
1 tsp table salt
2 Tbsp sugar
12 Tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut int0 1/4" slices
1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
1/4 cup cold vodka
1/4 cup cold water
Process 1 1/2 c flour, salt and sugar in food processor until combined, about two 1-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogeneous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour). Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining cup of flour and pulse until mixture is even distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4-6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl (I actually don't have a food processor right now, so just used a dough blender thing and hand mixed the dough together. It worked well, but my arm was sore the next day).
Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into 2 even balls and flatten each into 4" disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.
The Rest of the Pie
Also from Cooks Illustrated
1 recipe of the pie dough
6 cups (about 30 oz) fresh blueberries (if you want to use frozen ones, just cook half of them over med-high heat in step 2 without mashing until they are reduced to 1 1/4 cups, 12-15 minutes)
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and grated on large holes of a box grater
2 tsp grated zest and 2 tsp juice from 1 lemon
3/4 cups (5 1/4 oz) sugar
2 Tbsp instant tapioca, ground in a spice grinder (or 5 tsp pearl tapioca)
Pinch table salt
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 1/4" pieces
1 large egg, lightly beaten with 1 tsp water
Remove 1 disk of dough from the refrigerator and roll out on generously floured work surface to 12" circle about 1/8" thick. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll into pie plate, leaving at least 1" overhang on each side. Working around circumference, ease dough with one hand while pressing into plate bottom with other hand. Leave dough that overhangs in place; refrigerate while preparing filling until dough is firm, about 30 minutes.
Adjust oven rack to lowest position, place rimmed baking sheet on oven rack, and heat oven to 400 degrees. Place 3 cups berries in medium sauce pan and set over medium heat. Using potato masher, mash berries several times to release juices. Continue to cook, stirring frequently and mashing occasionally, until about half of the berries have broken down and mixture is thickened and reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 8 minutes. Let cool slightly.
Place grated apple in clean kitchen towel and wring dry. Transfer apple to large bowl. Add cooked berries, remaining 3 cups uncooked berries, lemon zest, juice, sugar, tapioca and salt; toss to combine. Transfer mixture to dough-lined pie plate and scatter butter pieces over filling.
Roll out second disk of dough on generously floured (up to 1/4 cup) work surface to 11" circle. Using 1 1/4" round biscuit cutter (or a shot glass like I did, because, hey, there's vodka in the dough and I don't have a biscuit cutter), cut round from center of dough. Cut another 6 rounds from dough, 1 1/2" from edge of center hole and equally spaced around the center hole (this is much easier than trying to do a lattice top). This will allow the steam to vent from the filling as it bakes. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll over pie, leaving at least 1/2" overhang on each side.
Using kitchen shears, trim bottom layer of overhanging dough, leaving 1/2"overhang. Fold dough underitself so that edge of fold is flush with outer rim of pie plate. Flute edges using thumb and forefinger or press with tines of fork fork to seal top crust to bottom. Brush top and edges of pie with egg mixture. If dough is very soft, chill in freezer for 10 minutes.
Place pie on heated baking sheet and bake 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue to bake until juices bubble anc crust is deep golden brown, 30-40 minutes longer. transfer pie to wire rack; cool to room temperature, at least 4 hours. Cut into wedges and serve.