Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Foolproof Pie Crust with Vodka

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Is there anything more stressful in baking than pie crust?  After years of making truly awful pie crust I decided to take the bull by the horns and learn from an expert. 


I realized, after being barked at by the drill sergeant of an instructor who, by the way, hadn’t ever heard of a food processor and made us cut the fat and flour together with table knives!,(which may be useful if I become a contestant on some sort of reality show set in a 1950’s kitchen), where my problem(s) lay (or lie…or lies?):


1.  Your ingredients must be stone cold.
2.  You must work fast! (lest your cold ingredients get too cozy and melt together like two starlets in a bad film).


Doesn’t that seem a teensy bit stressful?


Now, I’m not one to embrace stress and pressure while I bake and you shouldn’t either so take my advice and try this:


Measure all of your dry ingredients, including the fat into the bowl of a food processor.  Then put the whole thing, bowl and all into the fridge.  Make yourself a cup of tea, browse the internet…update your Facebook…relax.  Baking pie should not be stressful.  When a good half hour has passed pour yourself a shot of vodka and a glass of ice water and get your chilled ingredients out of the fridge and back onto the food processor. 


Now, I know you think I’m taking the relaxing too far with the booze and you’d be wrong; I heartily believe in cooking with booze but sometimes, like now,  it’s not for me…It’s for the crust.  Vodka adds liquid without adding water, making your crust supple and then it bakes up flaky as a redhead at the beach, when all that alcohol evaporates.  I learned this from Cooks Illustrated magazine and if you want all the scientific hoo-ha that explains this miracle of baking then read this.


Anyhow…Put the lid on and pulse 9 times.  Toss in the water and the vodka and pulse four times or until a ball forms,  Do not overwork!  We want to see fat pearls in the dough; if it is all one uniform color it’s been processed too long.

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Lay some plastic wrap on the counter, plop the dough onto the wrap, form into a ball, wrap and return to the fridge.  I like to split the dough into two balls, press each into a 5 inch circle and then wrap and chill.  This will give you a head start on rolling nice circles later.  Total time out of the fridge…about thirty seconds. 
Take that Sergeant Major.


The dough can rest thirty minutes to a week depending on your schedule.  Now, does it get any more relaxing than that?

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Foolproof Pie Dough

Adapted from:  Cooks Illustrated Magazine
2 1/2 cup flour
1 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 cup  shortening, cut into 6 pieces
1/4 cup vodka, chilled. Extra for you if needed.
1/4 cup ice water

Measure flour, salt and sugar into food processor bowl and whirl once or twice to blend.  Add butter and shortening but do not process.  Place in fridge for minimum 30 minutes.  You can leave it as long as you want or until you can’t stand working around the humongous food processor bowl in your fridge.  Then follow the instructions above.(feel free to pour a shot for yourself if you’re having a bad day.)

3 comments:

El said...

Never in a million years would I think of adding vodka to a pie crust. Thanks for the tip!

Mustang Sally said...

I suppose using a flavored vodka like Pomegranate or Citron would ruin things. Though after a tipple for me I dont' think I'd care.

Carla said...

I love the idea of using flavored vodka! Thanks Ms. Stang!