Sunday, August 1, 2010

A Tale of Two Crusts

In trying to branch out from cookbook cooking and realizing that I like to eat things that come in a pie tin a whole lot (both sweet and savory), I've come to the conclusion that I need a few good pie/quiche/tart crust recipes.  I recognize that I can probably not reinvent pie crust into some new and exciting Baking Midwife brand, since, let's face it, the many formulations of flour + butter(or shortening) + something else may have all been tested.  (This may not be entirely factual).

What is factual, however, is my quest.  I am embarking on a quest to try out several different recipes for making pie dough and figure out what my favorites are.  I may tweak some recipes along the way for better or for worse.  So even though I've made several pie crusts this summer, the actual taste testing with a slightly biased partner in crime (J) and myself, began Friday.

It all started so simply.  We both happily had the day off and I slept in to an embarrassingly late hour.  I had been planning to make a quiche that night for dinner, using the yogurt based dough recipe from Chocolate and Zucchini's Yellow Zucchini Tarte Fine on a Yogurt Based Crust .  I started making some coffee and realized that there were a ridiculous number or ripe blueberries on our wild blueberry bushes (that's right!  in our backyard!  be jealous).  As we were picking, we pondered what to do with our stash.

Partner in Crime suggested a Blueberry Pie and I conceded, slightly hesitantly because I had lost an amazing blueberry pie recipe.  This happens when 1)  You save all your recipes you find online on your computer 2)  This was 3 years ago that you made this blueberry pie  and 3)  You lost said computer in a tragic accident involving a favorite Doberman in an E-Collar.  I had also recently come to the conclusion that all blueberry pies are not created equal - don't be fooled by the recipes labeled "Best Blueberry Pie" - there are a lot of them and they are all slightly different.  Therefore they cannot all be the best - that's factual.  I made a blueberry pie from a recipe like this, hoping that it would mimic the elusive Pie of the Summer of 2007.  The friends I made it for ate it and said they liked it, even murmuring sounds of gastronomic approval.  But I knew better. 

Favorite Doberman with Dangerous E-Collar
I had to try something different and came up with the recipe at the end; it's a blend of things I remembered vaguely using and doing for the Pie in 2007 and an exciting ingredient that I tried on a whim which came out delicious.  The surprise ingredient is Garam Masala.  This is a mixture of spices and can vary slightly depending on where you get it.  Mine has a mixture of Cardamom, Black Pepper, Cinnamon, Cumin, and Coriander.  I love the way it smells, and saw it when I opened the spice cabinet to get out the Cinnamon and Nutmeg.   

In the end, I prepared 2 different crusts - One for a Spinach and Shitake Quiche and the other for a Blueberry Pie with Garam Masala.  The second crust is a slight twist on a Buttermilk Pie Crust recipe from the 1977 Moosewood Cookbook that I just remembered I owned.  I'm considering a brief love affair with this cookbook, but this is a subject for another blog posting.

Reviews of the crusts - Yogurt Based Crust - simple to make, the edge was golden brown, crisp and delicious, really does come out similar to puff pastry.  The only down side was a fault of my own, I placed a baking sheet under the pie tin because this particular tin doesn't have a rim and I didn't want to ruin the crust while removing the quiche.  The result was that the bottom didn't come out as crispy as the rest of the crust even though I partially pre-baked.  We both decided the quiche needed more goat cheese - but this doesn't have to do with the poor crust.  I'll definitely use this recipe again and again - in fact I should be blogging about it soon (I'll be using if for some pastries I'm making today).
Buttermilk Crust - Also simple to make and work with.  Comes out thin and crisp, hearty enough to hold the moist blueberry filling.  However the taste didn't really do it for me, it wasn't bad at all just not enough.  Partner in Crime said he liked it, but when I asked him why he said because it didn't take away from the blueberry pie.  Unfortunately that's not a feature I'm looking for in my perfect crust.  I may try this again sans sugar in a savory tart or quiche to give it another chance.

On to the recipes...

