‘Tis the season for gorgeous, luscious, delicious pie and just in time comes a book with every kind there is– deep-dish, tarty, free-form, cobbled. And fruity, creamy, nutty, chocolatey. All of it vegan, of course.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero, the team that in previous seasons showed us with their fabulous cupcakes and cookies just how yesterday butter and eggs are in a modern baker’s kitchen, are back with Vegan Pie in the Sky, a book that crams into the authors’ signature square pages tons of pie-making wisdom.
This is a definitive guide for any pie baker– seasoned, novice, vegan, or not– on how to make one of America’s most cherished desserts from scratch, with sections on:
–Buying the right kind of pie-making equipment, from pans to rolling pins for making the crust.
–Creating different kinds of crusts, from single to double to shortbread, puff pastry, and even chocolate (and you thought there was only one kind!)
–Step-by-step recipes for 75 pies, including vegan versions of those you grew up with like Pumpkin Pie and Apple Pie, to fun ones with clever names like She’s My Cherry Pie and Pucker-Up Raspberry Pie, to elegant desserts like Blueberry Orange Cheesecake and Cappuccino Mousse Pie. There is even a Basil Peach Pie and a Curried Macaroon Pie that features curry powder in the filling. Honest.
Because I was reviewing the book, I chose to make a more traditional dessert, just so I would be better able to compare it to the non-vegan versions I remember eating from the past: Pecan Pie. In this book it’s a Maple Pecan Pie, with the maple syrup adding warm, rich tones to the nutty pecans. Perfect.
There was another sneaky reason I wanted to try the Maple Pecan Pie, and that’s because it uses tofu: an ingredient I simply do not like in sweet dishes. While tofu works wonderfully in savory recipes, in sweets it’s really difficult to shake off that chalky aftertaste it leaves in your mouth. My perverted little tastebuds wanted to really, really know if Isa and Terry had indeed managed to conquer the tofu-aftertaste demon in this recipe.
The single-crust recipe that goes with this pie required the addition of some apple-cider vinegar. While that might appear a surprising addition, I guess it’s meant to add tenderness to the crust, and it did. This is certainly one of the best vegan crusts I’ve ever tasted, with the right balance of flaky, crumbly and crispy deliciousness. It tasted especially great with the gooey, sweet filling.
The caramel for the pie filling required 10 minutes of stirring the sugar and maple syrup over the stove, but the time went by faster than I had imagined. The rest of the prep for the filling was really simple: you blitz some tofu and nondairy milk with some cornstarch (which acts as a thickener) and vanilla, mix it with the caramel and sugar, and voila! Time to bake.
As some of you already know, I live with a pie hog (Desi) who is quite non-vegan, and it gives me a lot of joy to give him a plate of vegan pie that he will adore and then wag an I-told-you-so finger in his face. This Maple Pecan Pie passed his taste test with flying colors and more. It definitely passed my tofu test because I could not tell it was in there. But most important, it passed the finicky canine test with Opie and Lucy loving every little bit their humans were willing to share, from the flaky crust to the caramel-bathed pecans.
As delicious as this pie was, I did run into one issue — the filling did not set after the 40-minute baking time given in the instructions, so I let the pie go for another 5 minutes because ovens do vary so widely. It was jiggly when it came out, like the instructions said it would be, but it never quite set– not even the next morning after standing on a cold counter all night. I even put it in the refrigerator for several hours and although it did solidify just a little bit more, it was still not quite set. Maybe a little more cornstarch would be the solution?
Next on my list of must-make pies from this book are the Strawberry Hand Pies– they look so adorable! Or maybe it will be the elegant Pear Frangipane Tart. Can’t make up my mind.
As you have no doubt gathered from the headline of this post, the publisher of Vegan Pie in the Sky is giving away to one of my readers living here in the United States a free copy of this lovely book. But before you can win, you need to do a little work– just a little, I promise.
Here’s the deal: Post this giveaway announcement with a link to this page on Facebook and/or Twitter. Then leave me a comment on this post to tell me you did so. That’s about it.
Good luck, all! I’ll announce the winner in my next post, so be sure to check back and see if it was you. Now here’s the recipe for the Maple Pecan Pie from Vegan Pie in the Sky.
Maple Pecan Pie
Single (And Lovin’ It) Pastry Crust:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup nonhydrogenated shortening
4 tbsp or more ice water
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
Sift together the flour, sugar and salt. Cut in the shortening with a fork or pastry cutter or in a food processor to form a crumbly dough.
Sift together 4 tbsp of the ice water and vinegar, then drizzle a third of it over the flour. Gently mix to moisten, drizzle in another third of the liquid, and mix to moisten. Repeat with the remaining mixture until the dough forms a soft ball when pressed together. If it hasn’t come together yet, sprinkle it with another tbsp (or more) of ice water until the dough can be gathered into a ball. Wrap it in plastic wrap or sandwich between waxed paper and refrigerate for an hour.
When you are ready to roll out the crust, tear off a 14-inch piece of waxed paper or baking parchment and lightly sprinkle it with flour. Flatten the dough into a disk and place in the center of the paper. Using a lightly floured rolling pin, in even, long strokes, roll out the dough into a circle about 12 inches in diameter. Occasionally rotate the dough while you’re rolling to help form an even circle.
To transfer the dough to a pie plate, slide your hand underneath the center of the paper and quickly flip it onto the plate. Peel off the paper and gently press the dough into the plate. If necessary, trim any overhanging dough edges with a sharp knife, leaving about 1 1/2 inches of dough for the crimped edge. Crimp the edges as desired.
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup nonhydrogenated margarine
6 ounces extra-firm silken tofu (1/2 of a tetra pack)
1/4 cup cold, unsweetened, plain nondairy milk
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups pecan halves
For the caramel, in a saucepan, mix together the sugars and the maple syrup. Heat over medium heat, stirring often with a whisk. Once small bubbles start forming rapidly, stir pretty constantly for 10 minutes. The mixture should become thick and syrupy. It shouldn’t be boiling too fiercely. If big bubbles start climbing the walls of the pan then lower the heat a bit.
Add the margarine and stir to melt. Turn off the heat, transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl, and let it cool for a bit. In the meantime prepare the rest of the filling.
Crumble the tofu into a blender or food processor, along with the milk, cornstarch, and salt. Puree until completely smooth, scraping down the sides of the blender to make sure you get everything.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Check and see that the sugar mixture has cooled sufficiently; it’s okay if it’s a bit warm, just not boiling hot. Add the tofu mixture and the vanilla extract to the sugar mixture and mix well. Fold in the pecans.
Transfer the filling to the prepared pie crust and bake for 40 minutes. When done, the pie is going to be somewhat jiggly, but it should appear to be set. Let cool, slice, and serve!
(Recipe from the book Vegan Pie in the Sky by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero, published by Da Capo Lifelong, a member of the Perseus Books Group. Copyright © 2011.www.dacapopresscookbooks.com)