10 March 2008

It's All About the Crust, Baby

Kitchen Parade
is celebrating Pi day (14 March) with a great, big event linking together pie makers from across the globe. You still have a few days in which to include your favorite pie entry, but just so you know, you'll need to focus heavily on the crust.

My favorite pie crust is a slightly different take on Elise's All-Butter Crust (a true work of art). My version omits the brown sugar and the water, and uses agave nectar instead. Additionally, I use coconut flour for a portion of the all-purpose flour. It's still super-buttery, and very much like a shortbread crust. It's a huge hit with everyone who tries it. My friend Ken even said that he could just eat the crust alone. I often do, since there is usually enough to make a few cut out cookies as extras for "tasting" purposes.

The great thing about this recipe is that it can be made in the food processor. Since I recently acquired an awesome Cuisinart 14-cup food process, I felt that it was time to put it through its paces.

In this case, I made two pies, a pear pie with a spiced crust and a cherry berry pie with a citrusy crust. I've made pear pies before, but I'd definitely make this crust again.

Here's the Pear Pie Shell:

Prior to making your crust, place all the ingredients in the freezer for at least an hour. It makes all the difference.

In the food processor, place the following ingredients:
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup coconut flour, sifted
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup almond flour/meal/finely processed almonds
1 cup all-purpose flour

If you're making the cherry pie crust, omit the nutmeg and cinnamon.

Pulse the dry ingredients 5-6 times to evenly incorporate the flours.

Add 2 sticks of very cold butter (I freeze mine), cut into cubes. Pulse until the ingredients resemble very coarse meal.

Adding a tablespoon at a time, pour 4 tablespoons of agave nectar through the liquid holder in the processor until the dough just comes together. If you're making the cherry pie crust, use 3 1/2 tablespoons of agave, and add 1/2 teaspoon fiore di Sicilia flavoring. You're going to love it. Makes the whole house smell like a creamsickle.

Divide the dough into two parts, one larger than the other. Form each into a flat, round shape, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

While the dough is chilling, make the fillings.

For the Pear Pie, I combined the following in a large bowl:

6 large red ripe pears, sliced
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup agave nectar (although you really won't need it if your pears are sweet, mine weren't that sweet)
3 tablespoons tapioca flour (you could just as easily use arrowroot or corn starch)

For the Cherry Berry Pie, I combined the following in a large bowl:
(I used frozen fruit because here in NJ, it's still winter, but if these are in season by you, definitely use fresh.)

2 16 oz frozen packages of cherries, thawed
1 8 oz frozen package of mixed berries, thawed
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup agave nectar (again, not needed if your fruit is sweet)
3 tablespoons tapioca flour (or corn starch or arrowroot)

Either way, your filling should be a little soupy, especially if you use the agave nectar, which will make the fruit run a bit.

Take the dough out of the fridge and let it warm enough to be able to roll it out. Some folks even knead their dough a bit before rolling. I've done this and it lends an even flakier feel to the crust.

Fit the crust into your pie dish. You may need to patch some, but don't worry, none of it will show to your eaters. Wrap the crust in the plastic you used for the disc and chill for 30 minutes.

Pour the filling into the crust and dot with a tablespoon of butter cut into tiny pieces.

Again, wrap the pie in plastic and chill while you roll out the other dough disk and use your favorite cutter to cut pieces for the top crust. Take the pie out of the fridge and decorate the top as you wish.

Just remember to leave spots for steam to escape. Cover the edges with foil and bake at 325 degrees F. for about 40 minutes. Then remove the foil and bake until you have a nicely golden brown top and the filling is bubbling.

Let cool completely, then enjoy!


Anonymous said...

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful crusts!!!

The almond flour is a great concept and I love the little cut-outs.

Thank you so much for participating, and especially for so completely capturing what I hope we share with our readers: that beautiful homemade pie crust is worth the effort!

Anonymous said...

Deb, these look amazing! Love the little pear cutouts on top, too. I'm going to participate in Pi day as well, though I'm sure my crust won't be quite so spectacular (though it does taste good) ;).

Deb Schiff said...

Thanks, Alanna! Thanks for sponsoring this fun event!

Deb Schiff said...

Thanks, Ricki. I'd bet whatever you do, it will be mighty tasty!

T-Licious Treats said...

WoW!! Those pies look awesome!! hehe I am almost afraid to post mine, cause it doesn't look quite as pretty , I love the top crusts, how could I never think to do that for top crusts?? Am so going to make another pie and do that ha-ha!

Deb Schiff said...

Thanks a bunch! I really enjoy the appearance, but it is time-consuming. Just a word of warning to those who might be considering it. The whole process takes a good chunk of the day, but it's worth it.

Tempered Woman said...

Well as soon as I clicked over from Kitchen Parade the first words out of my mouth were- oh! so pretty! These are absolutely gorgeous~ I'd kill for a slice of that pear. I really appreciate you taking the time to explain your substitutions, they are very interesting to someone like me. But I really wish you hadn't spilled the beans about Fiori Di Sicilia. I consider that one of my best kept secrets~ guess the cat is out of the bag. ;-)

Deb Schiff said...

Ah, secrets. Well, first, thanks for all the compliments! Second, I understand how it is to fiddle with something until it works, so if I can save folks some time, that makes it all worth the trouble. Finally, sorry about spilling the Fiori Di Sicilia beans. I always forget I have it because I keep it in my wee fridge where all the important baking/candy making stuff is kept. However, I don't mention all the other stuff I use it in when baking...

Mandy said...

your pies are so pretty! Love the step by step instructions and your cute cut outs.

Deb Schiff said...

Thanks, Mandy!

eatme_delicious said...

Wow your pies look amazing!! I love how you cut out shapes and put them on top for the top crust. I'm going to have to try out that pie crust recipe. I love that it's made in a food processor!

Cakelaw said...

These pies have the cutest crusts ever! I particular love the cherry pie filling. The use of agave nectar in the crust sounds interesting.

Deb Schiff said...

Thanks, eatme_delicious and cakelaw! I really enjoyed visiting your blogs and seeing your pies as well. It's such a pleasure to have so many Daring Bakers visit and comment. You bakers are just the coolest folks!

Lisa said...

Such cute crusts! I really love the look. It takes me back to making pretty pie crusts with my aunt when I was a little girl...

Deb Schiff said...

Thanks, Lisa. I'm glad you stopped by and let me know I reminded you of a happy time!

Jessy and her dog Winnie said...

Omg thats so beautiful!

Deb Schiff said...

Thanks Jessy and Winnie! Love puppy blogs.

Anonymous said...

Deb, this is honestly the most beautiful, whimsical pie I have ever seen. I am wowed!

Deb Schiff said...

Thanks, Celine. That means a lot, coming from you because I'm always impressed by the beautiful dishes on your blog.

Sarah said...

I love that you used pear cookie cutter shapes for your pear pie! Looks beautiful! I've been considering using coconut oil in my baking, but hadn't heard of coconut flour . . . thanks for the inspiration!


Deb Schiff said...

Thanks a bunch, Sarah!

Anonymous said...

Baby, Baby, Baby! This is so pretty and the interesting use of agave nectar intrigues me. This pie is just beautiful!

Anonymous said...

I LOVE the crust with the flowers! That is such a wonderful idea and it turned out so beautifully! :)

Deb Schiff said...

Thanks, Diane!