Monday, December 17, 2007

Vodka pie

It all started when my friend Sheela asked me and Cobe over for dinner. I said I'd bring dessert.

A few days later I stumbled across Cooking Illustrated's no-fail vodka pie crust recipe. Then I heard the farmer's market was still going on in West Seattle. I could get apples from the market, make that vodka crust...

It was fate. I had to bake a pie.

So yesterday I trundled off to the market and loaded up with Braeburn apples. I looked high and low for lard thinking that it would make the most awesome piecrust, but everyone was sold out. Only in Seattle would everyone sell out of lard I went off to Thriftway for flour, butter, crisco and a pastry cutter.

Back home I sorted out the ingredients. It was a bit daunting, making a pie. I'd never made crust before. And I have no cuisinart. Just that little pastry cutter.

I pulled up Cook's illustrated to look at the recipe, but they only have directions for using a cuisinart so I also looked at Smitten Kitchen.

Damn her photos are beautiful. She makes a cup of sugar look like art.

Got out the butter, flour, sugar, salt, crisco, and vodka. Cut up the butter into squares. Threw the vodka in the freezer to chill. Then carefully mixed together the dry ingredients.

Now time to cut in the butter with the pastry cutter. Kind of scary, but she has these great photos on Smitten Kitchen to guide you through it. This is what mine looked like, first just starting and then almost done.

Then I added the vodka and water and poof! It came together into a ball. Cut the dough in two, flattened them into little patties and wrapped them in saran wrap, then put them in the fridge to chill.

So far so good.

Now onto the apples. I used the recipe from Best New Recipe (which is really just more CI). Peeled, cored and sliced the apples and mixed them with lemon juice, sugar, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Took out the crust and started rolling. Quickly discovered that I suck at rolling. I've rolled cookie dough but with cookie dough it doesn't matter if it cracks. With pie crust it matters a lot.

I have no pictures of this, but suffice it to say it wasn't pretty. Cobe came over while I was in the middle of this and asked if I needed help and I just snapped at him.

I finally rolled out an approximation of a 12 inch circle with several cracks but luckily for me, the pan was small enough that the cracks got cut off. Put the crust in the fridge to chill. Pulled it out after a bit and mounded up the apple slices.

Now to roll out the second crust. I got wise this time and actually looked at the pictures in Best New Recipe which show someone rolling with the rolling pin counter clockwise rather than back and forth. This worked much better. Still cracked, but better.

Put the whole thing together, sealed the edges, and cut slits in the top.

And then off it went to bake for an hour. Best New Recipe does this cool thing where you jack the oven up to 500 degrees, then turn it down to 425 right when you put the pie in (on the lowest rack). Worked like a charm....nice crisp bottom crust.

Actually the whole pie turned out awesome. Forgot to take a picture of it, but the crust was flaky and just slightly sweet with the crisp of sugar on the top (I did a glaze with egg white and sugar). I brought it to Sheela's and we ate it with ice cream and after dinner there was a little fight to see who could take the leftover pie home.

As a scientist it bothered me....why vodka? Well it turns out any alcohol would work. Alcohol simply evaporates more quickly than water and so leaves a flakier crust. Very interesting discussion about all of this by Harold McGee. I thought he migh have a hand in this!


Foolproof Pie Dough (Cooks Illustrated, November 2007)

Makes enough for one 9-inch double-crust pie

2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons sugar
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
1/4 cup cold vodka
1/4 cup cold water

1. Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogeneous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour). Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining 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. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.

Classic Apple Pie (Best New Recipe)

1 Recipe 2 crust pie dough
3 Granny Smith apples
4 Macintosh (I used all Braeburns, highly recommend them)
1 T fresh lemon juice and 1 tsp zest
3/4 cup + 1 T sugar
2T flour
1/4 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp salt
1 lg egg white, lightly beaten

1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees, place rack on lowest rung with rimmed baking sheet.
2. Roll dough to 12 inch circle (note: they tell you to roll it between layers of saran wrap, but I had heard it got too sticky so I just used a floured countertop). Transfer dough to pie pan by rolling it around the rolling pin. Carefully lift up edges of dough while pressing it into the corners. Refrigerate.
3. Peel core and quarter the apples, then cut into 1/4 inch slices. Toss with lemon juice and zest (NOTE: I think the zest might have been too much so you might want to consider leaving that out but keeping the juice). In a medium bowl, mix 3/4 cup sugar with 2T flour, spices and salt. Toss dry mixture with apples. Turn fruit mixture into chilled pie shell, mounding in the center.
4. Roll out second dough ball to 12 inches and place it over filling. Trim both crusts to 1/2 inch, then fold under and crimp. Cut four slits in top. Paint crust with egg white and sprinkle with 1 T sugar
5. Place pie on baking sheet and immediately turn heat down to 425. Cook 25 minutes or until golden brown, then rotate front to back and turn heat down to 375. Cook till bubbling and nicely browned (30-35 minutes more). Cool.

No comments: