Tart Cherry Pie with Cook’s Illustrated Vodka Pie Crust

Fall is finally here, and I’ve decided that there’s no better time to dedicate some time to perfecting pies.  Up until now, I’ve used pre-made pie crusts (and they work pretty well), but I want to learn to make my own crust. This first attempt is the famous Cook’s Illustrated Vodka Pie Crust. This crust replaces half of the water with vodka. I believe the concept is that the alcohol will evaporate when baking and prevent a soggy crust.  For the filling, I made a simple cherry filling with tart cherries. Tart cherries are the only way to go, otherwise the filling is just a single note of sugar.

Vodka Pie Crust (from Cook’s Illustrated)


  • 2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour (divided)
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
  • 1/4 cup cold vodka
  • 1/4 cup cold water

Mix 1 1/2 cups flour, salt and sugar together. Place it in the bowl of a food processor.  Add the butter and shortening and process for about 15 seconds. Scrape down sides and add the remaining cup of flour. Pulse 4 to 6 times. Transfer to a mixing bowl. Sprinkle the water and vodka over the dough and press together. Divide into 2 disks, wrap in plastic and chill 1 hour to 2 days.

The dough was very wet, and it was a little hard to work with, but I only chilled for the minimum 1 hour.  Cook’s Illustrated is one of my most trusted sources, so I’m going to try their exact measurements a few more times before I try reducing the liquid. I would recommend making the dough the day before you want to bake the pie.

Tart Cherry Pie Filling (from Bake at 350)


  • 1 & 1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 cans of tart cherries packed in water (3 cups of drained cherries)
  • 3/4 cup juice from cherries
  • 1 Tablespoon butter

In a heavy saucepan, combine the sugar and cornstarch, add the cherry juice. Cook over medium heat until the mixture thickens to coat a spoon. Remove from heat and add cherries and butter. Stir to coat the cherries and let cool.

Roll one disk of pie dough and place in the bottom of the pie pan. Spoon all of the cherries into the crust then pour in the juice until it almost reaches the top. Roll our the second disk of pie crust and top the pie however you like. I chose a lattice crust (that  made a bit of a mistake on…whoops!) and I will make a tutorial on how to weave a lattice top pie. It’s easier than it looks! Place the pie on a foil lined cookie sheet to catch any drips and bake at 400 degrees for 55 minutes.

My pie came out a bit rustic looking, but it tasted fantastic. The crust was crisp and flaky. I look forward to trying it again and chilling it longer. I’m a bit new to pie baking, so I’m hoping they will become a bit more photogenic as the season goes on. Until then, pie is more about flavor than presentation and I like to think that the imperfections make it more charming.

Are you baking pies this fall? What’s your favorite pie flavor?



  1. ddd
    looks delish!! how about using bourbon for a pumpkin or pecan pie, or rum for a coconut or key lime pie?

  2. Nice recipe and great looking pie! Try using the Tart Cherry concentrate from http://www.brownwoodacres.com/cherry_juice_concentrate.php It’s a great mix too!

  3. Christine says:

    What a lovely pie! I am a Cook’s Illustrated fan and their vodka pie crust was a revelation for me. I only baked pies with cookie crusts or press-in pastry recipes until they first published the recipe, then I went on a pie-baking binge! My husband protested at first because “my grandma never used vodka in her pie crust,” but I told him about the science behind using vodka and how much my confidence improved in making homemade pies (as if he couldn’t tell by the numerous blueberry, apple and cherry pies I made during that binge!). I haven’t tried a lattice pie crust top, but I always brush the top crust with a little whisked egg white and sprinkle it with large crystals of sugar. So pretty and the crunch is a nice contrast in texture.

    I make batches of the cut-up butter and Crisco portions for the single pie crust and freeze them in Ziploc baggies so that I always have half of the recipe ready every time I decide to make a pie. 🙂 I always weigh the butter, Crisco and flour to make certain that I always use the proper proportions of flour to fat. Those measurements are: for the single crust: 10oz flour, 6oz butter and 2.8oz Crisco. For the double crust: 20oz flour, 12oz butter and 5.6oz Crisco.

    For dessert pies, I use 1/4 cup sugar for single-crust pies and 1/2 cup sugar for double crust pies. I usually don’t add salt to dessert recipes, but this pie dough suffers without it, but I use 1/8 teaspoon for the single crust and 1/4 teaspoon for the double crust.

    I always use Pyrex pie plates and bake pies with this pastry recipe at the bottom of the oven; this bakes the bottom of the crust more quickly and protects the edges from burning. : ) I’ve found that chilling the dough is crucial to using this recipe successfully I use frozen butter and Crisco to make the dough, chill the dough for 2 hours, then pound the chilled dough for the bottom crust with my rolling pin into a circle until it can be rolled,, then roll it quickly into a circle about 10 1/2″ in diameter. Before I transfer the dough to the 9″ Pyrex pie dish, I center the pie dish on the dough and press very lightly. That makes it easier to center the bottom crust.

    Then I freeze the bottom crust while I made the filling and roll out the top crust. After the pie is assembled, I freeze it again for 15 minutes before popping it in the oven. Turning the oven on when I start to make the filling also makes the oven nice and hot. If you place the pie on a baking sheet to prevent juices from spilling in your oven, place the baking sheet in the oven when you turn it on.

    This pastry recipe has changed my life because I am so much more confident about making fresh pies. The fats are healthful (Crisco has no trans-fats), and it takes less than 15 minutes to whip up. Check out their website: http://www.cooksillustrated.com for many delicious pie recipes. The website now accesses the Cook’s Country and America’s Test Kitchen recipes. The Cook’s Country fresh strawberry pie is to die for!

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