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Anyone made the CI vodka pie crust?

Just curious. I'm wondering if this dough is really as easy and great tasting as they say.

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  1. I made it, using the food processor method, but I'll try it again cutting the fat in by hand. I wasn't fond of the result: too shortbready, not enough flaky. I'd never used a food processor for crust before, so it may have been my technique. Not a bad crust though, more like a commercial than a home made crust, and a very interesting concept.

    1 Reply
    1. re: pastrytroll

      I tried it this weekend and had the exact same problem. It seemed to take a bit longer to bake and became a bit shortbready. If it ain't broke, why fit it?

    2. Yes, it is the best crust I have ever made! And the dough is so beautiful to work with. I couldn't believe it! I never have to look for another recipe again. And the cranberrry-apple was filling was wonderful too!

      1. I made it; it was a good crust, easy to work with, but I didn't like the faint vodka taste that remained even after the pie cooled.

        1. I made a variation on this using gluten free flours and it worked well. I made a paste, then froze it, then grated that into the rest of the flour and added an egg. i didn't need to use vodka - because there was no gluten to develop! It worked very well - very flakey, but held up. I have made even gluten free recipes that were flakey yet impossible to cut with a fork. Worth experimenting more...

          1. I really don't understand the chemistry behind the vodka crust. I mean, first off, pie crust doesn't even need that much water in the first place. Even then, vodka isn't 100% alcohol, it's a diluted solution in water, which means that the gluten strands won't be activated or whatever doesn't make sense: there is water in the crust. Can someone please explain how this works?

            2 Replies
            1. re: digkv

              great question...i'm curious myself, though i've been adding 1 Tbs. of lemonjuice or vinegar to pie crusts for a couple of years now...I find that my all butter crusts get crisper with the addition, though I have no idea why...

              1. re: sixelagogo

                I don't have my copy of CI with me, but I believe that the answer is something like this (don't quote me!): Gluten forms when water and flour combine. Some gluten is good- that's your structure. Too much gluten is bad- that's your tough crust. The vodka addition allows you too add more liquid, without adding too much more water- therefore, your liquid amounts can be constant, and give you a more workable dough thats more consistent and less 'touchy'.

                That said, I tried it recently, and wasn't too impressed. The finished product was great, and it was rather novel to have a workable dough that could stand up to more abuse. But I never have trouble with pie dough, so I felt like it wasn't any more interesting than the usual. Plus, I found out halfway through that my food processer doesn't fit their recipe, and had to switch to the manual (my usual) method mid-stream- very messy.

                At any rate, I wasn't super impressed- but I would definately recomend it for people who aren't always lucky with pie dough.

            2. I made it. It was ok but not great. It came out doughy- I cooked the pie (apple) the same amount of time I usually do and it didn't taste cooked enough. My usual recipe is not that different- butter only and flour in the cuisinart then pour in an egg yolk and ice water. I don't think the vodka made any difference except that I would bake it longer next time. Since it was not any improvement on mine and was doughy I will probably try it one more time but maybe not.

              1. I just read this issue while at dinner today, and I'm curious about the adamant way they insist on not subbing the vodka. I realize adding a different booze will add flavour, but I have a bourbon banana cream pie recipe (sort of originally based on a CI recipe) that has bourbon in the other three layers and an amusing story about how it all got there, and I'd love to be able to add bourbon in one more spot. Any reason why I couldn't use bourbon instead of vodka assuming I was okay with my pie crust tasting of it?

                3 Replies
                1. re: Jacquilynne

                  There is a really informative thread about this on the Cook's Illustrated Bulletin board. The who man wrote the recipe, Kenji, answers questions.

                  In it he says that you can vary the liquer (sp) if the flavor fits your recipe. It just should be high-proof I guess.

                  I have made it a few times. I found it difficult, because I am a pretty good pie baker already. It was painful to add that much water. That said, it did turn out very flaky, but I felt it was also a little too salty. It also seemed to have a bit too much much sandy texture as well.

                  It was designed for people who have trouble with piecrusts. Not me. The science behind the flakiness is awesome though.


                  1. re: Becca Porter

                    Thanks, I'll have to go look for that thread. I've never been to their boards, but I have a CI online membership, so I assume they're included.

                    1. re: Jacquilynne

                      The bulletin board is actually completely free to everyone.

