A Better Pie Crust

by Shoshana on November 15, 2012 · 15 comments

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With Thanksgiving next week it is officially pie season. I know that there are those who would argue with me, claiming that the middle of summer when fresh produce overflows the farmers market is the height of pie season. While I do love a great cherry pie at the peak of the season, pies don’t tend to be the first thing I think to make when faced with all that fresh fruit. I don’t know why, I should make more fruit pies, but I just tend not to. My five year old son, who mostly only eats desserts I make, pointed out to me recently that he has never had apple pie in his life. Apple tarts and apple marshmallows, sure, but never apple pie. Clearly I am failing in my patriotic duty. That being said, even though the rest of the year I tend to make everything but pie, for Thanksgiving I never make anything else. My offers to make other desserts for Thanksgiving are always met with outrage by family who want all the classic pies instead. So every year, no matter how many people are coming, we have no less than three pies. One pumpkin, one pecan and one fruit based pie. (I guess this year I could make that pie apple, just to make my son happy.)

For the last several years I have been using the same pie crust recipe, a parve adaptation of Mark Bittman’s sweet tart crust. Because it is a tart crust it is a bit less flakey than a traditional pie crust, but the addition of the egg gives it a flavor boost which is needed when working with margarine rather than butter. Back when I started making this crust there were not anywhere near as many options for dairy-free fats as there are now so margarine was it. This year I decided that instead of just using the same crust recipe using buttery sicks for the margarine because that is what I have always used I was going to do a scientific comparison of two different recipes and a whole collection of different pareve fats. I tested crusts using Earth Ealance buttery sticks, Earth Balance organic whipped buttery spread, spectrum organic shortening and coconut oil. I tried all the fats in the recipe with egg and in a more standard shortening pie crust recipe without egg. Since people rave about the texture of shortening pie crusts I expected those to be the best texture-wise and I added a bit of butter flavor to them to make them more flavorful (since all margarine consists of is shortening, water and butter flavor and that is what I have been using for crusts for years.) I baked all the crusts with a standard pumpkin pie filling so that a difference in fillings wouldn’t affect the results.

All the tasters agreed that there were two clear winners, and we liked both equally well. The first was the adaptation of Mark Bittman’s recipe that I have been using for years made with the Earth Balance Buttery Sticks. The egg yolk gives it a nice richness but it is still flakey enough to be satisfying as a pie crust. The second was the egg free crust made with the spectrum organic shortening and butter flavor. It was flakey with a good texture and has the added advantage being vegan because it doesn’t have eggs. That being said, I imagine that flavor would be a bit flat without the butter flavoring so if you don’t want to get butter flavoring I would recommend using the recipe with margarine and egg instead. Like all crusts, it is important not to overwork the dough with either of these recipes or it will get tough. I was surprised that we didn’t like the coconut oil crust better. I have used it before in tart crusts with great success but it comes out harder and a bit crunchier than was pleasing for a pie where the crust might be a bit thicker. I will still be using coconut oil for thin tart crusts but will stick to one of these two recipes for pie. Both of these recipes make enough for a single 9-inch deep dish pie. Double the recipe if making a double crusted pie.

Making all these crusts has inspired me to make more pies, so it just may be that pies start showing up around here more often.

Sweet Tart Crust (adapted from Mark Bittman)

Prep Time: 20 minutes

1 hour, 20 minutes

Yield: one 9-inch deep dish crust

Sweet Tart Crust (adapted from Mark Bittman)

Ingredients

1 ¼ cups flour (5.6 oz)

¼ teaspoon salt (1.5 g)*

2 tablespoons (1 oz) sugar

10 tablespoons (5 oz) earth balance buttery sticks, cut into one inch pieces and well chilled.

1 egg yolk (.7 oz)

up to 2 tablespoons (1 oz) ice water water

*if making this recipe with unsalted margarine instead of the buttery sticks increase the salt to 1/2 teaspoon.

Preparation

Place the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processer fit with a metal blade and pulse to combine.

Add the buttery sticks and pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. (There should be pieces of margarine the size of peas and some slightly large pieces as well). Add the egg yolk and process until the egg yolk is combined and the dough just starts to come together.

Transfer the dough to a bowl. If you can press it into a smooth ball do not add any water. If the dough is still crumbly add the water 1/2 tablespoon at a time until it you can press it into a smooth ball.

Place the dough on a piece of plastic wrap and flatten the dough into a disk one inch thick. Wrap well and refrigerate for one hour. (If you are in a real hurry you can freeze it for 15 minutes.) The dough can be kept refrigerated for up to five days or frozen, well wrapped, for up to a month.

