Screwdriver Pie Crust

Posted on 08 December 2020

Somewhere along the line, we came to treat pie crust like a prima donna. Handle it gingerly, they say, or it will toughen and refuse to cooperate. Use your best butter, make sure to chill the dough, yada yada yada.

Happily, for decades our Orange Juice Pastry has worked yeoman’s duty without complaint. What makes it so agreeable? First, the shortening (yes, Crisco, thankfully now transfat-free) enjoys being handled at room temperature. And the orange juice—cold and a tad acidic—plays well with the shortening.

One sticking point, though. How much OJ is just right? Too little and the dough gets dry and hard to roll. Too much liquid might develop the gluten in the flour and cause the crust to toughen.

The solution: add in another liquid that, unlike the water in the juice, won’t activate the gluten. Vodka, for instance.

Vodka is a secret ingredient in many pie crust recipes that call for ice water. So why not use it with orange juice? After all, vodka and OJ have long been a power couple in the Screwdriver cocktail.

Mixing a Screwdriver and then drizzling it into the dough does the trick. It moistens the dough enough to make it soft and easy to roll without over-activating the gluten. And no matter how much we roll and re-roll the dough, it stays tender and flaky. For fun, we like to roll out any leftover dough, sprinkle it with cinnamon sugar, and cut it into tiny pastry-style cookies.

And, of course, you can guess what we like to do with any leftover Screwdriver.

Screwdriver Pie Crust

Shown above as crust for Ma’s Lemon Sponge Pie

Two-Crust Pie

  • ¼ cup cold orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons vodka
  • 2 cups flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup shortening (Crisco, which is transfat-free)
  1. Mix orange juice and vodka in a cup or glass to make the Screwdriver. The ratio of orange juice to vodka is 2:1 in case you need extra.
  2. In a large bowl, mix flour and salt. Cut in shortening until it looks like coarse meal (you can use your fingers).
  3. Gradually drizzle the Screwdriver over the flour mixture as you stir it with a fork until it coheres into a soft ball of dough. You may have some Screwdriver leftover, or you may need just a little more to make the dough easy to handle. Break dough in half, and roll out accordingly.

One-Crust Pie

  • 3 tablespoons cold orange juice
  • 1½ tablespoons vodka
  • 1½ cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup shortening (Crisco, which is transfat-free)

Mix according to instructions above.

For a baked pie shell, prick the pastry all over with a fork, including sides, to prevent bubbling. Bake at 425º for 12-15 minutes.

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