Coconut oil in a pie crust recipe? Yes!
The holidays are fast approaching, and there is no reason why you can’t make your own pie crust! I’ve regularly hear people tell me that they are afraid to make their own pie crust. Afraid? Really? Okay, I suppose I get that because it is a delicate balance between a few ingredients that is frankly easy to mess up. The good news is that with a little bit of practice and the pie crust recipe below, you too can be making delicious flaky crust by Thanksgiving.
The best part of DIY pie crust? No junk ingredients like hydrogenated oils (shortening), preservatives, and low risk of GMOs!
This pie crust recipe is a modification of the crust I’ve learned to make from my mother. The original recipe was always a bit problematic because it was never as flaky as it could be, nor did it hold shape in the oven. One day I was talking to a fellow shopper at Winco and she described making crust with a liquid oil, her eyes shone as she described the ease and deliciousness and I was intrigued.
So the next time a pie baking occasion arose, I traded out the shortening (eew!) originally called for with melted coconut oil. The results were amazing. As a long-standing advocate of coconut oil, I couldn’t believe I had never thought about using it in pie crust like this! In my hand pies recipe, coconut oil was cut in with the butter – it was good, but still not what I would consider “awesome.” Melted coconut oil is exactly what this pie crust recipe has needed all along.
So before we jump into how to make pie crust, let us talk about some of the basic principles that you need to understand:
Pie crust is a delicate dance between gluten, shortening fats, and water. Each plays a crucial role. The flour forms the glutens that hold the dough together, while the fats shorten the glutens and make it tender. The water binds the two opposing forces together like the force. Piecrust is essentially a team of rivals that have come together to do good in your kitchen.
The other thing to understand about pie crust is mealy and flaky. The only difference is how deeply you cut the fat into the flour. The larger the chunks of fat in the mix, the “flakier” the crust. When the butter is completely mixed in the crust becomes “mealy.”
Flaky crust = More tender and flaky, but more absorbent of a pie’s moisture content. A flaky crust can become soggy within a matter of hours in certain pies. Best as a top crust, but can also go beneath a custard pie or starch thickened fruit pie.
Mealy crust = Thicker, more uniform texture, moving in the direction of shortbread. A mealy crust is a bit easier to work with and resists absorbing liquids. Best as a bottom crust for cream and chiffon pies, or pies that might hang around for several days before being eaten.
Over the next week or so, I will be sharing different pie recipes that use this beautiful crust. Besides my recipes, you can also use this pie crust recipe for any other pie you make including handpies, potpies and quiche.
PS – Episode #76 – Crispy pan-fried pork chops has a demo of making pie crust. The recipe I used in the show is a bit different — it does not use liquid coconut oil — but the principles are very much the same. Make sure to check out the gallery at the end of the post too.
Pie Crust Recipe
Yield: 2 9-inch crusts + Ample Scraps
||Mise en Place:
- Put the coconut oil in a pan and melt over very low heat. Remove from the heat when it is about 95% melted and stir until it is completely liquid. Set aside in warm area of the kitchen.
- Cut the butter into very small pieces.
- Sift the flour (yes, one more time), sugar, and salt into the mixing bowl. Drop in the butter and toss it to coat each little bit in flour.
- Mill the butter into the flour, first working with your fingertips, then progressing to rubbing the mixture between your palms. Continue switching between both actions until the butter is mostly combined, but there are still a few bits of distinguishable butter that you can see and feel.
- Stop mixing at this point if you want “flaky” pie crust. Or, divide the mix in two and continue milling one half until there is no distinguishable butter if you’ve a “mealy” crust on your mind.
- Drizzle about a third of the coconut oil across the top then stir a few times. Repeat thrice until there is no dry looking bits of flour in sight.
Bring it together:
- Drizzle ice water (but no ice) into the flour-butter mix, a couple of tablespoons at a time. Fold together. Repeat until the dough clings together, but stop adding water before it becomes sticky. You’ll probably add between 4-6 tablespoons. If it’s humid, you’ll less and if dry then more.
- Gather the dough into a ball and press together. It should be pliable and moldable, soft and have no stickiness. Add a little flour if you overdo the water, and cut it in with the least amount of handling possible.
Rest the tired dough:
- Separate into two even halves and roll into smooth balls. Wrap in plastic wrap and then flatten into discs about an inch thick. Rest for about half an hour, or up to 72 hours in the fridge. If your kitchen is warm, place in the fridge.
Roll it out:
- If you have chilled the dough, allow it to come back up to almost room temperature before rolling.
- Sprinkle flour on the counter and place the unwrapped disc of dough in the center. Flip once to get flour on both sides.
- Roll from the center out, rotating the direction of the roll each time to achieve a nice round shape. When the edges break apart, dampen them slighty and push them back together. Sprinkle a bit of flour over the damp area.
- As you roll, regularly run the metal spatula underneath to keep the bottom of the dough somewhat floured. The more damp your dough is, the more flour you will need. The dough need just enough flour to keep it from sticking, but not so much that it slides should just barely grip the counter so that it stays in place as you roll it out. This is a point of finesse that will take some practice to get right.
Put it in the pan:
- Once you have the dough rolled out to be a bit thicker than a nickel, run the metal spatula underneath one more time to loosen it. Position your rolling pin about a quarter of the way into the circle. Use your flat metal spatula to lift the dough from the counter and flop it over the rolling pin in one motion.
- In another smooth motion, lift and pull the dough over your pie pan. Ease it into the pie pan. If the dough breaks, simply reseal it by dampening the edges of the break and pressing them together, once the crust is in the pan. Continue easing the dough into the pan and trim off the excess, leaving about 1-2 inches of overhang.
- Congrats! Now make your pie.
Bake it into a pie shell:
- Form the edges according to your whims. Generally you should start by dampening the undersides of the overhang and squeezing it together. You can then crimp it together and create various patterns to adorn your pie.
For the best results, the top of your crust should be less than a half inch taller than the top of the pan, so play with the overhang a bit before you commit to it, because you might need to trim it down. Your pie pan plays a significant role in what works and what doesn’t with this step.
- Dock the crust by poking small holes in it with the tines of a fork. Line with parchment and fill with dry beans for weight or use a specially made chain for weighting down the pie. Bake at 375° until it is baked through. Lay a piece of foil over the top about part way through baking to help prevent the edge from browning too much. Total baking time will be between 20-35 minutes, depending on your pan, oven, and how damp your pie dough is.
Remember that perfect pie crust is a mix of a good recipe and proper technique, so be sure to practice before you’re under pressure so it comes out beautifully! If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me through email at firstname.lastname@example.org, social media, or by commenting below!