Why Cheap Vodka Is the Key to Mastering Pie Crust
I struggle in the kitchen—not every day—but definitely every time I forget that I can't bake and attempt it anyway. Baking is a marvel of chemistry and artistry, and I'm more of a Stone Soup-type of cook. I taste and add and taste again, and hope for the best. Give me a refrigerator full of stuff you need to get rid of, and I can whip up something passable, even dinner-party worthy in an emergency. You'll love it, especially if you have some hot sauce and Worcestershire that I can throw in.
But baking? I get nervous whenever there's a bake sale. I want to help. I do. But my cookies will always be the ones left on the table and marked down to half price, then discretely given away to let me save face. Like many parents, I pray you'll spare me the embarrassment and ask me to write a check instead. I may even save money, because I won't have to throw out a burnt batch of snickerdoodles and go buy all the ingredients again—but I digress.
That said, I love a nice vegetable tart and was determined to master the pâte brisée. A weekday tart seems so simple, and there is no better way to clean out the last of your produce bin than by putting it all on top of a sheet of dough, adding a little cheese, and popping it in the oven. It seems like the kind of thing a chic French woman would throw together after work, adding a lightly dressed salad and a bottle of sparkling water to make it a meal. Somehow she wouldn't end up with flour all over her perfectly tailored black pants and silk blouse. French women don't even entertain the idea of bake sales. Why would they, when there's a perfectly good pâtisserie on every corner? I'll never be that woman, but I have succeeded on one little front.
WATCH: Make an Herbed Tomato Tart for Your Next Party
Have you heard about using vodka in place of the ice water in the dough? How about using a food processor instead of your hands? I used a scientific method to find the best booze to improve my pastry, and the food processor helps me keep most of the flour off of my (not-so-perfectly-tailored) black pants and (only-lightly-stained-already) silk blouse. A large apron also helps.
Now let's pop open that bottle of eau gazeuse and enjoy our supper!
Anne Wolfe Postic is a freelance writer living in South Carolina with her husband, their three sons, and a fluffy white dog. She travels with relish (and often a jar of Duke's mayonnaise). She cooks her feelings and invites people over to eat them. Anne writes and blogs about parenting, etiquette, healthy eating, home cooking, and traveling. She recommends taking all of her advice with a huge chunk of salt.