Ever since I saw the musical “Waitress,” I can’t stop thinking about pie. I find myself singing the lyrics (pie, pie, pie, me o my, I love pie..) and then, of course, I start thinking about making a fresh pie but one that doesn’t have a lot of added fat or sugar. There are those who claim it’s nearly impossible to make a good pie without butter, shortening, sugar, eggs, and cream but I’m here to tell you, a delicious fruit pie with a flaky crust is totally doable if you follow some advice.
First of all, use pastry flour to give the crust a tender, flaky, and crumbly texture. There’s nothing worse than a crunchy, tough pie crust. A great pie crust should flake and melt in your mouth which means you need a flour with a low protein content. Pastry flour has a protein content of 9-10% (compared to all-purpose flour with a 11-12% protein content or bread flour with a 13-14% protein content). If you want more fiber in your crust, substitute half of the pastry flour with whole wheat pastry flour (but don’t use just whole wheat pastry flour or you will have one tough crust).
Second, make an 8-inch deep dish pie instead of a 9 or 10-inch pie. The smaller size pie plate makes the crust easier to work with and still easily feeds 6 people. I like to say “think of going up, not out” when using an 8-inch deep (about 1.5 inches) dish pie pan. The emphasis is more on the filling instead of the width.
8-inch deep dish pie pans are available at most kitchen stores or if you’re an avid pie maker, buy 8-inch aluminum deep dish pie pans at www.webrestaurant.com where 100 pie pans are $13.99 (having disposable pie pans also makes it easier to bring a pie to a friend’s home). A deep dish 8-inch pie pan is also great because the pan holds 4 cups or 2 pints of fruit. I wish someone gave me this advice years ago because it would have been so much easier to learn how to make a pie using an 8-inch deep dish pie pan.
Third, invest in a silicone baking mat (preferably with a circular imprint to guide your rolling) and a roll of parchment paper. Both are widely available on-line and in kitchen specialty shops. Place the dough ball in the center of a lightly floured silicone mat, sprinkle a bit of flour over the dough and then cover with a piece of parchment paper. Roll the dough out gently on top of the parchment paper. Peel away the parchment paper and then gently fold the dough crust into a pie plate.
Fourth, use a basic pie crust recipe (1-1/4 cups of pastry flour, 6 tablespoons very cold vegan butter, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 5-6 tablespoons of cold water or a combination of ice cold water and vodka. Vodka provides liquidity making the crust easy to work with but the alcohol burns off leaving a flakier crust). This recipe will make both a bottom and top crust for an 8-inch pie (but not for a 9 or 10-inch pie).
Fifth, don’t over handle the dough or the crust will be tough. Roll and patch. Don’t re-roll.
Sixth, choose the most flavorful fruit available. Taste the fruit before using. This will help you decide how much sweetener to add. For fresh blueberries during the summer, 4 tablespoons of sugar is enough sweetener but for winter blueberries that are often more tart than sweet, increase the sugar to 6-8 tablespoons. (Full disclosure: I don’t like a very sweet pie so if you like your pie really sweet, add more sugar).
Seventh, make your pie on a day when the humidity is normal or low. Making a crust on a humid day makes the dough more difficult to handle. Humidity already makes for a bad hair day; you don’t want a bad pie dough day, too!
Eighth, don’t fret about an imperfect top crust. Use extra small pieces of crust to patch open areas. Sprinkle a sugar/cinnamon combination over the top of the crust (this not only adds a sweet crunch to the crust but also covers up imperfections).
Ninth, use corn starch or arrowroot as a thickener. Almost every fruit pie needs a thickener to absorb the juice from the fruit. If the fruit is juicy (i.e. blueberries) then use 2-4 tablespoons of thickener but if the fruit is drier (i.e. apples) use 2 tablespoons of thickener.
Tenth, preheat the oven first, then make the filling and lastly, make the crust. And, don’t forget to let the pie sit for at least 3-4 hours after it comes out of the oven before serving. This allows the juices to thicken as the pie cools.
- 1-1/4 cups of pastry flour
- 6 tablespoons vegan butter, very cold and chopped into small pieces
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 5-6 tablespoons ice-cold water (I put ice cubes in a bowl with water) or 3 tablespoons ice cold water and 2-3 tablespoons vodka
- 2 pints fresh blueberries
- 4 – 8 tablespoons sugar (summer berries rarely require more than 4 tablespoons of sweetener or 1/4 cup)
- zest of one lemon
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 3 sprinkles of cinnamon
- 2-4 tablespoons arrowroot or corn starch
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Make the blueberry filling by placing the blueberries, sugar, zest, juice, vanilla, cinnamon and thickener into a medium-sized bowl. Gently stir to blend and set aside.
Place the flour in a food processor.
Add the small pieces of vegan butter and the salt.
Pulse about 30 times (do not do continuous processing or the crust will be tough). The crust will look crumbly.
Pour the crumbly crust mixture into a medium-sized bowl.
Add a tablespoon of water and stir to blend. Add another tablespoon of water and continue until the crust just starts to come together. Put your hands in the bowl and form a disc with 1/2 of the dough.
Place the dough on a lightly floured silicone baking mat. Sprinkle flour on top of the disk. Cover the disk with a piece of parchment paper. Gently place a rolling pin on top of the parchment paper and roll out the dough slowly. Remove the top piece of parchment paper and then lift up the left side of the silicone mat and gently “pour” the crust into the pie plate. Gently pat down the dough using pieces that go over the side to make any repairs. Cut excess dough away.
Pour the blueberry filling into the pie crust.
Take the other half of the dough and repeat the rolling out process above. Gently “pour” the crust over the top of the fruit filling and then gently seal the sides. Use any extra dough pieces to repair open spots. Cut 3 2-inch long slices in the top center of the crust. Sprinkle a sugar cinnamon mixture over the crust.
Place the pie on a parchment covered cookie sheet and bake for 40 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 10 minutes (note: ovens vary so watch the crust so it doesn’t get too dark and adjust times and temperature accordingly).