It’s pie season!

As the weather is finally starting to become seasonal, my desire to turn on the oven and bake has returned. While on occasion I love a fruit pie, my absolute favourite is a root vegetable pie, with or without a smothering amount of cheese. I made the first one of the season for my birthday last month and saved some for lunch the following week.

Root Vegetable Pie

How do I make it? I cut up my vegetables and toss them with olive oil, salt, and a bit of pepper. Then I put them in a roasting pan, place it in the oven, and turn it on (to 375°F) while I prep the dry ingredients for the crust. Once the oven is preheated I take the vegetables out and finish preparing the pie crust. When it’s ready, I dump in the vegetables and add in some liquid. Lately I’ve been adding a quarter cup of apple cider. Then I roll out the top and depending on how nicely I rolled things, crimp a neat edge after plopping it on. Bake until golden brown, probably about 45 minutes.

A few more tips on the crust as I’ve been making it somewhat regularly for the past year:

  • It comes together so quickly do not bother with a power tool and I don’t even think a spoon or fork is necessary. Use your fingers. The oil is good for your hands!
  • Use very cold icy water. Sometimes I pop the dough (or the bit I’ve decided will be the top) into the fridge for a few minutes to keep cool if the kitchen is hot.
  • I find it easier to just keep mixing new batches instead of doubling.
  • I’m pleased to report that if you wish to use olive oil instead of canola, it seems to have no apparent impact on taste and worked quite well in my opinion for this savory pie. Of course your mileage may vary based on your olive oil. I used Fairway Unfiltered Extra Virgin Olive Oil, which we’ve been buying in a larger size container because I go through it quick.
  • Do you need to crimp a neat and tidy edge? No. While I have the odd superpower and have always been able to crimp beautifully if I want to, the goal for this sort of pie is to make a decent enough seal so it doesn’t blow out and boil over. But that’s why I always bake on an extra tray. I’d rather clean another dish than my oven! This is where I also stick all those odd bits of crust that I’ve cut off for some reason or another. Those are the best parts when baked!

I’ll save you clicking to older posts, here’s the recipe again:
Root Vegetable PieOil Pie Crust
yield: one crust
2c flour
1/2c oil
1.5tsp salt
1/3c icy cold water

Mix. Roll out. Enjoy.

note: salt is based on table salt (common when this recipe came to me in the late ’80s). I dropped it to heaping 1/2tsp kosher salt and it still tastes fine.

easy as pi(e) ideas

Although I generally write the date differently, March 14th is Pi day. I’ve been baking lots of pies lately and thought I’d gather a few ideas and link to my favorite parve/vegan pie crust recipe. As it falls on Shabbat this year I’ve decided to begin my observance on Friday night with at least an apple pie. There are also a few new-to-me recipes as contenders for the main course, though I’ve not yet decided.

If you want a savory pie, it is almost impossible to disappoint with a pot pie. I never made them until recently, growing up they were a special treat and were a single serving delight that went from (store) freezer to oven to plate. I don’t know why it took me so long to make a real food (and even more delicious) version. I like Wynelle’s Pot Pie from Sundays at Moosewood, the cheesy roux adds an extra level of comfort to an already cozy dish. If I want a simpler meal, I roast a bunch of vegetables, add them to my pie pan, cover with mushroom gravy, add a top, and bake until golden.

I have also been making more pizza and the other day made simple broccoli calzones. You don’t need any special equipment to bake pizza, I use my normal cookie sheet.

If you don’t really want to bake an entire pie (why not?) you could roll out the crust and make individual mini pies … or hamentashen. This year I ignored all my regular recipes and used my pie crust. Again, what took me so long? They were the best hamentashen I’ve ever made! (Plum butter is very delightful with smoked Gruyere). Just because Purim was last week doesn’t mean you can’t make them tonight. And again, you don’t need fancy cookie cutters. I like to use a food prep bowl.

A quick tip on the crust, it is important to use very cold water. Mum’s recipe calls for ice water. As I’ve dumped the ice cubes into the bowl a few times, now I just put a the water into the freezer while I get the rest of the ingredients together. When I’m in a rush (or haven’t finished the dishes) I mix the crust in the pan I’m baking it in, the dough comes together quickly and doesn’t stick.

What are you going to make to celebrate π?

simple is best

The night before Thanksgiving, after seeing lots of instagram pics and facebook status updates that either showed magazine perfect pies or expressed absolute fear of making a crust from scratch, I had to take action. I posted the two apple pies I made and included the recipe. While I want the food I make to look attractive, I’m not overly concerned with how it looks. I care about taste. Thankfully my family agrees with my philosophy.

As I was typing up the recipe, it dawned on me that I could tag it with a term that wasn’t part of my vocabulary back in 1989 when we believe my mum first brought home this recipe from a friend — it’s a super simple vegan crust! Every single crust tastes awesome, perfectly flakey, and just plain good.

20141126-pieOil Pie Crust
yield: one crust

2c flour
1/2c oil
1.5tsp salt*
1/3c icy cold water

Mix. Roll out. Enjoy.

* salt is based on table salt (common when this recipe came to me). I dropped it to heaping 1/2tsp kosher salt and it tastes fine.

What oil to use? I use canola. Maybe one day I’ll remember to try olive oil and add a bunch of roasted root vegetables but definitely for desserts you want a neutral tasting oil. I mixed these in my lovely stand mixer and it’s definitely easy to over mix which is why I don’t have a nice lattice. The other pie has random leaf shapes I cut out free-form with my paring knife.

When I asked my mother how she mixed it up, she confirmed she always did it by hand, it comes together quickly. Right. Just because I have a tool that mixes doesn’t mean it’s the right one to use in every situation.

She always rolled it out between two pieces of waxed paper. I didn’t and it was fine.

Can you double the recipe? We never have. It’s just easier to make smaller batches.

My apple pie recipe is even simpler: apples, sugar, cinnamon. I called mum to ask if she had any rule of thumb for apples to sugar and she didn’t. She said if it tastes right, it is. Early Wednesday morning I gathered a variety of apples, sliced them up and added cinnamon and some sugar and a bit of orange juice since I forgot to buy lemons. I covered the bowl with plastic wrap and set it in the cool basement. Every few hours I stirred and tasted. I used less sugar than I expected and the pies still tasted amazing. One of the apples was new to me — I forget what it was, we bought it at H-mart and it tasted almost like an asian pear. When it was baked into the pie with the others it was amazing.