This pastry dough calls for pastry flour, a special flour that you may not already have in your pantry, but the results are well worth acquiring it for a crust that's both flaky and tender. We prefer unbleached pastry flour, such as King Arthur. If you prefer, you can substitute cake flour for the pastry flour. The pastry or cake flour keeps the pastry dough tender, and the vinegar strengthens the gluten and adds elasticity. This pastry dough has more salt than most. Kosher salt is coarser than table salt. If you are using table salt instead, cut the amount of salt in half.
For the flakiest pastry, be sure your fats (butter and vegetable shortening) are very cold. Before you start your dough, dice the butter and portion the shortening into a few clumps and place the fats on a plate, then cover with plastic wrap. If you are using the electric mixer method, place the fats in the freezer for 2 hours. If you are using the food processor method, freeze the fats for only 30 minutes (a shorter time because the metal blade has to be able to cut through the butter). A plastic dough scraper and metal bench knife are useful tools for making pastry dough. You can save the dough scraps for making decorations.
For a 9-inch double-crust pie or 8 individual rustic pies:
- 2 2/3 cups (12 1/4 ounces/350 grams) pastry flour
- 2/3 cup (3 1/2 ounces/100 grams) all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks/8 ounces/226 grams) unsalted butter , freezer-cold (see headnote), cut into 1/2- inch dice
- 1/4 cup (2 ounces/60 grams) vegetable shortening , freezer-cold (see headnote)
- 1/2 cup (4 ounces/114 grams) ice-cold water (see headnote), or more as needed
- 2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
- To Make the Flaky but Tender Pastry Dough in the Electric Mixer:
- 1. In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle, combine the flours, sugar, and salt. Add the cold butter and shortening, mixing on low speed until the mixture looks shaggy and the pieces of butter are slightly smaller than peas. Stop the mixer and check the size of the butter, sifting through the mixture with your hands. If you find a few bigger chunks, quickly smear them between your fingers.
- 2. Put the ice- cold water and vinegar into a measuring cup or small container and stir to combine.
- 3. Add the water-vinegar mixture to the flour-fat mixture in the electric mixer on low speed and mix briefly with a few rotations of the paddle, but do not let the dough come together.
- 4. Turn off the mixer and scrape around the sides and the bottom of the mixer bowl to make sure there are no pockets of dry ingredients, rotating the paddle a few more times if needed, then squeeze a small amount of dough in your hand. The dough should come together as a clump. If the dough seems too dry, add a little more water a few teaspoons at a time and rotate the paddle a few more times.
- 5. Remove the dough from the mixer and shape, wrap, and chill as directed.
To Make the Flaky but Tender Pastry Dough in the Food Processor:
- 1. Put the flours, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Add the cold butter and shortening to the dry ingredients. Use your hands to break up the shortening into several small clumps and get them coated with flour.
- 2. Pulse 9 to 12 times. Turn off the machine and take the lid off. The butter should be in pieces a little smaller than the size of a pea. If needed, put the lid back on and pulse a couple more times.
- 3. Put the ice- cold water and vinegar into a measuring cup or small container and stir to combine.
- 4. Gradually pour the water- vinegar mixture through the feed tube while pulsing 10 to 12 times. Take the lid off. Use your fingers to see if you can clump the mixture together to form a dough. (The dough should not come together to form a ball while you are pulsing it in the food processor, but it should form a clump pressed between your fingers.) Use a rubber spatula to scrape around the sides of the food processor bowl and the bottom of the bowl to see if there are any dry pockets of flour. If the dough seems too dry, you can add more water a few teaspoons at a time and pulse a few more times.
- 5. Remove the dough from the food processor and shape, wrap, and chill as directed.