cardamom apple pie + braided vodka crust


It’s pie season! You know, that time of year when holiday desserts are mainly pie and cookies (both great options). The classic apple pie is always on the list, so why not spruce it up a bit with a sweater weather inspired crust infused with vodka? And let’s also add some cardamon spice to pull out those warm fall flavors. This simple recipe freezes well, which is what I did! Take holiday prep by storm and start baking now.


If you have been following my recent posts, you know that my sweet mother mailed me fresh apples from my favorite orchard back home in New York. These Beak and Skiff apples were such a thoughtful gift because I was very sad that I did not make it home this fall to go apple picking with the fam. So mom mailed me four special varieties and I put them to good use. I made candied apples for Halloween, a French apple cake for co-workers, a failed attempt at crock pot apple butter (it burned after 17 hours-duh) and of course, this special apple pie.

I wanted to save this pie for the holidays so that I can share it with my loved ones. It just seemed like the right thing to do.


The vodka in the crust is not for flavor, so do not worry-it cooks out. Adding alcohol with fat (butter and shortening) and water will help the crust stay flaky and tender, even when shaping it for the braids on top.

I honestly make apple pies the way my mom and grandma do. They throw a bunch of sugar and spices in and taste as they go. There is really no need to measure the mixture’s ingredients. So I am giving you round about measures for the spices, but please taste as you go and make it your own.

As for the sweater weather braids? This was my first time creating an interesting crust. I used inspiration from other bloggers and know that I will get better with more practice. It’s okay to make mistakes, just roll it back up and try again (that’s what I did).




  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), cut into 1/2-inch cubes and frozen
  • 2 tablespoons shortening, frozen
  • 1/2 cup vodka
  • Ice
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt


  • 6 (about 3 1/2 pounds) medium apples , peeled, cored and sliced
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3/4-1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1-2 teaspoon(s) of lemon juice
  • 1-2 teaspoon(s) ground cardamom
  • 1-2 teaspoon(s) ground cinnamon
  • 1-2 teaspoon(s) ground nutmeg
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon ground clove
  • 1-2 teaspoon(s) vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes and frozen
  • Egg wash: 1 egg whisked with a splash of water


  1. Pour vodka into a liquid measuring cup, then add several ice cubes. Wait until vodka is chilled and remove ice after a few minutes. Vodka water mixture should reach 3/4 cup measurement. (If you prefer to use less vodka, try 1/3 cup vodka with 1/4 cup ice water.)
  2. Combine flour and salt in a large mixing bowl; add frozen butter and shortening. Toss together quickly with your hands to coat each piece of butter and shortening with flour mixture, helps ensure an even dough. Transfer to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade; pulse 2 to 3 times until the size of chick peas.
  3. Pour vodka mixture in a steady stream while constantly pulsing until dough begins to pull together. Avoid overmixing.
  4. Carefully turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and remove the blade. The dough is very hydrated, so use bench flour when needed. Knead dough until smooth, turn 5 to 6 times.
  5. Divide dough in half. Wrap each half in plastic wrap and shape the dough into a disk. Refrigerate for minimum of 30 minutes, preferably overnight. You can freeze the dough up to 3 months, just wrap well.
  6. While the dough is chilling, make the apple mixture: Mix apples with the next 9 ingredients. Toss and let sit until juices form, about 15 minutes.
  7. While waiting for apples: Using a rolling pin, roll out 1 disk of dough into a circle (keep the other in the fridge), using bench flour to prevent sticking to the clean surface. Grease a 9-inch pie dish. Then fit dough into a 9-inch pie dish, ensuring that it hangs over the rim (do not stretch to make it fit, as it will shrink back). Press down gently to ensure it is set inside the dish. Trim off the excess with kitchen scissors or a knife. Crimp/pinch with fingers to create a design like mine.
  8. Pour apple mixture into the pie dish.
  9. Top with frozen butter cubes.
  10. Take out disk #2 from the fridge and use a rolling pin to shape it into a rectangle. Work quickly, as it should remain cold. Roll the dough thin enough to make braids, but not too thin for it to break apart. Cut the rectangle into 1/2 inch and 1 strips. I twisted two 1-inch strips to get the center design. Then I braided three 1/2 inch strips to get the other designs. For the end pieces, I rolled the strips into cylinders and braided them for a rounded effect. Get creative.
  11. Cut the braids and twists to fit your pie and tuck in any random pieces.
  12. For freezing: Wrap it very tightly with plastic wrap and freeze for up to 1 month.
  13. For cooking: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. While it preheats, keep the pie cool in the refrigerator. When ready, brush the pie crust with egg wash and cover the pie edges loosely with tin foil. Place pie dish on baking sheet (in case it drips) and bake for 20-25 minutes. Then remove the foil and bake for another 20-25 minutes. Cool before serving.

Happy Holidays!