My husband has a habit of quoting the old saying, “It’s as easy as pie.” My response is always the same – “who says making pie is easy? Who came up with that saying?” Obviously, it was coined by someone really good at baking pies. The truth is, though, that it isn’t really that hard to make pies or pie crust. Sure, it’s a little time consuming and if you make it gluten-free, there’s an extra challenge but once you know the tips and tricks to follow, it’s not so bad at all.
Of course, you can buy pre-made pie crust but there’s something special about making your own. Not only do you get to choose the ingredients, but there’s a sense of accomplishment and pride that comes with making things from scratch. A good pie crust, whether it’s for sweet or savory recipes, should be light, tender, buttery, crispy, and flaky. It should hold whatever filling you put in it but not overshadow their flavors. The pie crust plays a supporting role in this pie-production. Ready to give it a try? Here are some tips for making the perfect dairy-free pie crust for all your holiday dishes.
1. Ingredient Substitutions
Pie crust doesn’t have a lot of ingredients. Usually, it’s just flour, ice cold water, salt, and cold butter. If you’re making a sweet crust, you might add sugar and if you’re making a savory crust, you might want to add a few dried herbs or spices. For a regular pie crust, the only ingredient you need to swap out is the butter. Instead, use vegan butter, either store-bought or homemade. You could also use canola oil, olive oil or coconut oil if you’re okay with the coconut flavor in your pie crust. Butter is, however, the best choice because it is what makes the crust so flaky.
If you need to make a gluten-free pie crust, you can swap out the white flour for a gluten-free type. The dough will then require even more fat and liquid. Take a look at The Ultimate Gluten-Free Vegan Baking Substitution Guide for more detailed tips about gluten-free baking.
2. Keep It Cold
It is important for all your ingredients to be as cold as possible when you make the dough. Don’t take the butter out of the fridge until you are ready to add it to the dough. Some people also put the utensils they will use in the freezer or fridge for a little bit before starting.
Part of keeping the dough cold is to touch it as little as possible. You can make the dough by hand but hands are warm. It’s best to use a food processor to make the pie dough. Just put the dry ingredients into the food processor bowl and pulse it a few times to combine everything. Then add cold butter cubes (or coconut oil) and pulse until the mixture becomes crumbly like sand. Basically, it’s little pieces of butter covered with flour and it will stick together if you squeeze it.
Then add in water a little at a time and pulse until the dough turns into a ball. Gluten-free dough may require a bit more oil or butter. If you don’t have a food processor, you can use a pastry cutter to incorporate the butter into the dry ingredients. Just be careful not to work the dough too much and make it warm. I like to flatten the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap, and put it in the fridge for at least thirty minutes before continuing to work with it. This not only keeps it cold but allows the dough to rest. You can also make the dough the day before and put it in the fridge until the next day.
3. Rock and Roll
When you’re ready to make your pie, lightly flour a large cutting board or your workstation. Turn the dough onto the board and work quickly so it doesn’t get warm. Lightly flour your rolling pin and place it at the middle of the dough disk. Roll from the middle upwards, turning dough until you have rolled the whole crust out. Add flour to the board and the rolling pin as needed.
If the dough tears, just squeeze the dough back together and start again. If the dough gets too warm, put it back in the fridge for a while. If you are making gluten-free dough, it will be stickier than regular dough. It’s easiest to lay the disk between two sheets of parchment paper and roll it that way. Once you’ve rolled the crust out, transfer it back to the fridge and let it rest for another hour.
If you are using the pie crust to make hand pies, empanadas or patties, make sure the cookie cutters, knives, and other utensils that you will use to cut the dough into shapes is cold and coated with oil or butter.
If you are baking a pie, spray the baking dish with oil or coat with butter before putting the dough into it. You can also sprinkle a little dough in the dish so the pie doesn’t stick. Bake the pie according to the recipe directions. I like to bake the empty pie crust just a bit before putting the filling in so the bottom doesn’t get soggy. If the pie crust seems to be getting too brown too early, cover it with a foil ring for the rest of the baking time.
5. Sweet Recipes
Now that you know the tips to make a perfect pie crust, you need some yummy pie recipes to try. Apple pie is my favorite sweet pie. This Apple Raspberry Ginger Pie uses olive oil in the pie crust and also makes cute stars with extra dough for decoration. This beautiful Butternut Squash Apple Pie uses coconut oil and gluten-free flour. These Perfect Mini Pecan Pies are also gluten-free and just adorable.
Other sweet pie recipes you should definitely try include Pumpkin Pie with Coconut Rum Whipped Cream, Chambord Cherry Pie, Coconut Cream Pie with Blackberry Chia Jam, Seasonal Strawberry Rhubarb Pie, Blueberry Pie with a Heart-Healthy Crust, and Maple Drunk Vegan Apple Pie.
6. A Pie By Any Other Name
Pie crusts can also be used to make other sweet treats like galettes, tarts, and pastries. This Apple Pumpkin Pie Tart is perfect for the holidays as are these Apple Pie Pastries. Eating a galette is like opening a Christmas present that’s filled with delicious sweet fruit. Try this Apple Galette, Perfect Peach Galette, and this Cream Cheese Galette. Pie dough can also be used to make small pies that are filled with deliciousness. You’ll love these Vanilla Bean Blueberry Peach Hand Pies and these Pumpkin Spice Empanadas with Apple Cinnamon Cranberry Filing.
7. Savory Pies
Personally, my favorite kinds of pies are savory pies. Sweets are great but give me a pie filled with mushrooms, vegetables, and gravy! For instance, take these Pinto Bean, Green Olive, and Sweet Potato Turnovers. These are filled with savory goodness and lots of chiles and spices. My Jamaican “Beef” Patties with Cheese have a pastry dough with turmeric and curry powder that’s filled with vegan meaty, cheesy heaven.
Savory pies can be large pies like this Tourtière (French Canadian Savory Pie), Forager’s Pie, Curry Vegetable Pot Pie, Spicy Eggless Coriander Quiche, and this Savory Vegan Pumpkin Pie with Shiitake Mushroom Streusel. They can also be smaller, individually-sized pies like these Easy Veggie Pot Pies, Summer Squash Tartlets with Caramelized Onions and Tofu Ricotta, and Jackfruit Pot Pie. Finally, there are also savory tarts, galettes and hand pies like this Tomato and Chard Pesto Galette, Asparagus Tart, Rustic Pesto and Heirloom Tomato Tart, and Seasonal Pumpkin and Leek Tasties.
Whoever came up with the saying “Easy as Pie” must have known all these tips for making perfect pie crust. Now making dairy-free pie crust is also easy!
Lead image source: Sweet Potato Pie