I developed this recipe over the years by combining the three best pie crust concepts I’ve encountered. The end result really is as great as it sounds. If you don’t care about the “why” behind these ingredients, skip right down to the recipe. Enjoy!
Vodka for tenderness
Cook’s Illustrated pioneered the idea to substitute Vodka in place of some of the water for moistening. The idea is that water toughens the dough in a way that Vodka doesn’t. I believe it also evaporates better than water which is what pushes open the pockets between layers as the bits of solid fat (butter or shortening) melt away. You can’t taste the Vodka after cooking, but it’s definitely there in the raw dough. The recipe still works with all water if you prefer.
Butter for flavor
Butter is a little harder to work with than shortening, but butter wins hands down on flavor, no comparison. Pie is one of those things some people learn once and repeat the same way for years. So if you learned pie-making back when margarine and Crisco were “modernizing” us away from butter, it’s time to bring back butter’s flavor punch. What’s hard about butter? It has a very narrow temperature range in which the bits of butter will compress properly into layers as you roll, while not being so warm that they melt into the dough prematurely. Follow the directions, work quickly, and you’ll be fine.
Oil to coat the flour
The Oregonian’s FOODday did a piece a few years back “admitting” that oil-based pie crusts can be extremely tender and flaky despite their lack of the reliably present “pea-sized bits” of solid fat in other recipes. The reason this works is that the oil coats the flour and allows it to separate from itself rather than binding with gluten. This also cuts down on the amount of butter. Healthy pie?
Recipe: Vodka Oil Butter Pie Crust
If you don’t have a food processor the butter can be cut using a pastry cutter or two knives. Whatever method you use be sure to work quickly during all steps so the dough remains cool throughout.
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon sugar (optional)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup mild tasting vegetable oil
- 5 tablespoons ice water
- 2 tablespoons Vodka, chilled
Optional glaze for double pie crust:
- 1 egg white, beaten
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- Cut the butter into approximately 1 centimeter squares, and place in the freezer for 10 minutes.
- Place the flour, sugar if using, and salt in a food processor and process to combine. Add the chilled butter cubes and process using one second pulses until the butter is in pea-sized bits, about 6-10 pulses.
- Pour the vegetable oil over and incorporate with a few very quick pulses. Sprinkle the water and vodka over, using 3-5 more very quick pulses to moisten the dough.
- Lay out two sheets of plastic wrap, and divide the dough between them (if you are making a double crust pie one should have slightly more dough than the other, for the bottom). Pull the sides of the plastic wrap up and twist them together (release the air as you press the dough together gently through the wrap) to form each into a round disk about 1 1/2 inches tall. Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, or up to a day.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, placing a pizza stone or cookie sheet in the oven, which will transfer extra heat to the bottom.
- Bring the discs out of the refrigerator and place on the counter for 5 minutes (10 minutes if refrigerated overnight) to warm just slightly. Dust your rolling pin and rolling surface with flour, dusting heavily in the spot where you will place the disk. Unwrap and roll out one disk at a time, rolling from the center out, to about 1/8-inch thickness.
- Assemble the pie(s) according to your pie type and recipe. For a double-crust pie be sure to cut holes in the top crust, and if desired, brush with a beaten egg white and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of sugar. Place in the oven on the prewarmed pizza stone or cookie sheet, and bake until the filling is set or bubbling and the crust is golden brown, typically about 50-60 minutes for a double crust pie.
Preparation time: 10 minute(s)
Total time: 50 minute(s)
Diet type: Vegetarian
Number of servings (yield): 6
Culinary tradition: USA (General)
Microformatting by hRecipe.