Pies have a reputation of being “bad for you”, a diet-killer, a guilty pleasure. While this reputation is somewhat deserved, pie can actually be a healthful choice, no matter what your dietary restrictions. But pie that’s GOOD for you can actually taste good.
General tips for making a health-conscious pie:
Use 1 crust, not 2. The majority of fat and calories comes from the pie crust, so obviously recipes that call for a top crust are more fat- and calorie-laden. Choose pies with no top crust, or substitute the top crust with a healthier alternative, such as a crumb topping.
Add fiber. Substitute half of the flour in the pie crust with wheat flour. You may have a chewier crust, but you’ll also have more fiber. You may need to add more liquid to the recipe to compensate for the added bulk . If you can find whole wheat pastry flour, use it. Be aware that the wheat flour really browns when it cooks, so eyeballing when the crust is done gets really tricky, and even when the crust is perfect, it might be darker than you’re used to and look a little burnt.
Use less fat. The flakiness of your crust is caused by layers of fat particles trapped between layers of flour particles. As long as your fat is distributed well, you should be able to reduce the amount you use and replace it with a low-fat, low-calorie alternative, such as fat-free cream cheese. You can also substitute any crust with an oil crust or a trans-free fat shortening.
Use less sweetener. In addition to substituting sugar for natural sweeteners suitable for baking, you can also just reduce the amount you use, especially in fruit pie fillings. Also, if the recipe calls for pudding mix, choose a sugar-free version. Add an alternative “flavor enhancer” to bring out the sweetness and flavor already in the pie – orange or lemon zest heightens flavor; vanilla or nut extracts enhance “fattening” sweetness and flavors without adding fat, or try adding cinnamon, allspice, cloves, or nutmeg. In chocolate fillings, substituting strong black coffee for any liquids will bring out the chocolate flavors.
How To Thicken Fruit Pie:
When thickening a fruit pie filling, there are several options to consider. Very often flour or cornstarch is used, but in certain instances tapioca, arrowroot and potato starch can also help achieve the desired consistency.
Tapioca starch is preferable for products that will be frozen because it will not break down when thawed. Tapioca is best in blueberry, cherry or peach pies.
Arrowroot, unlike cornstarch, is not broken down by the acid in the fruit you are using, so it is a good choice for fruit with a higher content of acidity such as strawberries or blackberries.
Potato starch is a great alternative because unlike other options, it does not break down, causing your pie to become watery again.
Although these options might result in a better end product, plain old flour also works just fine.
Here are some pie recipes matched with a healthy crust for you to try this summer.
Oil Pie Crust For A Crumb Topped Pie
This crust works very well for a blueberry crumb topped pie so make a double recipe of the oil pie crust.
This recipe makes enough for a single deep dish crust; to make a two-crust pie, double the recipe and remove 1 1/4 cups of the mixture; this will become your top crust. You can add cinnamon and sugar later. After you fill the bottom crust, sprinkle the topping evenly over it. It will bake into a crispy, flavorful crumb crust as the pie bakes.
- 1 1/2 cups (5 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/3 cup (2 3/8 ounces) vegetable oil
- 3 to 4 tablespoons (1 1/2 to 2 ounces) water or milk
Whisk together the flour, salt, sugar and baking powder. This can be done right in the pie pan, if you like. Whisk together the oil and water, then pour over the dry ingredients. Stir with a fork until the dough is evenly moistened. Pat the dough across the bottom of the pie pan and up the sides. A flat-bottomed measuring cup can help you make the bottom even. Press the dough up the sides of the pan with your fingers, and flute the top. Fill and bake.
- 2 pints blueberries (1 1/2 pounds)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- Reserved 1 ¼ cup pie crust
- 3 tablespoons (packed) light brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 375° and line a baking sheet with foil.
In a bowl, stir the berries with the sugar, flour and lemon juice, lightly mashing a few berries and por into the prepared pie crust.
Add 3 tablespoons (packed) light brown sugar and a 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon to the 1 ¼ reserved pie crust. Mix topping with fingertips to blend and form large crumbs. Sprinkle over the pie filling.
Place pie on prepared baking sheet and bake the pie in the center of the oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the bottom crust is golden and the fruit is bubbling. If necessary, cover the edge with foil for the last few minutes of baking. Let the pie cool for at least 4 hours before serving.
Quick And Easy Pie Crust
Makes enough dough for one, deep-dish, 10″ pie
- 1-½ cup unbleached all purpose flour, plus little extra for rolling the dough
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons Spectrum Shortening or other tans-free shortening, pinch off small pieces and chill in the freezer for 15 minutes
- 4 to 6 tablespoons ice cold water
Fit your food processor with a metal blade.
Measure the flour and salt into the processor bowl. Process for 10 seconds to combine.
Scatter small bits of shortening into the processor bowl, evenly over the flour. Process for about 15 seconds, stopping once to scrape down the sides using a rubber spatula, until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs.
Measure your cold water into a cup. While the processor is running, slowly pour 4 tablespoons of the cold water into the feed tube. Process for about 30 seconds, or until the dough has formed an elongated ball on one side of the processor bowl. You’ll hear a banging sound as the dough forms into this elongated ball.
Turn off the processor and feel the dough. It should be smooth and it should hold together completely. If it feels dry and is crumbly, you’ll need to turn on the processor and add another tablespoon or two of cold water and process until it holds together and feel smooth and not dry.
