OMG! I think I may have just made the perfect pie crust! I am totally serious. I have been making pie crusts for a while now, and it wasn’t like they were bad. They were just somewhat unremarkable. If quizzed about them I probably would have said that I wished they were a bit more flaky, but hey…I am making them from scratch, so I should get extra points for that right? I had read that adding a bit of shortening along with the butter would possibly correct the situation, but that is where I got a bit weird. I didn’t want to add something like Crisco to my pie crust. I was all about the butter and would often replace shortening with butter in various pie crust recipes. Quite a quandary huh? So I’m happy to report, joy oh joy, I have found an all-butter pie crust recipe which also includes vodka in the list of ingredients. Now I must say I like vodka nearly as much as I like butter. And this crust…well to start off with it rolls out like a dream and bakes up to a tasty, flaky, buttery perfection. I will never stray from this recipe again!
But let me start from the beginning. This great discovery came about when I read the Inspired Taste blog which talked about their favourite flaky pie crust recipe. You should really take a peek at this blog because it is so interesting. Apparently they had also been making their pie crusts the old-fashioned way. You know, cut the butter into the flour until you get little pea-shaped butter/flour pebbles and then add just enough water to make a dough, keeping in mind, not to handle that dough very much once the water was added. Why? Well because the water combining with flour caused the formation of evil glutens and the more that dough was worked, the more those glutens multiplied, which would result in you baking up a tough old chewy pie crust. Just as an aside, I never heard of a gluten until a couple of years ago. Apparently those sneaky little varmints have been around all this time, hiding in plain sight. I swear I never heard of a “gluten allergy” when I was a kid, or a peanut allergy for that matter, but there are plenty of folks out there now that have figured out just how much havoc those little devils can reek. But back to the pie crust. Gluten is the enemy of tender, flaky pie crusts. So you don’t want a lot of gluten to form. Apparently several years ago Cooks Illustrated came up with the idea of replacing the ice water you would traditionally have added to your butter/flour mix with vodka. As it turns out, vodka does not encourage gluten formation. Yay Vodka! Now Inspired Taste wasn’t as thrilled with the vodka notion as I was. They agreed there was less gluten formation, but they were concerned with the cost of vodka and that they didn’t really keep it in their house routinely. No such problems around here! I always have a stash of vodka at hand, and resolved right then and there that I would be putting it to good use in my pie crusts!
But that wasn’t the only great tip Inspired Taste was able to impart to me. They went on to say that they had decided that the old cutting-the-butter-into-the-flour method could stand a bit of improvement. They recommended taking half of the flour mixture and whizzing it up with the butter in a food processor to make a butter/flour paste. By doing so, all of that flour would be coated with the butter which would keep moisture out and thus result in less gluten formation. Once this paste was complete you could add the rest of the flour and the liquid. Some glutens would thus be able to form, but just enough, not so little that your crust fell to bits, but not so many that your crust would be tough. So there you have it. A new method for making the perfect pie crust every time! I decided to use a hybrid of Cooks Illustrated and Inspired Taste for my crusts. I used the vodka/water liquid and I also used the improved Inspired taste method and came up with the best pie crust I have ever made.
Now this recipe makes enough for two crusts, and I’m only revealing what I did with one of them in this post. You’ll have to check back in to hear about flaky pie crust number two. But anyway, on the first day I made this Balsamic Strawberry Galette. I love galettes. They are so rustic and easy! Strawberries are one of my favourite fruits, taking a backseat only to apples. But unlike apples, strawberries are in season now and I just couldn’t resist them when I went to the market.
This galette recipe really lets the fresh strawberry flavour shine. You just add a bit of honey and a little balsamic vinegar to those juicy sweet fresh berries. Once that amazing pie crust is ready to go you just roll it out, which it does like a breeze. Drain those macerated strawberries, reserving the liquid for later drizzling, mound them in the center of the dough and then fold those edges over. Don’t forget to sprinkle the crust with Demerara sugar which will give it a lovely sweet crunch. I served this Strawberry Galette drizzled with strawberry juice and topped with vanilla ice cream. It was just the perfect summer dessert! If you add in a fresh blueberry or two you would have the oh so patriotic red, white a blue colour scheme for your 4th of July celebrations, which would be the perfect time to show off your newly acquired mad pie making skills!
Balsamic Strawberry Galette
For the flaky pie crust:
- 2 1/2 cups (360 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup (227 grams) very cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (2 sticks)
- 6 tablespoons vodka (chilled)
- 2 Tablespoons ice water
For the filling:
- 16 ounces fresh strawberries, sliced
- 3 tablespoons honey, plus more for drizzling
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- Demerara sugar for sprinkling over pie crust
For the flaky pie crust:
Mix 6 tablespoons of vodka and 2 tablespoons of water. Put in fridge or freezer (don’t forget it) to chill.
Add 1 1/2 cups flour, salt to a food processor. Pulse 2 to 3 times until combined.
Scatter butter cubes over flour and process until a dough or paste begins to form, about 15 seconds. (There should be no uncoated flour).
Scrape bowl, redistribute the flour-butter mixture then add remaining 1 cup of flour. Pulse 4 to 5 times until flour is evenly distributed. (Dough should look broken up and a little crumbly).
Transfer to a medium bowl then sprinkle 6 tablespoons of ice water/vodka over mixture. Using a rubber spatula, press the dough into itself. The crumbs should begin to form larger clusters. If you pinch some of the dough and it holds together, it’s ready. If the dough falls apart, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of extra water/vodka and continue to press until dough comes together.
Remove dough from bowl and place in a mound on a clean surface. Work the dough just enough to form a ball. Cut ball in half then form each half into discs. Wrap each disc with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour, and up to 2 days. You can also freeze it for up to 3 months (just thaw it overnight in the fridge before using).
For the filling:
In a medium bowl, toss sliced strawberries with honey and balsamic vinegar to coat. Let stand for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Right before assembling the galette, drain the liquid from the strawberries and reserve.
Preheat oven to 375° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove one disc of dough from refrigerator. Roll out dough to 1/8-inches thick, about 14 inches around. Gently transfer crust to the center of the prepared baking sheet. Mound strawberries in the center of the dough, spreading about 2 inches from the edge. Fold edges of dough over strawberries, overlapping where necessary. Brush the top of the dough with egg and sprinkle with Demerara sugar.
Bake until dough is golden brown, about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool before serving. Top each slice with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, drizzled with reserved strawberry liquid.