Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Pie Crust 101

The holidays are in full swing and if there is one thing people eat a lot of around this time of year, its pies. Pies are delicious. Who doesn’t love pies? Our family makes a Swiss pear pie that is out of this world, and tonight, I am making turkey potpie with leftover turkey and vegetables from Christmas dinner. It was easy and delicious! I just sautéed up some veggies and turkey, threw in a little leftover gravy and chicken broth, made a pie crust and… STOP! Don’t run away so quickly…it’s just a piecrust. Making piecrusts often strikes fear in the hearts of many, when there is really no need to be afraid. They are quite easy to make. Nutritionally speaking, piecrusts are pretty caloric, but we can make a few minor tweaks to the recipe to make them a little healthier as well.

Now there are many different tricks and tips for making the perfect piecrust. My mother in-law uses vodka instead of water and using a food processor is also helpful, however, my rule of thumb for piecrust making is: use butter. Toss that Crisco in the garbage if you haven’t already because the news is out. Partially hydrogenated soybean oil is disgusting. Not only does it taste gross, (did you ever try eating it as a kid because it looked like ice cream?) but also it is a nutritional nightmare. Partially hydrogenated oils are loaded with trans fat. Trans fat increases your LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) and decreases HDL (the good kind). It also increases triglycerides in your blood and causes inflammation in the body. The saturated fat that is in butter doesn’t have all these nasty side effects.

Okay I hear you saying, “Crisco makes the flakiest crust”. I’ll buy it. Shortening has a wider melting range so it is able to stay in solid form while you are preparing and rolling out the crust. The pea size granules that are desired in piecrust baking will then melt in the oven, creating layers in the dough and a flakier crust. But the same effect can be achieved with butter if the butter is extra cold and the dough is not over mixed or kneaded. Vegans can also use coconut oil or palm oil instead of butter as long as it is kept cold prior to mixing it with the flour and water.

In the piecrust that I made tonight I substituted ½ of the all purpose flour with whole wheat pastry flour to give it a little more fiber, protein, and a nuttier flavor. It was delicious! What kinds of pies do you enjoy making? What are your secrets to make the flakiest pie crust?

(adding the ice cold butter in small cubes to the flour in the food processor)

(pulse the butter in the food processor until pea size granules are not over mix!)

(after adding just enough ice water the dough should clump together when squeezed like this)

(Form the dough into a disk and wrap in plastic. Now pop it in the fridge for about 1 hour.)

(I roll out my dough in between 2 sheets of plastic wrap. My home economics teacher taught me this in high school. There are a few good reasons: 1) no flour used to roll which can make the crust tough and also a WAY easier clean up. 2) the crust is very easy to transfer to the pie pan.)

(Aw...isn't it pretty?)

(Dinner time! Delicious and flaky pie crust!)


  1. I've been so done with the holiday sweets and craving something savory - thanks for the pot pie idea!

  2. That looks delicious! Please come cook at my house anytime Sarah.
    I am one of those people who does fear making pie crust so I don't have any good tips. However, you make it look so easy I just might give it another try.

  3. I'm loving all the pictures on this post!

    Wish I'd been here to eat some of that damn cheese pie I've been wanting to try.

  4. Hi Sarah! I use Earth Balance vegetable spread (vegan) in my pie crusts (and most of my cooking). I have found that it is much easier to mix and roll out than butter. That potpie looks amazing! I'll have to make one of those soon.