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Apple Pie and Christina's

The latest Cook's Illustrated landed on my doorstep yesterday. It features a recipe for a foolproof pie crust. There's a million different “tips” and “secrets” to a perfect pie crust out there, but this recipe has a new trick that I've never seen before; they use vodka.


The science is actually pretty neat. Water binds with flour to form glutens and glutens = tough, leathery crust. However, not enough water and your dough will fall apart. You need to walk the tightrope between using enough water to make a cohesive dough, but not too much to make it tough. This amount can change daily due to the humidity in the air. Now, vodka is 60% alcohol, and 40% water and alcohol does not bind with flour, therefore you can add more liquid for easier rolling and shaping, without sacrificing tenderness. Cool, huh?


I got 4 lbs of Cortland apples from Wilson farms and baked up a pie tonight. The crust was very soft and supple, making it hard to roll out in a whole different way. But when the pie came out of the oven, it was a sight to behold, golden brown, flaky, and tender.


Unfortunately, the flavor of the crust was a little on the bland side. I think this is because the recipe uses a blend of butter and shortening (for added flakiness) and there is no flavor in shortening. For my standard pie crust recipe, I use a blend of butter and cream cheese, which creates a buttery and flavorful crust.


We went to Christina's as the pie cooled for the perfect accompaniment: cinnamon ice cream. We also picked up a pint of their pumpkin ice cream. It only comes around once a year and this is it folks. Go and get some before it's gone


My next experiment: my pie crust recipe replacing the ice water with half vodka. R is gonna get so sick of pie. :)



Foolproof Pie Dough For a Single-Crust Pie
11/2007

Vodka is essential to the texture of the crust and imparts no flavor—do not substitute. This dough will be moister and more supple than most standard pie doughs and will require more flour to roll out (up to 1/4 cup).

For one 9-inch Single-Crust Pie
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (6 1/4 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon table salt 
1 tablespoon sugar 
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (3/4 stick), cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/4 cup chilled solid vegetable shortening , cut into 2 pieces
2 tablespoons vodka , cold
2 tablespoons cold water 


1. Process 3/4 cups flour, salt, and sugar together in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogenous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 10 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds with some very small pieces of butter remaining, but there should be no uncoated flour). Scrape down sides and bottom of bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining 1/2 cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.

2. Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Flatten dough into 4-inch disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.

3. Adjust oven rack to lowest position, place rimmed baking sheet on oven rack, and heat oven to 425 degrees. Remove dough from refrigerator and roll out on generously floured (up to ¼ cup) work surface to 12-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll into pie plate, leaving at least 1-inch overhang on each side. Working around circumference, ease dough into plate by gently lifting edge of dough with one hand while pressing into plate bottom with other hand. Leave overhanging dough in place; refrigerate until dough is firm, about 30 minutes.

4. Trim overhang to ½ inch beyond lip of pie plate. Fold overhang under itself; folded edge should be flush with edge of pie plate. Flute dough or press the tines of a fork against dough to flatten it against rim of pie plate. Refrigerate dough-lined plate until firm, about 15 minutes.

5. Remove pie pan from refrigerator, line crust with foil, and fill with pie weights or pennies. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove foil and weights, rotate plate, and bake for 5 to 10 minutes additional minutes until crust is golden brown and crisp.

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