Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Five tips for making a better pie crust: Tip # 3 - Cut Your Water

In both confections and cocktails - water is not always your friend.

Okay, so we've talked about fats. A pie crust requires only two other ingredients - flour and water. I like to use a good baker's flour when I tackle a from-scratch baking project (Gold Medal has several varieties that can help you accomplish the specificities of your recipe). But when it comes to water, I try to use as little as possible.

See, water has a way of reacting with the gluten in your flour. Blend in too much water and you'll be left with a rubbery, leathery pie crust that isn't fit for Fido. But water is also the binding agent that marries flour to fat, making for a pretty tricky proposition.

And here's where my little liquor store trick comes in.

I typically only measure out half of the water my recipe calls for, and I make up for the rest of the liquid with vodka.

Yes, vodka.

Whether you prefer Belvedere or Popov, your favorite potato-fermented elixir won't develop as much gluten as water, helping you stave off a gummy, gunky pastry.

The vodka won't leave behind a flavor and all of the alcohol will cook out, so no need to worry about whether Aunt Mary is going to get tanked when sneaking a second helping after dinner.

As much as I'd like to take credit for this idea, its genius comes from the folks at America's Test Kitchen/Cooks Illustrated (which is a great cooking mag, if you've never seen it).

Tomorrow, a few tips to help reach for the gold when you bake that beautiful pie crust.

I've been baking pies from scratch for well over a decade, and my mom says I've mastered the perfect pie crust. In the days leading up to Thanksgiving, I'll share with you my five secrets for making the best pie crust around.

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