                2. I made 6 roaster pan apple pies using the recipe. Flavor and texture were fine, but cooking time was longer. Also, I found the amount of flour WAY too low. Made precisely according to the recipe, after I rolled it out (very easily) the dough fell apart when I tried to pick it up. Had to work in a lot more dough, which should defeat the purpose with all the extra working of the dough (though honestly, it still didn't taste overworked). I would start out with more flour.

                  I think some respondents indicating sandy, shortbready crusts are overprocessing or working it too much while rolling. I still treated mine like a pie crust -- tried to go easy on the gluten formation. I think the vodka gives you a cushion like brining a bird, but I wouldn't feel safe pushing my luck.

                  1. To all the posters who said that they tried this, and found their usual method better (and said that they didn't usually have trouble with pie dough anyway), why did you try this?

                    Also, if you like your standard recipe better, can you please share that with us?

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: chemchef

                      Why not try it; no harm in trying something new and different and you never know if it's going to be better or worse until you do. My pie crust isn't a recipe but just the basic 3-2-1 ration of flour to butter to water. So for a double crust pie you'll want about 2 cups of AP flour, about a cup of butter a pinch of salt, more than a pinch of sugar and enough water to bind. Make sure you cut your butter into little cubes and places in the fridge. Toss the cubes into the flour for a nice coat and rub them until you get pea shaped crumbles then add water to bind. Sometimes if I'm feeling especially lazy I'll add an egg yolk which helps it bind together without having to add too much water.

                      1. re: chemchef

                        I have fabulous luck with the "regular" CI pie crust-I've always struggled a bit with pie crusts and this one turns out well, and is very workable, every time. It's in The Best Recipe.

                      2. I finally made it this past week, but didn't use it for a fruit pie. I laid it over a chicken pot pie, and we found it baked up flaky as promised. One thing I noticed is that the underside was definitely more doughy than my usual recipe. It was easy to work with, a very supple, responsive dough. It was a wet dough and I let it rest in the fridge overnight before rolling, which seemed to help it absorb the liquids. It stiffened enough overnight I didn't have to use more than the usual amount of flour on the counter while rolling. The recipe made a LOT of dough, and I only used 1/4 to top the chicken pot pie, so I still have pie crusts for the weekend.

                        I don't know that it will become my standby recipe, though. Yes, it's easy and I did like the crust, but I also like the less flaky, more flavorful dough I make with all butter by the usual method.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: amyzan

                          I just finished making two recipes of the dough, and I sure hope it freezes well! That's where it is right now, getting ready to travel with us for Thanksgiving. Is there any reason it wouldn't be okay frozen until we reach our destination Wed. night? I plan to thaw the dough discs out then, and make pies early Thurs. morning.

                          1. re: cookingschool

                            I froze one of the half recipes, too. I haven't used it from the freezer yet, so I can't give you a tried and true report, but I don't see any reason why it wouldn't work fine. The only thing I can think of is that after you thaw it in the fridge overnight, you might find it needs a bit more flour than usual on the surface where you roll it out.

                            1. re: amyzan

                              I've had good luck freezing pie dough in the past, thawing, and then rolling out as normal. I was just wondering if the vodka would have any effect on freezing it. Well, guess we'll find out, huh! Happy Thanksgiving!

                            2. re: cookingschool

                              I froze 6 very large pies about a month ago (went overboard picking apples). Made one 2 weeks ago, direct from the freezer to the oven. No problems at all with the vodka crust. Will also be bringing one to Thanksgiving so we'll see how it does frozen in a cooler on a 6 hour trip.

                              1. re: sbp

                                That sounds encouraging! Now I wish I had at least made the apple pie and frozen it. We'll be traveling, too (10 hours...eeek!) , so my dough will have all day to thaw. Can't wait to taste this crust. I'm not telling anyone about the vodka, so it will be interesting to see if anyone says anything about my crusts. I really liked the way the dough came together. Have a safe trip and Happy Thanksgiving!

                          2. I had a great pie crust recipe from a professional baker, but tried this one because it is so straight forward. The paste had me a little worried at first(looks gummy, to say the least), but the finished texture was right on-both tender and flaky, no alcohol aftertaste(just a faint hint of vanilla when I used vanilla vodka) and the crust brown and crisped perfectly! I think this is a great recipe for anyone who
                            1. has a hard time making pie crust
                            2. wants to make a bunch at a time and acheive consistent results
                            3. Doesn't have icey cold hands like my grandmother- all that liquid makes rolling this out and then moving it around a breeze.
                            New fave crust that doesn't use pastry flour...