Friday, October 12, 2007

A Splash of Vodka Here, A Pat of Butter There

In anticipation of beginning culinary school on Nov. 26th, I have been ferreting out new kitchen adventures. Reading blogs where no blog has been read before...mmm, yea. Whatever! So, one of my favorite online magazine sites is Cook's Illustrated. They have this wonderful experiment kitchen where they actually use science to explore it's effect on food. Pretty cool!

Their test kitchen confronted the sticky and frequently too stiff issue of homemade pie crust. I have always been a bit apprehensive when it comes to making pie crust. I have made a couple of traditional pie crusts and while they turned out okay, they were nothing to write home about. Cook's Illustrated did an awesomely simple study of the effect of the liquid used in constructing a pie crust. Their goal was to find a liquid that could be used instead of water, to be able to still affect the gluten in the flour but not turn it into a pasty or stiff mess. The science behind it is actually quite fascinating. They discovered that alcohol could replace the water in the recipe. Alcohol contains a percentage of water with the ethanol wearing off during cooking. So, you get the 'wetness' of the liquid without all the effects of the water. Hence, the Vodka Pie Crust...

I used the recipe, sans sugar, to create a crust for a chicken pot pie. This crust was buttery, flaky, tender, absolutely the best crust I have ever had in any pie. It was silky, pliable, and easy to work with. It is a very forgiving recipe, since I didn't follow it exactly word for word. It will be my main pie crust recipe for the rest of my life. Truly, I am so excited to actually not be afraid of making pies anymore. My brain is already making a list of things that can be put in a pie. Sigh, the possibilities are endless!

In the article, they also point out that other flavored alcohols can be used to substitute for the water, like bourbon for a pecan pie or brandy for a peach pie. Mmmmm, yum! Read the article, it was a learning experience that will increase my baking time in the kitchen!

Bon Appetit!

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