Review: Pie Dough with Vodka

(Note: I didn’t take how-to photos because I made the dough late at night and baked it early in the morning–not enough light. And because there’s already a great how-to over at Smitten Kitchen.)

I remember first hearing about the “Foolproof Pie Dough” with the secret ingredient–Vodka. It sounded crazy until I really thought about it. Of course! Why hadn’t anyone else ever thought of it before?

This year, I got brave and made my own pie dough for Thanksgiving. Usually I buy the prerolled Pillsbury dough because: a) it’s easy, b) my pie crusts have never been great, and c) because like I said, it’s easy.

The Foolproof Pie Dough is by far the best pie dough I’ve ever worked with. It came together super easy in the food processor. Rolling it out was a snap. The only thing I found that was even more helpful was chilling it between each step–even after I put it in the pie plate, I chilled it before making a decorative edge.

When I blind baked the crust for my Thanksgiving Twofer Pies, it didn’t shrink. (The edges did burn a bit–my fault.)

When I baked it along with the filling for the Oatmeal Pecan Pie, the edges puffed up beautifully and didn’t get too overdone.

I’m a believer in this crust! Oh, yes. I don’t think I’ll be making any other.

It practically “shattered”. The true test of a good pie crust.

The Vodka did make for some interesting fumes in the oven when I opened it up to check on the pies. (Just so you know.)

Cooks’ Illustrated Foolproof Pie Dough
Makes one 9-inch double-crust pie

The trick to this pie crust is the inclusion of vodka. Eighty-proof vodka, which is 60 percent water and 40 percent alcohol, adds moistness to the dough without aiding in gluten formation since gluten doesn’t form in ethanol. Although the recipe includes 8 tablespoons of liquid, the alcohol vaporizes during baking, resulting in a tender crust that only contains 6 1/2 tablespoons of water. Because of the extra liquid, the dough will be moister than most standard pie doughs and will require up to 1/4 cup more flour.

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons sugar
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
1/4 cup cold vodka
1/4 cup cold water

Instructions:

1. Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about 2 one-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 flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.

2. 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 two even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.

11 Responses to “Review: Pie Dough with Vodka”

  1. citymama1 December 4, 2008 at 4:54 pm #

    I’m actually making this right now for a little post-thanksgiving pie. I’ve made it 3 times this month. oops! :) It’s fantastic.

  2. Carrian December 4, 2008 at 7:29 pm #

    I love anything America’s Test Kitchen, or Cooks Illustrated. Always so good!!

  3. Adriana Velez December 5, 2008 at 3:12 am #

    Oh my, another great reason to buy vodka…

  4. Marie December 5, 2008 at 7:50 am #

    we never have vodka in our house. Maybe I could sneak, ummm…borrow some from work? You never know! Your crust looks wonderfully flakey!

  5. maryb December 5, 2008 at 4:09 pm #

    FYI- although this IS a fabulous recipe, also on the King Arthur Flour blog – they claim (as do I) their recipe is equal if not better, and is without the vodka.
    Especially helpful for those that don’t seem to have the spirits around often. Their blog also has absolutely the best recipes, with all of them ‘perfect’ with each and every step photographed and described in detail. Just heaven!

  6. AmyRuth December 14, 2008 at 7:32 pm #

    Hi Lindsey, I had great luck with Dorie’s recipe from BFMHTY, a former Marthas’s pate brisee veteran. I thought Dorie’s was easy in the FP and even more delish, no shrinking…. I didn’t blind bake for the Twofer so no ugliness there. Anyway, anxious to try out the vodka version. Sounds interesting and I’ll try and stay out of the bottle while pushing the FP button. he he Thanks so much for the heads up and I saw a post last night about the famous crust on Dine and Dish.
    AmyRuth

  7. Abbynormal December 15, 2008 at 5:14 am #

    i just want you to know that that pie was BTS

  8. Barbara December 16, 2008 at 12:45 am #

    Thanks for the review!

    I’ve been making great piecrusts for years without vodka, but then, I’ve been doing it a long time. Glad this idea gave you success! You’ve discovered one of the other great pie crust secrets, too — chill, chill, chill!

    If I’m blind-baking, I always keep the edge of the crust completely covered during the entire baking process — even so, it does tend to turn brown. Kind of a trade-off, I guess — firmer bottom crust, but the crust edge tends to overbake.

  9. Barbara December 16, 2008 at 12:47 am #

    By the way, I read a tip about vodka in a recent Cooks’ Illustrated. They said if you buy cheaper vodka and run it through one of those charcoal filters (Brita filter, for example) about three times, you get a much better vodka.

    Better rinse out that filter before you use it again for water though, or you’ll be serving your family “mixed drinks” without meaning to!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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