Let’s Talk Pie Crust: Water, Vodka, Vinegar, Buttermilk, Wine?

Discussion in 'Pastry' started by J13, Jul 23, 2019.

  1. J13

    J13 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 21, 2019
    Messages:
    229
    Likes Received:
    108
    Subheading: The Quest for Tenderness

    Hey, all. Sorry I flaked on the first pie crust chat :oops: (that was a pun). I got caught up in other things as one does—but then, I also think we pretty well concluded the “fat” discussion of pie crusts, agreeing that type of fat doesn’t matter, so long as the percentage of fat to flour is correct.

    I’d like to get back to the discussion with the second most controversial ingredient: the liquid. We’ve already talked at length about how U.S. pie recipes use woefully too little liquid. Why? They’re terrified of a tough crust and believe that less water = tender crust. So, U.S. recipes tell bakers to add a mere ¼C ice water to their flour. If the resulting dough falls to stick together, they advise dribbling in an extra tablespoon or two. This makes U.S. pie crust notoriously difficult to pull off (at least by novice bakers). We’ve all despaired over crumbly dough that rolls out jagged and patchy, and falls apart when we try to put it into the pie plate.

    So here are some things I’d like to discuss in this thread:
    (1) Water: How much should be used, and will too much make for a tough crust? If so, how do you make sure to hit that sweet spot? (I know, NorCal, percentages :D ...but what if you’re in a cabin in the woods without a scale? What should a perfectly hydrated pie dough feel like? Look like?) Also, “Ice Water.” Every recipe insists that the water be chilled. I understand that it’s important to keep the butter from melting...but how important is chilled water? Has anyone used room temp water and had a disaster?
    (2) Vodka and the wildly successful vodka pie crust: Created by AKA, the vodka pie crust recipe gets to have it both ways: little water, but a lot of pliability. ¼ C ice water and ¼ C chilled vodka means you get 1/2C liquid in the dough, making it way easier to pat into a circle and, after resting in the refrigerator, rolling out into a nice thin crust without cracks. The vodka (and almost all the alcohol) evaporates in the baking, and you’ve got a low-water, presumably not-tough crust that’s easy to handle.

    *Question: Have you used this recipe? What did you think of the results? I, myself, have made this. It’s an interesting experience to inhale vodka fumes while rolling out a pie dough ;) but it does work and it works well. A very easy & serviceable pie crust.

    (3) Acidic additives like vinegar, wine and lemon juice: These are added to the water and pie crust to make sure the pie crust stays tender (more fear of toughness there). There are also liquids that take the place of water like buttermilk, also meant to add tenderness but also some flavor, and egg.

    *Question: Have you used these? Do you feel they made the crust more tender? In the case of buttermilk, did it add good flavor as well? What effect does an egg have on the dough and on the finished pie crust?

    (4) Dissolving either/both the salt/sugar into the liquid: Some bakers advise that the salt/sugar be dissolved into the water, rather than added to the flour. Salt so that it gets distributed evenly and keeps the water in the freezer cold—and not turning to ice (NorCal’s very cool recommendation). Meanwhile, Julia Child advises dissolving that tablespoon of sugar into the water saying it helps to keep the pie crust (say it with me now) “Tender”.

    *Question: Your thoughts on the practice of dissolving salt/sugar or both in the water? Would dissolving the sugar undermine it’s help in browning the crust, or will it do that whether dissolved in water or still in crystal form in the flour? And would dissolving the sugar keep the crust “tender”?

    Discuss!
     
    J13, Jul 23, 2019
    #1
    Ian likes this.
    1. Advertisements

  2. J13

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2017
    Messages:
    2,010
    Likes Received:
    1,156
    Location:
    Northern California
    These acids and vodka are remedies to a self-inflicted problem.

    The result of a failure to use the correct hydration in pie dough. So the result is a dry crumbly dough. Which results in overworking the dough. Which results in a tough crust. If they added the proper hydration to begin with, they wouldn’t be overworking the dough, and they have a tender crust.

    What keeps the crust tender is a flour of 10% - 10.5% protein; 30% hydration; minimum 70% butter. And minimal handling.

    I don’t believe adding sugar to pie dough, whether you dissolve it in water or mix it in with the flour makes much difference in browning. I find only way to get any significant browning on the top crust is with an egg wash. On the bottom, it takes placing the rack low in the oven and placing the pie on a preheated baking sheet. And pie is baked at 400°F, hand pies at 375°F.
     
    Norcalbaker59, Jul 23, 2019
    #2
    1. Advertisements

  3. J13

    J13 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 21, 2019
    Messages:
    229
    Likes Received:
    108
    Fair enough, and that accounts for vodka, vinegar, wine, and lemon juice. Also for dissolving sugar into the water if it does nothing to help with tenderness.

    But buttermilk and egg aren't simply water. They contain proteins, etc. So, what does using either of them add or take away from a pie crust?
     
    J13, Jul 23, 2019
    #3
  4. J13

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2017
    Messages:
    2,010
    Likes Received:
    1,156
    Location:
    Northern California

    Buttermilk is for the acid. Only a small amount of buttermilk is ever added and it’s only for the acid. There isn’t enough protein in the small amount of the buttermilk to make any difference in the crust. Acids are not really favored much because they can impart bitterness in the crust. That’s why ATK vodka recipe became so popular, it didn’t impart any bitterness, snd the alcohol burns off.


    The egg dough is a different type of crust. That’s a French tart pastry dough called pate sucree. It includes both egg and sugar. It changes the texture of the crust so it’s more like a cookie. It’s a very lovely crust for tarts, but it would not be used suited for pie because of the texture is too crisp.
     
    Norcalbaker59, Jul 24, 2019
    #4
    1. Advertisements

Ask a Question

Want to reply to this thread or ask your own question?

You'll need to choose a username for the site, which only take a couple of moments (here). After that, you can post your question and our members will help you out.