The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

A novel approach to pastry dough making

davidg618's picture

A novel approach to pastry dough making

Watched Cook's American Test Kitchen on PBS today, and saw, what was for me, a very novel approach to making pastry dough.

The ingredients began with the usual: flour, butter, shortening, and cold water.

Then it got interesting. In addition to the water, an equal amount of vodka was added.

The result was a wetter than usual dough, that after the usual chilling, rolled out more easily, stayed together excellently, yet after baking was flaky and crisp.

The chef stated that alcohol and flour will not form gluten, like the water and flour will, and most or all of the alcohol content evaporates during the bake, leaving the dough wetted only with the usual amount of water that would normally result in a rather dry, and less manageable crust.

I'm happy with the pastry dough I make--flour, butter, lard, and water--but this is too interesting to not try at least once.

David G.


fancypantalons's picture

And I can officially say, I'm never making pie dough the old way ever again.  Traditionally, when I make a nice, high-fat pastry dough, working it is... difficult.  The dough is brittle, I have to be very careful not to use too much flour... it's just a pain.  But the ATK method of using alcohol makes all those problems go away.  The vodka adds moisture which makes the dough wonderfully easy to work with, and you can apply plenty of flour while rolling without negatively affecting the final product.

In short, I highly recommend trying this out.  Like you say, if anything, it's just too interesting *not* to try.

rockfish42's picture

Alton Brown coopted the idea for his apple pie show, adding applejack instead of vodka to his dough. I've had success adapting it to an all-butter crust as is my preference.

davidg618's picture

is like substituting oranges for pears. Applejack is sometimes a synonym for apple cider which is essentially made like wine--fermented, but not distilled--and consequently has less alcohol content, e.g. in the range of 5% to 18%. It's mostly water.

Traditional appljack is made by freezing hard apple cider, and removing the frozen solids; i.e. "jacking" it, leaving behind the remaining water-alcohol mixture that is still liquid. Since alcohol freezes at temperatures lower than water freezes the percentage of alcohol in the remaining liquid is increased. How much depends on the lowest temperature achieved. If you'd like to know more search Wikipedia for "Freeze distillation"

Modern spirit manufactures hot distill apple cider to make apple braindy, other mix apple brandy with neutral grain alcohol. So you can buy liquor named "Applejack" that's almost any proof. from 10 to 100.

The point of all this is the same one I made below re a vodka's proof. All booze is a mixture of water and alcohol, unless you can get your hands on 200 proof grain alcohol. When making pastry dough this way, know the amount of water and alcohol you're adding. Don't just grab your favorite tipple;-)

David G

rockfish42's picture

To the best of my knowledge the only commercial product called applejack is made by the Laird company, the oldest distillery in the US. They make a blended applejack and a straight apple brandy which are both equal to or above the proof of vodka. Historically the abv ran from 50-120, but is now restricted to 70%.

Judon's picture

That show/recipe was from Nov. 2007. I have been using the recipe ever since and have taught it to many others...everyone agrees, it's the best pie crust they ever made.

You can substitute lard for shortening to see how it alters your recipe.

The dough is much wetter than a 'normal dough' but will roll out without a hitch. Also, more flour can be used when rolling without compromising the flakiness of the crust.

Let us know how it works for you.


arlo's picture

By equal amount of vodka, are you saying add an equal amount to match the amount of water in the recipe?

davidg618's picture

Comment: How much water gets into the dough depends, in part, on the vodka's proof. Water and alcohol do not form a chemical bond, the two only mix together, and each evaporates independently, with different rates, the alcohol evaporating faster. An aside: this fact and the differing surface tensions of the two acount for the "legs" on the side of a wine glass.

Assuming all the alcohol evaporates, and, for example the vodka used is 86 proof (43% alcohol), thats still leaves a litte more than two tablespoons of water remaining from the booze. When I try this I'm going to add the 1/4 cup of vodka first, and then add cold water only to the point I get what feels like a wet, manageable dough.

David G.

mrfrost's picture

Arlo, you might look at it that way, but they were not actually "converting" any given crust recipe per se.

In "The Best Blueberry Pie" show, their recipe called for one fourth cup water and one forth cup vodka for the liquids.

From ATK website:

"Foolproof Pie Dough
from the Episode: The Best Blueberry Pie

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 Double-Crust Pie

2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (12 1/2 ounces)
1 teaspoon table salt 
2 tablespoons sugar 
12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 cup chilled solid vegetable shortening , cut into 4 pieces
1/4 cup vodka , cold
1/4 cup cold water 
For the sake of clarity, the first ingredient above is two and a half cups ap flour.
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 homogenous 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.
TXBBQ's picture

A note to David G.

Thanks much for trying to link us to the ATK site for the recipe, but if you're not a subscriber (as I am not) then the site won't let you see the recipe. They want to FORCE people to subscribe to get their recipes and most of their videos.

Hence, would you please provide us the actual recipe from the site for this pie dough. It sounds VERY intruiging and I want to try it.  Thanks!


p.s. - oops! If that's it above this post, nevermind! Thanx anyway

davidg618's picture

thanks goes to dwighttsharpe