Good pie crust just got better

As much as I love being in the kitchen, pies have never really been my forte. And I must admit that a traditional pie crust can still give me trouble. Lots of it. Perfect flakiness without toughness is, well… tough.

There are a few easy tricks that can help. I finally tested them out a few weeks ago and was pleased with the result. Cooks Illustrated September 2010 goes into more depth and provides a recipe with these adjustments already built in. Visit them for their recipe here. Or try these simple adjustments to any basic pie dough recipe. Need one? ClickĀ here.

1. Fat- use about a third more fat than a standard recipe. This ‘protects’ the flour from contacting too much water leading to gluten formation. And gluten equals tough crust.

2. Fat- use half butter and half solid vegetable shortening. We want butter’s flavor, but the shortening has no water, so… again, less gluten.

3. Liquid- replace about half of your water with vodka (or any ~80 proof spirit). Yes, vodka. This allows needed moisture to hold the crust together while decreasing the actual water content. Gluten forms with water, but not with alcohol. The vodka’s alcohol and flavor will essentially burn off in the oven.

Hope this will help next time you’re in the mood for a perfect flaky pie crust. And, cheers to vodka~

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28 thoughts on “Good pie crust just got better

  1. I wonder what flavored vodka would do…..:) I’m going to have to sift through your post for something good for my dinner guest tomorrow. He’s veg. Any thoughts?

  2. The vodka idea is a very interesting one. Oh how I wish I could bake. *insert lament here* I am currently attempting a sourdough focaccia. Its not going so well. >.<

  3. I seem to remember hearing something about vodka in dough before, but thanks for explaining “why” it works. I’m a huge fan of Cooks Illustrated. I love anyone who will try a recipe with about a hundred variations to back up their conclusions. Saves me so much time – ha ha ha. Will try your suggestions next time I make pastry. Your pastry looks amazing.

    • TTBI, I agree with you completely :) Someone else going through the work of the ‘testing’ x 100 is so helpful sometimes! Thanks for visiting, and wish I could just give you a piece of pie ;)

  4. I found the vodka trick in a Cook’s Illustrated a few years ago and have not looked back! It makes the best pie crust EVER, even if you replace dairy fats with vegan fats. Nobody knows the difference! And did you see my apple pie with bacon crumble recipe? It was an inspiration of The Husband’s, and it was very tasty: http://tinykitchenstories.com/2012/01/01/festive-holiday-pies-with-chili-cheese-bacon-apple-and-more/
    See what your class thinks of that! ;)

    • Wow, tks!! If those are half as tasty as they are adorable (and I imagine they’re much better than that!) then you should patent them :) Those truly sound SO good. They have been bookmarked. Cheers to vodka… and bacon…

  5. Hi! Your pie looks amazing. My best friend sent me the Cooks Illustrated article–wasn’t it blueberry pie? We cook together in the fall in Hilton Head and plan to try it this fall. Have to say, since girlfriend and I like our martini’s we are hesitant to give up some of our “Stoli” for a pie crust. But looks like it is worth it! Pat Hagan/AESCA

    • Pat, you’re cute! The martinis will doubtlessly put up a good fight, but I bet you’ll both agree it will be worth the sacrifice :) Or you can buy another bottle… just to be safe ;) Thank you so much for reading!

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