Wednesday, February 2, 2011

pie crust: flaky, vegan, & versatile

This is based on the Betty Crocker recipe, which is, of course, not vegan. I love the Tassajara Bread Book's pie crust, too (made from vegetable oil and whole wheat flour) and it can be great for savory pies. But it can also be very tough. Made with tons of vegan margarine, this simple, fatty pie crust recipe is just awesome, and is always delicate and flaky, even when it's made with whole wheat flour.

The other thing I have to say about this recipe is that I've doubled it. It's supposed to be the right amount for both a 9" pie and a topping. But I don't know, maybe I'm rolling-pin-deficient or something, but it's never enough. It's not like I'm one of those people who can sit around eating raw pie dough, or cooked pie dough by itself for that matter: I need the tasty filling to get the most out of pie dough. So I don't know. If this makes too much dough for you, you can always save the rest for later. (Or feed it to one of those people who does enjoy eating raw pie dough -- there's one in every household.)


3 - 4 cups white flour (or for a savory pie, half white flour, half whole wheat) 
2 tsp salt
1 1/3 cup - 2 cups vegan margarine, room temperature
6 - 8 tbsp ice water

Measure the flour into a mixing bowl and mix the salt through it. 

With a pasty blender, cut in half the margarine finely. The mixture should look like meal. 

Cut in the remaining margarine coarsely, until there are particles are the size of large peas.

Sprinkle with the water, a tablespoon at a time, mixing lightly with a for until all the flour is moistened. You may need more or less water; be careful not to get the dough too wet. It should form easily into a ball, without sticking too much to the sides of the bowl. 

Gather the dough together with your fingers so it cleans the bowl. Press into a ball. 

Divide the dough about in half. Take the slightly larger part onto a lightly floured cloth-covered board. I've done this without the cloth, and it works, but it's a pain. 

Roughly flatten the dough with your hands, then take a flour-covered rolling pin and roll out the dough until it's about 1/8" - 1/4" thick. Work quickly and roll lightly, being careful not to add too much flour. Keep working the dough into a roughly circular shape. 

Lift the cloth with the circle of dough still in it, so you can slide / scoop it into the pie pan. Betty Crocker has you fold the dough in half, slide it into the pan, unfold it, and pat it into the pan. Mine always falls apart when I try to do this! And if I don't use the cloth, I have a lot of trouble getting the dough up in one piece to transfer it to the pan. If yours falls into pieces, it's okay. Sometimes I even end up rolling out my dough in the pie pan, and just scrunching it to size with my fingers (and maybe this is why I always need more dough than recipes call for!). 

Pat the dough into place. Try to keep the thickness of the crust consistent over the whole surface of the pan. Trim any overhanging edges with kitchen scissors. 

My mom's 1950's edition of Betty Crocker follows those instructions with this tidbit: 
Recent experiments prove it unnecessary to chill the pastry, so let it stand on the table. 
Next, take the other slightly-less-than-half of dough, and follow the same instructions as above, except roll it out a bit thinner, to have an extra 1" or so in diameter.  

If your filling has a very short baking time, you might want to pop the pie into the oven for 5 - 10 minutes to make sure it isn't too doughy and raw in the final product. Don't worry as much about the pie topping, which is thinner and will bake faster. If you're really worried about the top of your pie not getting baked enough, you can pop the whole thing in a broiler for a couple of minutes after baking the whole affair. 

Prepare any filling that will go in the pie, and arrange it in your dough-lined pan. Place the topping dough over it whichever way worked best for you getting the dough into the pan in the first place. Fold the extra edge of top dough under the edge of the lower dough. Seal thoroughly by pressing together on the edge of the pan. 

And now would be when you'd build up a fluted or crimped edge by pressing the dough with your fingers. It looks pretty, but for some reason I can't get it to work right! (Which is why, among other reasons, there is no picture of a beautifully fluted crust!) My pies are usually more rustic. But now would be the time! 

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