Spinach and Shitake Quiche

For dough
1 1/2 c all purpose flour
1/2 c plain yogurt (low fat or whole milk)
1/4 c butter, diced, cold
1/4 tsp salt
For filling
olive oil
3-4 shitake mushroom caps in thin slices
2 large handfuls of baby spinach leaves
5 eggs
a large splash of milk (about 1/4 c)
2 ounces of goat cheese (either crumbles or broken up from a log)
salt and pepper

For the dough:  follow instructions for dough for a Yogurt Based Crust from Chocolate and Zucchini
After the dough has chilled, remove from the refrigerator and place between two layers of parchment paper.  While it's thawing slightly, preheat the oven to 375 F and butter your 9 inch pie tin.  Roll out the dough into a thin round about 10 inches.  Place round in pie tin and press in to bottom and sides.  I folded my edges over on top, but they shrunk down slightly in the oven, so I'd suggest leaving a little extra.  Place aluminum foil on top of uncooked dough, and on top of that place uncooked beans or pie weights.  Bake in oven for about 10 - 15 minutes until the shell looks set and is starting to appear golden.  Remove aluminum foil and beans/pie weights.

While the crust is baking, heat about 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium sized frying pan over medium heat.  Add shitake mushrooms and saute until they start to appear soft and slimy.  Then add the two handfuls of spinach and cook down until wilted.  Remove from heat.


In a medium bowl whisk together 5 eggs and a large splash of milk.  Add to egg mixture, the spinach and shitake mushrooms, then the goat cheese.  Mix well with wire whisk.  Add a few sprinkles of black pepper and a dash or two of salt.  Pour mixture into partially pre-baked crust.


Bake at 375 F for 45 min- 1 hr until crust is golden brown and filling is completely cooked.  Quiches puff up a little when they're done.

Blueberry Pie with Garam Masala (aka Best Blueberry Pie - j/k)

For dough
1 c flour (I used all purpose but Mollie Katzen says you can do a white/wheat blend - 4/5 & 1/5) 
1/3 c cold butter, diced
3 Tbs cold buttermik
1 Tbs sugar
For filling
4 c fresh blueberries
2 Tbs flour
heaping 1/2 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 c sugar
1 Tbs butter cut into small chunks
Crumb topping 
1/4 c sugar
1/2 c flour
3 Tbs butter
a few dashes of garam masala

For the dough (As I said before this is adapted from Moosewood Cookbook, p 123)
Blend together flour, butter, and sugar.  This can be done with a pastry blender, two forks, a food processor, or my preferential method - fingers.  Mix together until well blended and there are no more chunks of butter remaining.  Now add about 3 Tbs of cold buttermilk, enough so that the mixture holds together enough to form a ball.  I used 2 1/2 Tbs.  I love what Molly Katzen says here in the cookbook - "(or water.  But buttermilk really.  Specialness is worth it.)"  Place ball of dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.

After dough has chilled, remove from fridge.  Preheat oven to 375 F.  Butter 9 inch pie tin.  Let dough thaw for a minute or so, then roll out on a clean and lightly floured surface.  Roll out to a 10-11 inch round.  Place round in pie tin and press in to bottom and sides.  Trim excess dough off sides but leave about 1 inch of dough to fold over and create whatever type of edge you like.  Place pie shell in fridge until you are ready to add blueberry mixture.


Wash blueberries and be sure to remove any stems or bad blueberries.  Place blueberries in a medium size bowl.  Add flour, garam masala, nutmeg, and sugar and mix together so that blueberries are well coated.  

In a separate bowl, mix together ingredients for topping (sugar, flour, butter, garam masala) until crumbly.

Remove pie shell from fridge.  Pour blueberry mixture into shell.  Dot with small chunks of butter (about 1 Tbs).


Sprinkle crumb topping over the pie and place pie in oven at 375 F for 50 min to 1 hr.  Bake until the crust and topping are golden brown and the blueberry juices are bubbly.  Remove pie from oven and allow to cool slightly before cutting, but serve while still warm so you'll really taste the spices.



  1. the pie and quiche look good! and i'm very jealous of your blueberry bush. that's definitely a fruit i don't often have here. maybe i can grow a blueberry bush on my balcony...

  2. Thanks Amy! Wish I could send you some blueberries, I actually need to pick some more soon. How is your garden this year?

  3. I also have to say, after having a leftover slice of the blueberry pie heated up, the crust is better than I gave it credit for. Not only did it hold up physically the crispiness was actually complimented the gooey fruit filling. Yum!