Friday, November 21, 2008

Vodka Pie Crust

The folks at America's Test Kitchen recently said this was their most ground-breaking recipe, or something to that effect. After trying it, I might agree with them.

Don't get too excited, though, if what you are hoping for is some sort of drunken pie (at a core level, I know that is what we are all searching for). The vodka in this recipe brings nothing boozy at all to the finished product. Instead, it magically creates a product that is very workable and forgiving in the dough stage, and incredibly flaky once baked. I made this, in an apple pie, last weekend for a University of Oregon football party at Jeff's Sports Bar (Nan and Jeff's garage, that is) and it was a hit. I think I'll try it again at Thanksgiving.

This is a generous amount for a double-crust pie. I had quite a bit left, probably enough for a third crust (so you could, for instance, do a pumpkin pie and an apple pie with one recipe). Stash the extra in your freezer in a flattened, well-wrapped disc.

The ATK folks say "vodka is essential to this not substitute. The dough will be more supple and flexible than most standard pie doughs and will require more flour to roll out, up to 1/4 cup".

And here's how these things go in my house: Get invited to a football party, with a theme of Thanksgiving Dinner. Promise to make pie, knowing I was almost out of vodka but had an emergency bottle stashed in the freezer. Get the dry ingredients mixed, then pull said bottle out of freezer and realize it's wasabi vodka. Search liquor cabinet. Find a tiny remaining bit of Absolut Citron. Shrug, and use it, though add an extra tablespoon of water as don't have quite enough. The lemon taste was undetectable, and the crust was perfect, so there you go. My lack of planning and procrastination is once again reinforced.

Vodka Pie Crust

*2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour (12 1/2 ounces)
*1 tsp salt
*2 TBS sugar
*12 TBS cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4" slices
*1/2 cup solid cold shortening, cut into big pieces
*1/4 cup cold vodka
*1/4 cup cold water

-Process 1 1/2 cups of the flour, the sugar, and the salt in the food processor just until combined. Add butter and shortening and process until dough starts to collect in lumps, resemble cottage cheese, and all flour is coated (about 15 seconds). Scrape processor bowl with spatula and redistribute dough around blade. Add remaining flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed and the mass has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into bowl.
-Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. Use rubber spatula to fold and mix, pressing down on dough until it is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide into two balls, wrapping each in plastic wrap and pressing into 4"discs. Refrigerate at least 45 minutes, or up to 2 days. You can also freeze for a shorter amount of time, if you were in a hurry. Theoretically.

Use plenty of flour when rolling out; don't worry as much as you would with typical dough that using too much flour will make it tough. It will be fine. Don't worry if it's really moist.

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