When you are ready to use the dough remove it from the refrigerator and transfer it to a lightly floured piece of parchment paper. Top with an additional sheet of parchment and roll out to 1/4 inch thick. Peel off the top piece of parchment place the pie pan upside down over the circle of dough and invert the pan and parchment with dough. Peel off parchment and settle the dough into the pan. (If it cracks a bit just use your fingers to press the dough back together. You can also use extra dough to patch holes if necessary.) Trim the edges and bake and fill according to the recipe instructions for the pie you are making.

http://www.couldntbeparve.com/2012/11/a-better-pie-crust/

Flaky Pie Crust

Prep Time: 20 minutes

1 hour, 20 minutes

Yield: 1 9-inch standard pie crust (if making a deep dish pie crust double the recipe. There will be some leftover you can roll out and use for decorations)

Flaky Pie Crust

Ingredients

1 cup + 3 tablespoons flour (5oz)

1 tablespoon (.5 oz) sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt (1.5 g)

6 tablespoons (3 ounces) spectrum organic shortening, cut into 1 inch pieces and well chilled

2 tablespoons (1 oz) ice water

½ teaspoon (2 g) butter flavor

Preparation

Place the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processer fit with a metal blade and pulse to combine.

Add the shortening and pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. (There should be pieces of margarine the size of peas).

Transfer the dough to a bowl. Combine one tablespoon of water and the butter flavor. Sprinkle over the flour mixture and stir to combine. Try to press the dough into a ball. If the dough is still crumbly add the remaining water 1/2 tablespoon at a time until it you can press it into a smooth ball.

Place the dough on a piece of plastic wrap and flatten the dough into a disk one inch thick. Wrap well and refrigerate for one hour. (If you are in a real hurry you can freeze it for 15 minutes.) The dough can be kept refrigerated for up to five days or frozen, well wrapped, for up to a month.

When you are ready to use the dough remove it from the refrigerator and transfer it to a lightly floured piece of parchment paper. Top with an additional sheet of parchment and roll out to 1/4 inch thick. Peel off the top piece of parchment place the pie pan upside down over the circle of dough and invert the pan and parchment with dough. Peel off parchment and settle the dough into the pan. (If it cracks a bit just use your fingers to press the dough back together. You can also use extra dough to patch holes if necessary.) Trim the edges and bake and fill according to the recipe instructions for the pie you are making.

http://www.couldntbeparve.com/2012/11/a-better-pie-crust/

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Alessandra @dinnerinvenice November 15, 2012 at 5:51 pm

Thank you, I am always looking for more non-dairy dessert options!

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Sina (@thekosherspoon) November 15, 2012 at 10:14 pm

that’s so amazing that you had the motivation to bake so many crusts and try the different fats in each. I’ve done a more tart crust from bittman with butter and never tried a parve one. now I know to try earth balance or spectrum shortening! thanks so much

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Victoria November 17, 2012 at 5:39 pm

This is such a great, informative post! I tried making my first pies this summer and this would have been incredibly helpful then! I’ll definitely have to save it to look back on! I think it’s amazing that you went to such great lengths to try them all out!

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Jessica November 18, 2012 at 4:01 pm

i loooove making pie crusts! people are so scared of them, but with practice they are so quick and easy to make! i also use earth balance shortening in mine.

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Tamar Genger November 19, 2012 at 10:05 am

This sounds like a ton of work, but well appreciated. I am in charge of dessert this year and making probably 3 pies also, so I want a good dough. Can I double or triple either recipe?

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Shoshana November 19, 2012 at 1:24 pm

Doubling should be no problem, I find that anything bigger than that gets overworked because it doesn’t fit well in the food processor. If you have a giant food processor or are making it by hand then it shouldn’t be a problem to triple it. What kinds of pies are you making?

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Melissa {lilmisscakes} November 19, 2012 at 10:59 am

I wish I was around to be a taste tester! Love the experiment!

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parvaneh November 20, 2012 at 7:28 am

I do not undrestand how 2 cups+ 2 tablespoons could be 5.15 oz . One cup is not 8 oz ?

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Shoshana November 20, 2012 at 9:49 am

8 oz is the weight for a cup of most liquids but other things have a different weight per cup. I generally use 4.5 oz as my measurement for a cup of flour so that is how I got that measurement. I hope that helps.

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Shoshana November 20, 2012 at 9:54 am

I just looked at the recipe again. The flour measurement on that recipe isn’t correct. I will take a look at it when I get home in a few hours. So sorry about that.

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Shoshana November 20, 2012 at 3:04 pm

I fixed it, sorry about that.

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Penny November 21, 2012 at 6:48 pm

I can’t find the Buttery Sticks at my market. Do you think the Buttery Spread in the tub will work just as well?

Tiffanie December 2, 2013 at 3:15 pm

I usually use flesh man’s unsalted. I’m wondering your thoughts on that as a fat and also, have u out ever used the butter flavored crisco?

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Shoshana December 3, 2013 at 11:21 am

I don’t use fleishmans or crisco because they contain trans-fats, but if you want to use them they would work just as well as the fats I used in these recipes.

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Shoshana November 21, 2012 at 9:19 pm

I tested the tub spread and while it worked ok the finished crust was a bit more crumbly than the one made with the sticks. While it wasn’t bad, it certainly wasn’t my favorite. Can you find the shortening?

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