Showing posts with label vodka. Show all posts
Showing posts with label vodka. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Why Put Vodka in Your Pie Crust? Culinary mystery author Cleo Coyle has a clue...


This Vodka Pie Crust recipe has been around for a few years now. It was first developed by a team of cooks at America's Test Kitchen and subsequently published in a 2007 issue of Cook's Illustrated. Since then, the recipe has been tested, reviewed, adapted, and reprinted on blogs across the Worldwide Web.

For six year, I remained skeptical. Like many bakers, I have my own favorite pie crust recipes, including one with my own "secret ingredient" so why waste good vodka?

I'll tell you why: because one of my fellow crime-writing cooks here at Mystery Lovers' Kitchen, Wendy Lyn Watson (aka Annie Knox), raved about it, and that was good enough for me. I printed out the recipe with plans to try it. Still more months went by and finally, on a day I craved an apple pie, I baked it up and was mighty impressed with the results. 

Wendy first shared the recipe, so I checked in with her. She gave me the green light to share it with all of you. 





The Famous
Vodka Pie Crust
(which is neither shaken nor stirred)




Adapted (with geek speak) and photographed by Cleo Coyle with thanks for the share from Wendy Lyn Watson via the original source of America's Test Kitchen (PBS) and Cook's Illustrated magazine

See the original recipe reprinted here 

in The New York Times

Yield: enough to make two 9-inch pie crusts
(one double-crust pie or two single-crust pies)



Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (12-1/2 ounces)
1 teaspoon salt (I prefer ½ teaspoon table salt or 1 teaspoon Kosher salt)
2 tablespoons white, granulated sugar
12 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter (1-1/2 sticks), diced
1/2 cup chilled solid vegetable shortening, diced
1/4 cup cold vodka
1/4 cup ice water (My advice is not to use all of this, more below)

Directions:

Step 1 – Mix the flour and fat either with a food processor or by hand. See directions for each method below…

A. By food processor: Place the 1-1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar into your food processor and process until combined. America’s Test Kitchen suggests 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until the dough begins to form uneven clumps (about 15 seconds). The dough will resemble cottage-cheese curds, and there should be no uncoated flour. Scrape the bowl with your rubber spatula, evening out the dough around your processor blade. Now add the remaining cup of flour and pulse the processor blade until you've broken up the mass of dough. Pour this mixture into a mixing bowl. (If you're wondering why you can't just finish the dough in the food processor, America's Test Kitchen found that the processor overworks the dough after the liquid is added, which is why they direct you to transfer it to a bowl for the next step.)

B. By hand: Into a bowl, measure out the flour, salt, and sugar. Add the fats (cold butter and shortening) and use a pastry cutter (or two knives) to cut the butter and shortening into the dry ingredients. I use a pastry cutter but (honestly) at some point, I always switch to clean fingers, rubbing the fat into the flour until the entire mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Step 2 – Add the liquid (where Cleo geeks out): This is the trickiest part of any pie dough. Too much liquid and you’ll get a tough crust. That’s why vodka is used. The liquid nature allows you to form and roll the dough easily, but vodka is only part water. It's also part ethanol--and, as the cooks at America's Test Kitchen realized, gluten doesn't form in ethanol. (Gluten is a protein in flour that you want to develop when making bread but never when making a pie crust because you'll end up with a tough, unappealing crust.) 

In the vodka crust, when the crust bakes the alcohol evaporates, leaving just enough liquid in the dough to form an extremely tender and flaky pie crust. That's why you’ll want to sprinkle all of the vodka over the flour mixture, but I suggest starting with only half of the recommended 1/4 cup of ice water. In other words, sprinkle all of the vodka and only 2 tablespoons of the ice water over the flour-fat crumbs.

With a rubber spatula, stir in the liquid, folding and pressing down. Use your best judgment on adding water at this stage: The dough should not be dry and crumbly. Nor should it be overly wet. If your weather is very humid, 2 tablespoons of the ice water may be all you’ll need to form a sticky dough. If your weather is very dry, you might need to add two 2 more tablespoons (for the entire suggested amount of ¼ cup). 

Divide your dough into two even balls and flatten each into a disk. Wrap each dough disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.



Step 3 - Roll the dough (more geek speak): When you're ready to make your pie, take out your disk and roll it out. I've been rolling out dough for years now (cookie dough, pie dough, doughs of all kinds) and I swear by my parchment paper method. Why? Because I never add more flour. 

This is why I hold back the entire amount of ice water in the vodka pie crust recipe. In the recipe notes at America's Test Kitchen, they actually suggest adding up to 1/4 cup more flour to the crust as you roll it out--that's because, if you use the entire 1/4 cup of ice water, your dough will be very wet and you'll need that flour to dry it out, but in my opinion, you also run the risk of toughening your crust more than you need to. 

As I said, I'd rather hold back a bit of water in this recipe and use my parchment paper method of rolling the dough, which is simply to place the dough disk between two pieces of parchment paper before rolling. 

Question: Won't the dough stick to the parchment paper? Yes. When dough gets warm, it sticks (because the butter beings to melt). This is easily remedied by chilling the dough again thus chilling and hardening the butter. So I simply slip the fully rolled out dough, parchment papers and all, onto a flat pan and slide it into the refrigerator for fifteen minutes or until chilled again. Once the dough gets cold, it loses its stickiness and I can remove the parchment paper easily and transfer the dough to a metal pie pan or glass pie plate. 

Bake your pie according to your specific recipe's directions. 

My three tips for you when baking: (1) Be sure to protect the thick crust edges from over-browning by loosely hugging them with aluminum foil or covering with a pie shieldI do this before placing the pie in the oven and remove the foil or shield in the last 20 minutes of baking so the edges will brown. (2) If blind baking an empty, single-crust pie, don't forget to weight the crust with pie weights or it will shrink back in a heartbreaking manner. (3) Brushing the top crust with an egg wash consisting of 1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon of milk, cream, or half-and-half will help the top turn golden brown.


This vodka crust is the tenderest I've ever tasted. My husband agreed. We both give it a big thumbs-up. Thank you, Wendy (and the ever-curious cooks of America's Test Kitchen)! 




Eat with joy!
~ Cleo Coyle 

New York Times bestselling author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries



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