What if we told you it’s possible to add alcohol to your pie crust and not feel like a raging alcoholic? Well, not only is it possible, but science actually suggests it.
When you make any kind of dough, proteins in the flour mix with the water and BOOM! gluten—the stuff that makes baked goods tough and dense—is formed.
But, you want to minimize the amount of gluten in pie crust dough because pie crust should be flaky, buttery and full of gorgeous layers. The solution? Hard alcohol, which has less water content and doesn’t toughen the dough when mixed with flour. Alcohol evaporates more quickly than water, so it doesn’t have time to form gluten. This fact is also important because it means Grandma won’t get tipsy off your pumpkin pie. For a more scientific explanation, check out this article from Scientific American.
Some Quick Tips
Try substituting one third or half of the water in the recipe with vodka or another hard alcohol (preferably 80 proof). Don’t go too crazy though, because you still need some water to form enough gluten to hold the dough together.
Most of the alcohol will evaporate while it the pie bakes. Just be careful when substituting flours and fats because they have their own important roles in the recipe.
What Kind of Alcohol Should I Use?
Let’s face it: we’re college students, so our alcohol is most likely going to come from the bottom shelf. Quality doesn’t matter here! If you want to keep it simple, use vodka. If you’re feeling adventurous, try an alcohol that might add to the flavor. Bourbon with pecan pie, a Fireball whiskey apple pie, or a Bailey’s chocolate pie all sound like great ideas to me.
I don’t know where we would be without science to teach us to spike our pie crust, but I’m glad we don’t have to find out. Now you can impress your friends and family with an secretly alcohol-infused, flaky pie crust. Don’t limit yourself to just pie crust—try getting boozy with all your pastry doughs!