Make Your Own Pie Crust

by in Cookies & Other Desserts, Healthy Holidays, Healthy Recipes, November 8, 2010
Paula's Sweet Potato PIe
Homemade Pie Crust

There’s something extraordinary about pastry. It’s the perfect combination of crisp, delicate, flaky and tender. Ready-to-bake versions from the store promise convenience but you can make your own in a matter of minutes. Something this special deserves a homemade touch — make yours now and freeze it for Thanksgiving.

The Price of Convenience
Packaged refrigerated and frozen pie crusts use trans fat-laden partially hydrogenated oils or lard. They are also expensive, costing $3.00-4.00 each on average.

Pastry 101
Pie dough is one of the easiest pastries to make. You want it light and flaky and the secret is using cold ingredients. When the cold crust enters the oven, steam is produced, which incorporates tiny pockets of air between the layers of dough.  Most recipes can be made by hand or with a few pulses of a food processor. Once the ingredients are combined, they make another visit to the fridge for more chilling before rolling and baking. You can also freeze finished pastry for 3 to 6 months for easy holiday prep.

Flour, salt, water and maybe a pinch of sugar are the basic ingredients of any dough. Another necessity is a source of fat— while none of them are low in calories, you can decide which type you prefer.

Butter
Nutrition information per tablespoon: 100 calories; 11 grams fat; 7grams saturated fat

Butter will give you a flaky and flavorful crust, but has the highest amount of saturated fat. Enjoy, but try to keep portions modest – especially if you’re watching your cholesterol. Be sure to use unsalted butter so you can control the seasoning.

Vegetable Shortening
Nutrition information per tablespoon: 110 calories; 12 grams fat; 3 grams saturated fat

Shortening is flavorless, light, and famous for making dough super flaky and tender. It’s lower in saturated fat but traditionally very high in trans fats. Check labels carefully to find a brand with the lowest amount of trans fat possible. Another thing to consider is that
most recipes call for a combo of shortening and butter which means those recipes come in with the most fat and calories.

Oil
Nutrition information per tablespoon: 120 calories;  14 grams fat; 1 gram saturated fat

A different spin on pastry is to make it with oil. The texture is less flaky, but surprisingly tender, with a pleasant, gentle crunch. Oil also means the pastry will be high in heart-healthy fats, vegan and cholesterol free. Here’s Liz’s famous family recipe — it was so easy to make!

Canola Oil Pie Dough
(Makes enough for 1 double-crust pie)

2 cups unbleached white flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup canola oil
5-8 tablespoons cold water

Combine flour and salt in a medium bowl.  Mix the oil and 5-6 tablespoons of the water in another bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the oil mixture. Mix with a fork until just combined (about 30 seconds). If it doesn’t combine immediately, add 1-2 more tablespoons water.  (The dough will be soft and smooth and a little less dense than traditional pie dough.)  Divide into two balls. Chill or roll out immediately between two sheets of waxed paper.

Dishing Out Servings
Instead of the typical recommendation to serve 6, divvy up a standard 9-inch pie to serve 8 people to help keep the portions of fat and calories lower.

TELL US: What’s your holiday pie-crust secret? (We promise, we won’t tell!)

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition. See Dana’s full bio »

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