Pie crust from scratch can feel intimidating and time consuming without a guarantee of success, yet one ingredient can deliver on a crispier, flakier finished crust overtime: vodka. Adding alcohol, in combination with fat and water, to doughs and crusts has proven to be a boon for crispness and flakiness in everything from fried chicken to beer-battered fish. Don't worry — all the booze will bake off and you'll be left with only the benefits of using vodka in your pie crust: a guaranteed tender and flaky finished pie.
What Is Vodka Pie Crust?
Vodka pie crust is simply any pie crust recipe that uses vodka (or any spirit, like bourbon or rum) in place of some or all of the liquid. Cook's Illustrated popularized the method about 10 years ago, suggesting that the alcohol helped inhibit gluten formation and prevented a chewy crust.
After testing both pie doughs and tempura batters behind the scene for episodes of Good Eats, I learned that vodka's benefit isn't about gluten but rather about moisture. Because the alcohol evaporates quickly, it helps to set the crust, making it both tender and flaky in the finished crust. Here, we hack our favorite all-butter pie crust with half icy-cold water and half vodka to make a crust that's easier to roll out (thanks, butter!) and even better out of the oven.
For Your Information
- This recipe makes enough dough for 2 (9-inch) pie crusts.
- This dough takes just a few minutes to mix, but you'll want to chill the butter, water, and vodka for about 15 minutes before mixing. Be sure to chill the finished dough for 30 minutes before rolling as well.
Tips for Working with An All-Butter Crust
There are a few camps when it comes to which fat is best for pie dough, with some standing behind, lard, shortening, and even a combination of either in partnership with butter. An all-butter crust is high on flavor, but gets a bad rap for being hard to work with — but if you keep the butter cold, it's actually easier to work with than other fats.
- Chill the butter after cutting and before mixing it. We want to create layers of fat in the finished crust — this makes the crust flaky — and the best way to do that is to keep the butter as cold as possible.
- Use a food processor to work the butter into the flour, quickly. Yes, your grandma made her pie crust by hand, but you've got a food processor and you should totally use it. One thing, though! Only use the food processor in quick pulses for pie crust; don't let it run continuously or the heat from the movement will cause the butter to melt.
- Chill the dough before rolling. Are you sensing a theme here? If you try to roll out the dough when it's straight from the mixer, it's going to fall apart on you. The main reason is that the flour hasn't had time to absorb all of the liquid or much of the fat. Divide the dough into 2 disks and chill for 30 minutes.
- Roll the dough out between parchment paper, rather than on a floured surface. I just find this makes for easier rolling and moving of the pie dough.
- Chill the dough before baking. Chilling the dough after rolling and pressing it into the pie pan helps prevent shrinking and contributes to a crispier crust.
Baking and Filling Vodka Pie Crust
The next steps for your pie dough will depend entirely on the pie you plan to make. If your filling cooks at the same rate as your pie — as with apple pie — go ahead and fill, top it, and bake straightaway. For most single crust pies, you'll want to blind bake the crust before baking. This partial bake sets the crust and gives it a head start so it will be ready when the filling is too.
Read more: How To Blind Bake a Pie Crust
Vodka Pie Crust: Watch the Video
How To Make Vodka Pie Crust
What You Need
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, chilled
1/4 cup cold vodka
1/4 cup ice water
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar (optional)
Measuring cups and spoons
- Chill the butter, vodka, and water. Before you pull out equipment or start measuring flour, measure out your vodka and water and stick them in the fridge or freezer. Measure out the butter and cut each stick into roughly 16 small cubes. Stash the butter in the fridge or freezer as well.
- Pulse together the flour, salt, and sugar. Place the flour, salt, and sugar if using into a food processor fitted with the blade attachment and pulse once or twice to combine.
- Add the cold butter and pulse to combine. Scatter the butter cubes evenly over the flour. Pulse in short bursts until the flour is crumbly with evenly distributed fat in sizes no bigger than a pea; 2 to 4 short bursts should do the trick.
- Add half of the water and half of the vodka and pulse again. Drizzle 1/2 of the water and 1/2 of the vodka onto the butter/flour mixture. Pulse 2 to 4 times to combine.
- Test the dough with a squeeze and add more water or vodka as needed. Pick up a few tablespoons of the dough in your palm and squeeze. If the dough holds together easily, you've got enough liquid. If it is still crumbly, add a tablespoon of water or vodka (dealer's choice) and pulse again. Some days you'll need only half of the liquid, and others you'll use all of it — even with the same flour and butter.
- Divide and rest the pie dough. Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces and press each into a disk with your hands. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
- Roll out the pie dough. You can roll the pie dough out on a lightly floured surface if desired. Personally, I prefer to sandwich each disk of dough between 2 sheets of parchment. Use a rolling pin to pound the dough to about half its thickness first. Next, roll the dough to about the thickness of a magazine or until it's 2 inches wider than your pie pan (for a standard 9-inch pie, roll to 11 inches in diameter).
Press the dough into the pie pan. Remove the top layer of parchment and flip the whole thing upside down onto the pie plate. Tuck the pie dough into the plate, using your thumbs to arrange it evenly. Use the rolling pin and roll off any dough hanging over the lip of the plate. Use your thumbs to pinch or crimp the edges as best you can. Chill the pie dough for 1 hour. Brush with egg yolk, fill, and bake!
- Storage: Wrapped well, dough may be stored in the fridge for up to about 5 days or in the freezer for up to 2 months.