Brown Butter Pie Crust
Pie crust is a very finicky thing. Most people (including myself for years) forego a homemade crust for one in the freezer section at the grocery store. This year, I was determined to research what makes a truly perfect pie crust. Enter… food science.
According to my research, what makes a beautifully flaky crust is… less gluten. Yes, that’s right. Gluten, that bane of hipster diets. For things such as homemade pasta (don’t worry, we’ll cover that in another post), you want a high amount of gluten to get the dense texture you need. Pie crust is completely the opposite. You want a little gluten, but not that much.
So how do we make a recipe with normal flour while also using less gluten? Care to guess what my secret ingredient is? Vodka. That’s right, vodka. The alcohol actually breaks down the gluten molecules and when vodka cooks down, it becomes flavorless. It’s a win-win. I wonder if you drink a bunch of vodka, will that cancel out all of the pasta and bread you eat for dinner? Theoretically speaking, of course… I’m asking for a friend.
325g all-purpose flour
2 sticks of butter, browned & chilled again
1 tsp salt
1 Tb sugar
2 Tb vodka
4 Tb ice water
Before you do anything else, brown your butter and preheat your oven to 350 F. Put two sticks of butter in a saucepan and melt on med-low heat. Whisk constantly until you see the butter turning a golden brown. Be careful, because once it starts to brown, it will go quickly and if you’re not attentive the butter can burn. Pour into a small glass dish and chill until solid.
The most important thing to remember with this crust is keeping the dough as cold as possible at all times. The less direct contact your hands have with the dough, the better. For mixing your dough, I’d recommend using either a food processor or Kitchenaid mixer. (In my demonstration I used my mixer with the paddle mixing attachment.)
Mix all of your ingredients in the order listed above until the dough forms a solid “ball.” Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.
Before you roll out your dough, sprinkle flour on a clean counter or table surface and coat your rolling pin in flour as well. Cut the amount of dough in half. It will be a little difficult to roll out at first since it’s cold, so take your time and be gentle with it. Once you roll out your dough to a thickness of about 3 mm, gently drape over a lightly greased pie dish and press into the sides. I’ve found that trimming off the excess dough with kitchen scissors and pressing the edges together with a fork to be the most effective method.
Once this is completed, place your crust in the freezer for about 10 minutes and begin rolling out the second half of dough. Your top crust can be as simple or as complicated as you like. I had fun with a leaf-shaped fondant cutter to make the second pie pictured below.
Bake your bottom crust for about 10 minutes, until you see a lovely brown color. Set aside and cool before adding your pie filling. Finish off with your top crust and bake another 15+ minutes. Cover your pie loosely with aluminum foil to prevent the crust from browning too quickly. Uncover for the last 5 minutes.
Pro Tip: egg wash. whisk together an egg yolk and about 1 Tb of milk to brush over your pie crust before baking. It will give your crust a gorgeous sheen.
Once you’re all done, cool down your pie and serve to your guests with ice cream or whipped cream. It will be the centerpiece of your dessert table! Enjoy!