by Judy Kim
Vodka Pâte Brisée Pie crust
Yield: One 8 to 10-inch double-crust pie or two large half sheet pan galettes
This is a far cry from the pie dough recipe I remember as a kid. We used a recipe my Mom saved from a school bake sale, the recipe card was so cute. It was written on red construction paper in the shape of an apple and the recipe was made with pure Crisco. It guaranteed flaky results, but now I expect more from pie crust. Luckily I spent a fair amount of my previous career traveling to France, and like anyone that visits the Pâte Brisée motherland, you'll never turn down an all butter pastry. I wanted to create my own version of an all butter pie crust recipe, one that takes the anxiety out of pie making and is friendly for decorative pie making. Vodka is certainly not traditional to French baking, but I now use it regularly. This recipe yields an unusually pliable dough that is so much easier to roll out and handle. My first pie dough, Vodka Pie Crust is made with butter and shortening is even more fool proof, but similar, so it's really a matter of preference in terms of texture and flavor.
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks, up to 2 sticks for extra buttery pastry), cut into 1/2-inch cubes and frozen in advance. I prefer Vermont Creamery European butter
1/2 cup vodka
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon flaky sea salt, crushed by hand
Cut butter into 1/2-inch cubes and freeze overnight, minimum of 5 minutes if you're short on time.
In a liquid measuring cup pour vodka, then add several ice cubes. Wait until vodka is chilled and remove ice. Most likely you'll reach 3/4 cup measurement from the melting ice cubes, but if not just add a touch of chilled water. If your vodka is frozen, just add 1/4 cup iced water.
Combine flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add frozen butter and toss together quickly until each piece of butter is coated with the flour mixture, this will ensure an even dough. Break butter pieces apart if they are stuck together. Transfer to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade; pulse 2 to 3 times until the size of chickpeas.
Pour vodka mixture through feed tube in a steady stream while constantly pulsing until dough begins to pull together. Avoid running the machine automatically or it may overmix. Butter and shortening should be about the size of dried lentils. Pro tip: Pour all the liquid into the feed tube, it's designed to stream an even amount and will help absorb all the flour evenly.
Carefully turn dough out onto a very lightly floured work surface and remove the blade. Try to use no more than 1 tablespoon bench flour as flour can make the dough tough. Working on marble or granite countertop will help keep the dough cool. Note, the dough is slightly wet and more elastic than typical recipes. It's not necessary to knead the dough, just enough to pull it together with a few turns at the most.
Divide dough in half. Wrap each half in plastic wrap and shape the dough into a round or rectangle. I find the dough will stay cooler if I shape it after wrapping and it reduces the need for additional bench flour. If you are using a round pie dish, shape dough into a flattened disk or rectangle if you are making a galette or lattice strips; this will help eliminate wastage. Refrigerate for minimum of 2 hours, preferably overnight.
You can freeze the dough up to 3 months, just wrap well. If you have left over scraps I cut them into manageable pieces and wrap them in parchment paper and stack the pieces. The parchment will prevent them from sticking. Wrap in plastic wrap tightly and freeze to use for cut outs on a future pie.
**For decorative pie tips, read the notes written on my Vodka Pie Crust recipe.