To Vodka or Not To Vodka, Part 1

5 Crust Experiment with Pumpkin Pie Filling

5 Crust Variations with Pumpkin Pie Filling

I spent most of one afternoon and evening this week testing out different variations of a Vodka Pie Crust recipe. It is one that I have heard of being used successfully and as I’m very interested in testing out all sorts of crust recipes atleast once, I gave it a go.

There are a number of differences in the recipe I used and mine. Here are a few.

  • Vegetable shortening (i.e. “the stuff in the blue can”) and unsalted butter vs. leaf lard and salted butter
  • Sugar vs. no sugar
  • Vodka and water vs. water only
  • Food processor and a rubber spatula vs. hands and fork
  • Prebaked crust vs. unbaked crust

To add variables and a broad range, I experimented with five crusts.

  1. Vodka Pie Crust recipe as written.
  2. Vodka Pie Crust substituting Earth Balance shortening sticks for “the stuff in the blue can”.
  3. Vodka Pie Crust substituting leaf lard for “the stuff in the blue can”.
  4. “American Pie Dough for Prebaked Pie Crust” from “The Best Recipe Cookbook” (Cooks Illustrated) as written.
  5. My own recipe using butter and leaf lard.

There were more differences along the way:

  • Amount of liquid needed
  • Size of pieces of shortening or lard
  • Consistency
  • Chilling time before rolling
  • Rolling Out
  • Chilling time after rolling

After chilling each dough, I followed the vodka crust process for each crust:

  • roll out
  • place carefully in pie pans
  • cover with foil and fill with pie weights (in this case, beans, rice or coinage from change basket that resides in the prosperity corner of my Olympic Peninsula home)
  • chill in the refrigerator for another 15 minutes
  • bake for 15 minutes in a 425F oven
  • remove foil and “pie weights”
  • bake for an additional 5 to 8 minutes.

While they were baking, I rolled out some “Tasties”; that’s what I call the cinnamon/sugar treats I make with any leftover dough. There was lots of left over dough so, five batches of these yummy treats to bake. As soon as the pies came out, the tasties went in.

Finished?? Not quite!

After blind baking, the crusts now needed to become pies so I made up enough pumpkin pie filling for 5 pies, filled the prebaked shells and baked them all. It looked like a Thanksgiving extravaganza in the kitchen with 5 pumpkin pies cooling on the kitchen counter.

The results?

In general The Vodka Pie Crust recipe in all variations seemed to be missing “backbone”. A note from the kind person who provided the recipe is that it will take more flour in rolling out than usual.  I use quite a bit in my own leaf lard and butter crust so this didn’t worry me at all.

The recipe with no variations (#1), was almost too tender and a challenge to roll out as it was so moist and soft.
Crusts #2 and #3 rolled out easily but were both missing that “backbone.”
#4 from Cook’s Illustrated (no vodka) is flaky tender and did have some “backbone”.
And #5, the leaf lard and butter crust, was tender and flaky (without blowing away in the wind) with the flavor of leaf lard.

This kind of research, although time consuming, helps in defining a recipe that works and why, as well as being fun in the process.

I am going to make the Vodka Pie Crust again and at the same time try adding some vodka to my own recipe. I would have done that pie during this test session but I ran out of pie pans that were similar!

Most likely I’ll wait until next week, or atleast until five pies and all those Tasties are eaten up, to begin Part 2. When I do, I’ll report back with results.

What’s your favorite pie crust recipe?

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  1. Carl says

    I tried this a few times. The vodka is touted as a way to provide moisture so that the dough sticks together without developing the gluten. Maybe I used cheap vodka but I didn’t care for the dough’s taste. The finished and baked pie shell was appropriately flaky and not tough.

    However, I’ve discovered that all I have to do is cut the lard into the flour to the point that they are incorporated one into the other. At that point, I can sprinkle ice water to the point the dough sticks together and roll it out. My crusts are flaky and never tough even if the dough was rather moist to begin with.

  2. cp says

    Interesting. I’ll be curious to hear the results of your recipe with the vodka addition. When you write again to update that experiment could you explain your definition of “backbone”?

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