Dessert Cheating

This is the third thing I served at the Paella Party that I thought warranted a blog entry.  Believe it or not there is still one more!

I love strawberry and rhubarb together.  When eaten raw, a good strawberry is hard to beat but when you cook them they can get a little cloying.  Enter rhubarb, providing the perfect vegetal acidity to bring harmony back to the world.  And so every year I return to my favorite combo creating free-form pies that are so simple and so good it feels like you are cheating.

Tip: Make extra pie crusts and store them in the freezer.  They will keep when wrapped tightly in the freezer and you are only an hour or so away from a great dessert.

Tip 2: This is from America’s Test kitchen whose attitude I find trying at times.  Add vodka to your crust.  This way you can add a good bit more liquid than is called for and make a dough that is easier to work with.  The extra liquid is mostly alcohol so it simply evaporates in the oven leaving the crust crisp!

Tip 3: Make a galette instead of a pie.  It’s faster to make, it’s faster to bake and they just look cool!

Most of the recipe comes from CookWise which is a great book about the science behind cooking if you’ve never heard of it.  If you feel that you aren’t very good at making pie crusts here is some unsolicited advice.  Take my advice and add some vodka to make the dough workable, move the crust a lot while rolling making sure it is well floured, and make a lot of pie for practice!

Pie Crust (makes three, freeze the extras!)

1/2 tsp salt
1/3 c cold water
up to 1/3 c cold vodka
11 ounces all purpose flour
1/2 lb cold unsalted butter cut into 1/2 in cubes

If I have any purist readers I know I’m about to offend (sorry).  Put the flour and butter into the bowl of a standing mixer.  Mix a bit by hand with the paddle attachment and then put all of it in the freezer for upward of 30 minutes to chill.  It is important to keep the butter cold.  Dissolve the salt in the water and stick in the fridge.  Chill the vodka too.  When its time, mix the flour and butter (start slowly you will get a cloud of flour) until the butter is in small pieces.  People say it looks like cornmeal but I don’t usually get quite that small.  Add the cold water and if that doesn’t start to come together start adding the vodka a bit at a time until the dough starts to clump.  Try to make these decisions quickly since you don’t want to over mix and build up the gluten (this will make your crust chewy).  Turn it out and bring it together by hand if necessary.  Use your kitchen scale (you have one right?) to weigh into three equal pieces.  Wrap in plastic wrap flattening into a disk and put  in the fridge.  Freeze anything you don’t want to use right away.  I typically wrap again in foil to help protect it.  Don’t forget to label the foil!


Filed under Baking, Cookbooks, Cooking, Food, Recipe, Tips

18 responses to “Dessert Cheating

  1. Joshua, you are getting annoyingly good at pictures. You’re also including cool writing and good recipes.

  2. Whoa! Vodka! I like that, and I would eat your dessert.

  3. I was just over at Sweet Pea’s and she also suggested the vodka trick. Must try. I’ve never tried the freezing trick either, will have to do that too. You’re just full of all sorts of good advice today Mr. Fagans!

  4. I’ve never heard of adding vodka to a pie crust and I LOVE making pie crust. And I especially agree with your last point of advice – make lots of pies for practice. I mean really….is there any other kind of practice that would be better?! You get to eat a pie when you’re done!

  5. I remember you telling how sad that I don’t enjoy rhubarb and that rhubarb and strawberry was one of your favourites – I am willing to give it a try, just one more time – now just to wait for rhubarb season.
    Love the idea of vodka in the pastry – wonder if subbing it out with whiskey for my hubby’s palette would work…
    Have a happy weekend.
    🙂 Mandy

    • 🙂 Yes I am a fan. In the end you don’t really taste the vodka. I would think you would taste some kinds of whiskey since they have stronger flavors but that could be a very good idea!

  6. Love this! I always use the vodka based pie dough and I’m a big fan of the rustic looking pies…so much less fussy and I feel that I can whip one up quickly in this manner. I too keep dough in my freezer. Now, what I haven’t tried is rhubarb. Great post!!

  7. Being a lousy dessert maker, this post is such a piece of jewel for me! Thanks for sharing great insights and tips! Love your pictures!

  8. This looks SO good …I have some peaches in the fridge that I was thinking of turning into a peach crumble..your pictures may have just changed my mind

  9. Excellent pictures, and I can’t wait to try your tip about adding vodka. Maybe I can teach my mother something? Ha ha! Thanks for sharing.

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