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Vodka Makes a Perfect Pie Crust Every Time

The perfect summer pie starts with drunken pie dough!

Making pie crust from scratch can be intimidating, but a good recipe that consistently provides a buttery, flaky crust is well worth the extra effort. This recipe--adapted from Cook’s Illustrated “All-Time Best Recipes"--features the perfect pie crust with one secret ingredient- vodka.

In a nutshell, the reason why vodka works in pie crust comes down to basic chemistry. Gluten (an elastic chain of proteins) is formed when water mixes with flour. To avoid a tough, undesirable texture caused by too much gluten, most pie crust recipes don't include a large amount of water. However, this often leads to a dry crust that's difficult to work with. By using vodka there is plenty of liquid and the final result has an ideal, flaky texture. 

Another note on using vodka: the type of vodka doesn't seem to matter. I experimented with using both middle-shelf vodka and the cheapest vodka I could find and got the same results both times. Also, any flavor from the vodka bakes off in the oven, so your pie won’t taste like it’s been baked in a dive bar.

To start you’ll need the following ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (plus some extra to be used when rolling out the dough)
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • A pinch of cinnamon
  • 12 tablespoons of cold unsalted butter
  • ½ cup of cold vegetable shortening
  • ¼ cup of cold vodka
  • 3-4 tablespoons of cold water

In a food processor, 'pulse' together 1 ½ cups of the flour, the salt, sugar, and cinnamon until combined. Next, add the butter and vegetable shortening and process until the mixture is in lumps slightly larger than cottage cheese. 

Scrape the sides of the bowl and add the remaining flour.  In 4 to 6 quick pulses mix together the flour with the mixture until a mass of dough forms. Empty the mixture into a medium sized mixing bowl and sprinkle the vodka and water over the mixture. Using a rubber scraper combine the liquid with the dough by pressing it down into the dough until it is slightly sticky and the dough forms together. 

Next, divide the dough into two even portions on separate sheets of plastic wrap. Flatten the dough into disks roughly the size of the palm of your hand and refrigerate for 45 minutes. 

Before taking your dough out of the refrigerator make your pie filling (see pie filling suggestions below) and preheat your oven right before you start to roll out your dough. When rolling out the dough be sure to use plenty of flour as the dough can be a little sticky. Pour the filling into the pie dish and cover the pie with the second disk of dough.

To seal the two crusts together pinch the dough together using your fingers and the back of a well floured butter knife.

Finally, cut slits in the top of the pie to create vents for steam to escape. When placing on a middle rack in your oven you may also want to put a large baking sheet or piece of tin foil on the rack below your pie to catch any filling that might drip from the pie. Bake according to instructions with pie fillings. 

Suggested pie fillings:

Triple Berry Pie (adapted from Betty Crocker’s Fresh Berry Pie)

  • 2 pints of strawberries, rinsed and cut into quarters
  • 1 pint of raspberries, rinsed
  • 1 pint of blackberries, rinsed
  • ½ cup of sugar
  • 5 tablespoons of flour
  • ½ teaspoon of cinnamon

Fresh Peach-Raspberry Pie (adapted from Betty Crocker’s Peach Pie)

  • 5 medium sized peaches, peeled and sliced
  • 1 pint of raspberries, rinsed
  • ½ cup of sugar
  • 4 tablespoons of flour

Both fillings bake at 425 for 35-45 minutes. The crust should be a golden brown and the filling of the pie should be bubbling through the slits except for in the very center when finished. If the pie crust is a very dark brown or starting to burn on the edges before the pie filling is finished baking, cover the edge of the pie crust with two-inch-strips of foil and put back in the oven to finish baking. 

Let the pie thoroughly cool on a baking rack before cutting and serving with a generous portion of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. 

Meg May 08, 2011 at 05:47 PM
This sounds great! Love the photos! :)

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