Vegan Pies – inspired by The Pie Maker in Galway, Ireland
Yes, the title of this section sounds a bit braggy and like I’m some kind of world traveler. Essentially, my usual journeys comprise trips from NJ-NY or NJ-DC as my children reside in both places. But, I digress. Last summer, my family and I took a once in a lifetime trip together to Ireland-specifically the Dingle Peninsula, Kilkee and Galway. We trekked, hiked, biked, drank and ate our way through some of the most beautiful places on earth. One of our favorite eateries was The Pie Maker, in Galway. Yes, most of the menu items were not vegan, but the chef (as I found in most places we ventured) was happy to create an option for me- a lovely salad, but, alas not a pie. 🙁 After eating here, I became somewhat preoccupied by creating vegan pie and vowed to work on that when I got back across the pond 😉
But, Can a pie be vegan?
Yes! The answer is…yes! I have made pies, swapping out the butter for Earth Balance and the results were quite good. As long as the process was followed (cold “butter”, gently mixing in the cold liquid , whether it be vodka ala this Cook’s Illustrated version or water) the resulting pie crust would be flaky and delicious and nearly identical to its buttery counterpart. Sure, maybe not the healthiest in terms of processed oils, but the pie tasted like pie and graced the dessert on Thanksgiving (would be so great if I could insert a pic here but I failed to take one!).
Since returning from Ireland and fresh on the heels of completing my course in plant-based nutrition, I have been playing around with the idea of subbing a healthier fat for the butter. I had success with these vegan bad boys ↓
and was hoping to apply the same notion of swapping the vegan butter for cashew butter whilst following the basic principals of pie crust making.
I am thrilled to report that this method was pretty flippin successful and now I can have my pie and (not feel guilty to) eat it, too.
I admit it, when I embark upon a project (nowadays a recipe) I obsess for a bit and read as much as I can about ingredients, nutrition, history, etc. Past posts don’t lie. This time, I did a deep dive into pie crust making and focused not on pie history (apparently the crusts of the earliest “pyes”in medieval times were referred to as coffyns, designed not to be eaten but to hold or preserve the contents!) but the process. And by process, I mean how does one achieve a good crust?
“Science of Pie” article on Food52, guided my process for creating this vegan hand pie crust. Seriously, please read this article! J. Kenji so eloquently debunks the myths of pie crust perfecting and describes the hows and whys of the method I use here.,author of The Food Lab and this
Weighing V. Measuring
J. Kenji says weigh so I shall weigh! If you don’t have a food scale, I HIGHLY recommend getting one (this is mine). They are relatively cheap and the payoff will be your newfound ability to bake like a goddess (or god, as it were 🙂 ) The process here involves employing the 3:2:1 ratio of flour to fat to liquid. It works. I used 12 ounces flour (and sugar), 8 ounces cashew butter and 4 ounces of water.
Food Processor makes crusting easy
Process 8 ounces of the flour with cashew butter (1:1) ratio for about two minutes, till it looks like this- kind of clumpy and no visible flour remains. Then add the rest of the flour and pulse 10-15 times, again so you can’t see the whiteness of the flour.
Dump the mix into a large bowl and sprinkle the water on top. Gently fold with a rubber spatula until you get something like this:
Then, divide the dough into two portions, form into 2 inch thick disks and cover with plastic wrap. Now fridge and chill (the dough, not you) but yeah you can chill for an hour or so, too. Feel free to make the filling now or take a break. For these vegan hand pies, I used apples and dried cranberries but, seriously, you could probably fill them with anything- sweet or savory or in between and have an excellent result. Here, tiny diced apples, a dash of orange juice (to keep the apples from browning), and dried cranberries are warmed in a pot for about 5 minutes. I added a slurry of cornstarch mixed with maple syrup to thicken it a bit.
Rollin out the dough
This really is the fun part- fun, because this dough is so easy to handle and roll out. I went with just under a 1/4″ thickness, using again my trusty beer glass as a cutter.
Fill ’em, seal ’em and bake ’em
Once you’ve got your circles cut, lay half on your baking sheet and place the filling in the center of each one. Gently lay the top circles of dough on each and crimp together with a fork. I pierced the top of each pie with few slits and finished with a brushing of soy milk to give each hand pie a lovely matte glow.
In about 20 minutes, these beautiful vegan hand pies will be ready in all of their golden glory.
These pies are perfect right out of the oven (minus a brief cooling period). They also freeze beautifully and can go directly from the freezer to toaster oven to plate. Hot pie!!