Pie lovers everywhere can agree: The crust can make or break a pie.
The ideal pie crust is sturdy enough to hold the filling, but still tender enough to melt in your mouth. As is often the case, this balance is difficult to achieve. The main complaint about bad pie crust is that it’s too tough and dense, and this can usually be attributed to a single culprit: gluten.
What makes a tough pie crust?
Gluten is a protein that’s formed when water is mixed with wheat flour (other types of flour are a different story!). These are two of the main ingredients in pie crust—the others being fat and perhaps sugar or salt. Gluten makes the dough elastic and gives it strength, but if the dough is overworked, too much gluten will form and the resulting crust will be anything but tender. On the flip side, dough that’s not worked enough will be difficult to transfer to the pie plate and may lose its shape during baking. We want a happy medium!
Vodka to the rescue
The secret’s out. Vodka is the trick to making your pie crust more tender, flaky and tasty. Because vodka is usually about 60 percent water (the rest is ethanol), only a fraction of it contributes to the development of gluten. However, vodka moistens just like water, so you can add more liquid to the dough—hello, tender crust!—effectively making it easier to roll out and handle. (Don’t add too much vodka, though, or the dough will be sticky!)
Also, never fear: You won’t be able to taste the vodka in the finished crust. The majority of the alcohol will burn off during baking, leaving you with a flaky, tender crust.
There are many other factors to consider when making pie crust, like which type of fat to use and how to blend the ingredients, but now you can rest easy knowing you’re off to a good start. Simply splash some vodka into the mix!
Grace Mannon is currently a stay-at-home mom with an M.S. in food science. She loves baking and cooking and writes about her endeavors on her blog, A Southern Grace.