Apple Pie with Vodka Crust

The Science of Pie – May 19, 2013
Judge’s Favorite Pie
Qiaoyi Wu, Qinqin Chen, Michelle Cheng (Team Aπ3)

Seeking to perfect pie crust texture, team Aπ3 experimented with different liquids that may impede the formation of gluten protein networks. Gluten gives structure and stability to pie dough, but can also make pie dough dense and tough when over-developed. The team examined the porousness, density, and browning of pie crusts prepared with their three different liquids compared to water and concluded that vodka creates the flakiest pie crust.


photos courtesy of Patrick Tran

Different liquids affect the density of pie crust. (A) Pie crust prepared with alcohol (beer or vodka) is less dense than pie crust prepared with water. Interestingly, carbonated water also lowers the density of the pie crust compared to water. (B-E) Team Aπ3 did not observe much difference in the browning of pie crusts prepared with water (B), carbonated water (C), beer (D), or vodka (E).

The Recipe
Apple pie with vodka crust

For the crust:
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tbsp (approx.) ice water
2 tbsp (approx.) vodka

For the filling:
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp all purpose flour
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 3/4 pounds apples, peeled, quartered, cored, thinly sliced*
*Team Aπ3 used a half Fuji and half Granny Smith apples.

For the streusel topping:
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
5 tbsp (2.5 oz) unsalted butter, chilled

Preheat oven to 375F.

To prepare the crust, mix the dry ingredients. Cut in the cubes of butter until the butter forms approximately pea-sized pieces. Add water and vodka one tablespoon at a time, alternating the liquids. Only add liquid until the dough starts to come together and can be formed into a ball. Chill dough for at least 30 min. Roll out the dough and press into a pie pan to form the bottom crust.

To prepare the filling, mix all filling ingredients. Spread the filling mixture on top of the bottom crust. Try to arrange the filling so that the top of the pie is flat.

To prepare the streusel topping, combine the flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Cut the butter into small pieces and incorporate into the dry ingredients until the butter is in very small pieces. Spread the streusel topping over the pie filling.

Bake pie at 375F for 45-50 min.

Recipe adapted from Eat Me, Delicious: Apple Pie with Brown Sugar Streusel Topping