Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Blueberry Peach Pie and a Drunk Crust

Last week, I baked a pie.  I put Cruz down for a nap and set apart the next two hours to stare this challenge directly in the face.  Baking in general, especially pies, is intimidating to me for a few reasons.  One, baking calls for concise; two, it's time-consuming; and three, one simple slip-up can ruin the entire finished product.  Take for instance adding salt to your chocolate chip cookie dough and casually reading 'tbsp.' instead of 'tsp.,' or wondering why your pan of brownies look like pancakes until you realize you used baking 'soda,' instead of baking 'powder.'  I've had these experiences before, spent afternoons doing dishes and cleaning up flour from who-knows-where with nothing to show for it, or worse yet, nights spent crying over a pan of perfectly-dipped cake balls that missed the shelf of the fridge and ended up on my floor the night before Cruz's baptism day.  Let's just say I have a love/hate relationship with baking, and would prefer throwing a spaghetti sauce together over a souffle any day ;)

So, last week, after putting Cruz down for his nap, I stepped into my Betty Crocker suit, took a deep breath, and got to work.  I started with the crust, moved on to my peaches, and used my cheese grater to create a simple crumb-top crust on the top.  It was a time-consuming process, but every step seemed to go so smoothly.  I've baked pies many times before, and never had this much success.  I realized, however, that something very important was missing from my previous pie-making endeavors.


Although I stayed sober as a judge making this pie, I can't say the same for the crust.  I believe I finally found my no-fail pie crust recipe of choice, and who would have thought that the secret ingredient is vodka.  

I adapted the recipe from Cook's Illustrated, but thought I would put it here to include my changes.  It was the perfect consistency - flaky but still held up with a fork.  My favorite part of this crust, however, was its ease rolling it out.  I've had crusts that literally fall apart when you attempt to roll them out, crusts I've thrown in the trash and replaced with a Pillsbury frozen one instead.  This crust was pretty perfect.

What you need:  

-2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface 
-1 teaspoon salt 
-2 tablespoons sugar 
-1-1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices 
-1/2 cup chilled white Crisco shortening, cut into 4 pieces 
-1/4 cup vodka, cold
-1/4 cup cold water 

1. Combine 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in a bowl.  Set aside.

2. Add butter and shortening to flour mixture and mix until dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour).  You could use a food processor, or if you don't have one like me, use an old-fashioned pastry blender.

3.  Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly.  Add remaining 1 cup flour and pulse (or mix) until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up. Empty mixture into medium bowl. 

4. 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. 

5. Divide dough into two balls, (one slightly larger than the other). Flatten larger dough into 4-inch disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Roll smaller dough into a log, about 1-1/2 inch in diameter, wrap in plastic wrap and freeze until ready to use.

6. When ready to use, roll out refrigerated dough into a 12-inch circle on generously floured work surface.  Transfer dough to a 9-inch pie plate.  Working around the circumference of pie plate, ease dough into pan corners by gently lifting dough edges with one hand while pressing around pan bottom with other hand.  

7.  Using kitchen shears, trim overhang, leaving 1/2-inch overhang.  Fold dough under itself so that edge of fold is flush with outer rim of pie plate.  "Flute" edges using thumb and forefinger.  I always go for the imperfect 'rustic' look, and make sure to push rather firmly on the edges as they will rise a little during bake time.  

8.  Chill bottom crust in freezer until ready to use.

Blueberry Peach Filling: 

-6-8 medium peaches, ripe but still firm
-1 cup fresh blueberries
-1 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed 
-1 1/4 cup granulated sugar, or more depends on sweetness of fruits -1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
-1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
-1/4 teaspoon salt 
-3-4 tablespoons ground instant tapioca (I used Minute Tapioca, found by the pudding) 
-Granulated sugar for sprinkling, 1-2 tablespoon

1.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2.  Prepare an ice bath and a pot of boiling water.  Score a small 'x' at the base of each peach with a paring knife and blanch in boiling water until their skins loosen, about 2 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, remove peaches to ice bath and let stand, about 1 minute.  Remove peaches from ice bath and pat dry. 

3. Starting from the scored x, peel each peach (should be able to do this with your fingers), halve and pit it, then cut into wedges. Toss peach wedges, lemon juice, 1 cup sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and ground tapioca (3 tablespoons for moderately juicy peaches, 4 tablespoons for very juicy ones) in medium bowl. 

4. Remove prepared rolled out pie dough from freezer and turn mixture into dough-lined pie plate. 

5. Remove dough log from freezer, grate log with large hole on box grater on top of peach-blueberry filling. Lightly brush grated pie-dough with ice water and sprinkle with granulated sugar, if use. 

6. Place pie on baking sheet and bake until crust is set and begins to brown, about 25 minutes. Rotate pie and reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees; continue to bake until crust is deep golden brown and filling is bubbly, 25 to 30 minutes longer. Cool on wire rack 2 hours before serving.

I served this pie with blueberry muffin ice cream from Oh Sweet Joy.  It was the perfect combination!



  1. Hi Ashley!

    Amanda's mom (mamawatters) here :) I have been silently reading and loving your blog. I had to comment on this recipe. I haven't been brave enough to make my own pie crust in fear of never living up to my mother...coincidentally a friend of mine was on vacation in Wisconsin last week and one day they all decided to take a pie baking class. She said they used vodka in the crust and it rolled out so easy and was flaky and delicious. So now I have heard this twice in a week and I am sort of feeling the nudge to try it myself! Now if only the weather would cool off so I would feel like using the oven!
    Keep blogging. I love reading your blog and Amanda's. She has told me great things about you. Maybe some day we will meet in person :)


    1. Hi Gwen, and thanks so much for the comment! I was just at a family reunion today with some pretty experienced bakers, and none of them had heard of the vodka crust! I just baked a rhubarb pie with the same crust yesterday and it came out perfectly. I did have to mush it together and roll it out twice before I had a nice bottom crust, but it's fun to work with and tastes good, too. If you try a pie, let me know how it turns out! If I remember right, Amanda was feeling the itch, too :)

      Thanks for reading. I read Amanda's blog every day and love sharing in these special mama moments with her - I think she's amazing! You have one precious grand-baby :) I secretly hope we can all arrange a playdate one day.



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