Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Vodka Pie Crust Tips from the Kremlin

Years ago I had the opportunity to hang out at Red Square with a friend who I fondly refer to as Potato Girl.

She was from North Dakota and sent on a government scope much like myself, where our objective was to bring "Food Technologies" to Russian businesses.

Potato Girl confessed that she didn't have a strong baking skill set, but she did like to bake pies.

Her farm was out in the sticks, so she didn't always have a chance to go to the grocery store and buy premade pie crusts,she had to make her own.

As vendors came buy pimping Cold War flasks and furry military caps she explained that sometimes her crusts got a little tough and was wondering what she might be doing wrong.

If you've followed this Blog with any regularity, you might have heard me ramble on about how liquid percentages can/will fluctuate when mixing doughs.

Humidity is responsible for this, and if you live in a varied climate like me, you really need to learn to adapt.

"How ironic that we have this discussion here of all places. Did you know that one of the best things you can do to increase the latitude in proper dough moisture is to swap out your water for vodka?"

Potato girl just kinda flashed me a glare as if I was playing with her mind a bit.

"Seriously Kid, water speeds up the development of gluten, but vodka will retard this since vodka is mad up of 30% to 40% ethanol, and because of this, you can jam more liquid into your pie crust because that ethanol is going to bake out. your dough will have more elasticity."

Potato Girl furled her brow, she seemed intrigued, but then she came clean and told me that her family were God Fearing folk and would look down on the inclusion of booze in their baked goods.

Now I'm not one to tell people how to live the "religious life", but I did mention that I had talked with Polish Christ about this and he gave me his blessing.

I don't think she was all that impressed.

It's not like I was out to convert her, but there was just a couple more factors that I wanted to reveal, and after that.....who knows, maybe the Polish Messiah would lift the scales from her eyes.

"Some people will even use a flavored vodka.....cherry,vanilla,hells bells....I've even seen horseradish vodka employed in savory pies. Remember, the ethanol burns out, and by the time your pie comes out of the oven, it will have less alcohol in it than a can of non alcoholic beer.

And.....whats the key to a perfect pie crust? CHILL-CHILL-CHILL. The colder the dough, the easier it is to control its destiny. You can keep vodka in your freezer and it won't freeze."

Several years later I actually ran into Potato Girl in Saint Paul. She was at Golden's Deli by the Saint Paul Farmers Market where I was having lunch with Kim Ode.

I didn't bother asking her if she tried the secret vodka pie crust, but I am going to urge you.

If you haven't tried it........Polish Jesus has signed off on it with his blessing.

Just watch how flaky and tender that crust will be.

If you've ever tried this, I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts or suggestions.


  1. I was so tempted to do that to the test pastry I made this afternoon. Take out three tablespoons of ice water, add five tablespoons of chilled- in- the- refrigerator vodka. Proceed as if you'd made no change. Makes it -so- easy to handle, almost like Playdoh, and yet it flakes like mad. (I learned about this trick from Cook's Illustrated, several years ago.)

  2. I had no idea! Thanks for the tip Klecko! :)

  3. YES! I have tried it! and it works. It really helped me get the hang of pie crusts when I was struggling. I can rock out a crust now though with not booze...in my pie crust.

  4. Could you please post the entire pie crust recipe...using the vodka?