Usually, you won’t need to add additional water, but sometimes the protein in the flour is a bit higher than usual and it will require a little more water, or if it is a particularly dry day you might need a bit more water. The more you make pie dough, the more you’ll know the feel that is perfect for a good pie dough.
Remove the dough from the processor, and pat it into a thick disk, about 5″ round. Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes to chill and to let the dough rest – this makes it easier to roll out. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and set it on the counter for a few minutes to make it easier to roll.
Sprinkle your counter top lightly with flour. Unwrap the dough, and place it in the center of the lightly floured counter top, then turn it over to coat with flour. Dust your rolling pin with flour, then use it to pat the dough into a round disk about 8″ in diameter. Roll the dough into a 14″ circle, rolling from the center out and using lighter pressure on the ends of the dough.
Drape the dough over the rolling pin to transport the dough over the top of a deep dish pie plate. Gently press the dough into the pie plate, using your fingertips, overlapping the dough over the edges of the pie plate, pressing lightly to patch any breaks in the dough. Fold the overlapping edge of pie dough up, evenly around the entire pie plate. Crimp it with your fingers or a fork.
Proceed with your favorite pie recipe.
If making a double crust, roll out the second crust as described above and fit over filling. Crimp edges together to seal. You can also make a lattice top crust for the pie. See directions below.
This pie crust recipe works very well for a Strawberry Rhubarb Pie.
Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
Double the recipe for Quick and Easy Pie Crust
- 2 1/2 tablespoons tapioca
- 4 cups sliced fresh or frozen (not thawed) strawberries , (about 1 1/4 pounds)
- 1 cup sliced fresh or frozen (not thawed) rhubarb
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- Pinch of ground nutmeg
- Pinch of salt
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with foil to catch any spills from the pie.
Follow directions above for rolling out the bottom crust.
For a Lattice Top Crust:
Roll the remaining dough between sheets of parchment or wax paper into a 12-inch circle. Peel off the top sheet. Cut the dough into 1-inch strips using a pastry wheel or a knife.
Lift off every other strip and lay them on top of the pie, leaving about a 1-inch gap between strips. Use the shorter strips for the edges and the longer ones for the middle of the pie.
Fold back the first, third and fifth strips of dough to the edge of the pie. Place a shorter strip of dough across the second and fourth strips, about 1 inch from the edge.
Unfold the folded strips over the crosswise strip. Fold back the second and fourth strips over the first crosswise strip.
Place another strip crosswise, about 1 inch from the first. Unfold the strips over the second crosswise strip.
Continue folding back, alternating strips and placing crosswise strip, until the top is covered with woven strips.
Trim any overhanging crust. Crimp the outer edge with a fork.
Brush the dough with egg white; sprinkle 1 teaspoon sugar (if using) over just the lattice top, not the outer edge.
Place pie on foil lined baking sheet and bake the pie for 20 minutes. Then rotate the pie 180 degrees and lower the oven temperature to 325°. Continue baking until the crust is golden and the filling is beginning to bubble, 30 to 35 minutes more. Let cool on a wire rack for at least 2 hours before serving.
Whole Wheat Pie Crust
one 9-inch pie crust or 10-inch tart shell – double the ingredients for a two crust pie
- ¾ cup unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- ½ cup whole wheat pastry flour
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 5 tablespoon trans-free vegetable shortening
- In a mixing bowl, combine the white and whole wheat flours and the salt. Add the shortening and with a pastry blender cut the fat into the flour. You can also quickly use your fingers to break up the shortening and form a coarse dough. Sprinkle with ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and mix with a fork until moist dough forms. You’ll use 5 to 6 tablespoons water.
- For a filled crust: Roll the dough into an 1/8-inch-thick round on a floured piece of wax paper or a pastry cloth. Roll the dough onto a rolling pin and then unroll it onto the pie pan. Cut off the excess, leaving an inch to fold under. Crimp the edge with the tines of a fork. Freeze for 10 minutes before baking.
- For a baked crust: Prepare the dough as for a filled crust. Prick the sides and bottom with a fork and bake in a 450ºF oven for 10 to 12 minutes, or until lightly browned.
Double Recipe Whole Wheat Pie Crust
- 6 cups sliced peeled peaches, (6-8 medium, ripe but firm
- 1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
- 2/3 cup sugar, plus 1 teaspoon for sprinkling
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 large egg white, lightly beaten, for brushing
Divide the dough in half and shape into 5-inch-wide disks. Wrap each in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Meanwhile, prepare filling:
Combine filling ingredients in a large bowl; toss well to coat. Let stand for 5 minutes.
To assemble pie:
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with foil.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator; let stand for 5 minutes to warm slightly. Roll one portion between sheets of parchment or wax paper into a 12-inch circle. Peel off the top sheet and invert the dough into a 9-inch pie pan. Peel off the remaining paper. Fit the crust to the pie pan with your fingers. Pour the filling into the crust.
Roll the remaining portion of dough between sheets of parchment or wax paper into another 12-inch circle. Peel off the top sheet of paper and invert the dough onto the fruit. Trim the top crust so it overhangs evenly. Tuck the top crust under the bottom crust, sealing the two together and making a plump edge. Flute the edge with your fingers.
Brush the top with egg white and sprinkle with the remaining 1 teaspoon sugar. Cut 6 steam vents in the top crust.
Place pie on prepared baking sheet and bake the pie on the center rack until the crust is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling, 50 to 60 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for at least 1 1/2 hours.
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