Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Vegan French silk pie

I can only think of one food item that I am really intimidated by: pie crust. I’ve read innumerable recipes, techniques, tips, and reassurances that “anyone can do it.” Nanny, my grandma, can make it with her eyes closed. Yet I can’t get over my gnawing paranoia. There are so many variables; how do I know everything will work? What if my ingredients aren’t the proper temperature? What if I add just a little too much water? What if my dough sticks or tears until it’s a raggedy mess? What if I overbake it, or it puffs up in the oven? What if it just tastes like cardboard?

I knew that sooner or later I’d conquer my doubts and give it a go, and that day arrived last week. I went the simplest (and unhealthiest) route, to save myself as much headache as possible, and made it an all-shortening crust. Once I get more comfortable with it, I’ll experiment with Earth Balance or canola oil, but this time I went for the least temperamental, though most overprocessed and mysterious, fat. But hey, it’s still vegan, and anyway, Nanny has always made her crusts exclusively with shortening. This is the richest and fattiest thing I’ve had on this blog yet, but after all, it was Valentine’s week. Chocolate was mandatory.

For the crust:
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup cold water
3/4 cup shortening

For the pie:
1/2 cup firm silken tofu, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1.5 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1 tsp vanilla
2T cocoa powder
1T Ener-G
1/4 cup warm water

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Combine the flours and salt in a large bowl. Take 1/3 cup of the flour and mix it together with the cold water in a small bowl to form a kind of paste.

Cut the vegetable shortening into the remaining flour with a pastry blender until crumbly. Add the flour and water mixture, and mix just until the dough is comes together. Divide it in half, and wrap one half in plastic wrap and freeze for later use. Heavily flour a work surface and flatten out the dough in a circle.

Roll with a rolling pin to about a 1/8-inch thickness.

Gently press into a pie plate. I have no good way to tell you how to do this. My dough tore and fell apart in several places. Truth be told, I came close to giving up. I arrived at the point of not caring how it looked, as long as it was in the pan in one mostly-homogenous piece. Trim the edges with a knife (as you can see, I trimmed pretty far, because my edges were not pretty) but don’t throw them away! Sprinkle them with cinnamon sugar and bake them in a separate pan alongside the pie. I loved eating those scraps when I was little.

Prick the crust lightly with a fork and put in pie weights or dry beans. I had neither, so I lined the crust with parchment paper and poured in dry rice. It actually worked! Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown, then set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, put the tofu and sugar in a blender and process until smooth.

Add the melted chocolate, vanilla, and cocoa powder and blend it again. Finally, add the Ener-G and warm water, and process until it’s as smooth as you can get it, scraping down the sides a couple times. Pour the beautiful chocolate goo into your cooled pie crust.

Lick the spatula when you’re done.

Put it in the fridge to chill, for several hours or overnight. Whenever you’re ready for smooth chocolate bliss, pull out your masterpiece, slice, and serve. Include some soy whipped cream, if you’ve got it.

So my pie crust wasn’t the prettiest. So I got frustrated a few times. So I dirtied a whole bunch of dishes and turned my kitchen into what looked like a war zone. It’s all good, because I am more than pleased with the result. The crust is surprisingly flaky, the filling is silky and rich, and the crust-to-chocolate ratio is, in my opinion, optimal. This was well worth the effort. Stay tuned, because I will be trying my hand at making pie again.

Yield: 10 slices. Per slice: 290 calories, 18g fat (6g sat), 31g carbs, 4g fiber, 5g protein.

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  1. So delicious, crust included.

  2. Can't wait to try it! Have you tried substituting unflavored coconut oil for shortening? The coconut oil is hard at room temperature, and if you barely warm it up, can be the consistency of shortening. Warm it up too much and it's in a liquid state. It worked really well in your blueberry cobbler for me, might work for the pie crust as well.

  3. Ooh, I have not tried coconut oil in place of shortening. That's a great idea. I have a jar in my pantry unopened, I may have to crack into it soon. That's awesome that you swapped it into the cobbler, too!