I first learned how to make pie crust was a teenager. I fell in love with quiche, but my mom didn’t know how to make it, so I taught myself. Back then, I used shortening and the two fork technique, and despite my lack of experience and kitchen tools, the crust came out okay. That is, until I discovered frozen pie crust. At the time, frozen crust was a revelation to me, and it cut my quiche prep time considerably.
Fast forward years later, and faced with a double batch of beef stew, I decide to make hand pies. But frozen supermarket pie crust simply won’t do. Looking for a good crust recipe, I come across The Smitten Kitchen, whose use of vodka sounds intriguing. I love when a good recipe turns out because of science. The crust is flakier because of vodka’s low evaporation point? Sure, I’ll go with that.
But what made the crust fantastic, was the addition of good cheddar. The sharp tang of the cheddar along with the buttery crust just made it sublime. It was a great foil for the stew, the bite of the cheese offsetting the richness perfectly. Have I been turned off frozen crust completely? Heck no. It has it’s place, as a time-saver and recipe helper, frozen crust is the way to go. But I am glad I took a chance with this recipe, and this is only the beginning. Apple pie with cheddar crust, chicken pot pie with parm crust, bacon quiche with pepper jack crust. Oh pie, I’ve only just begun.
Adapted from The Smitten Kitchen
Cheddar Cheese Crust
2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp table salt
2 tbls sugar
1 cup of cold organic unsalted butter, cut into small dice
1 cup good sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup cold vodka
1/4 cup cold water
1. Once you’ve diced your butter, place it back into a small bowl and into the fridge.
2. Measure out flour (I like to weigh it) into a large bowl, and add salt, sugar and cheese. Mix to combine.
3. Add the very cold butter and cut it into the flour mix until it resembles coarse cornmeal.
4. Combine water and vodka into a measuring cup, and begin to fold in, a few drizzles at a time. Continue to drizzle in liquid and fold in dough until just combined.
5. Once the dough just comes together, use your hand to gather up the stray crumbs and knead a couple times to combine.
6. Divide dough into two balls, flatten into disks and place in fridge for at least an hour and up to 2 days. Roll out dough and use at will, brushing top with egg wash if desired. I found that baking at 375 degrees until golden brown resulted in a great crust.