By Elke Probkevitz
There is something heartwarming and nostalgic about a homemade pie. Whether a tart crisp apple pie or a smooth spiced pumpkin pie, there are varieties for any palate preference. When you think pie, however, you may immediately think of a buttery, flaky crust with other rich ingredients like eggs, sugar, and whipped cream. With so many heavy foods being eaten between Rosh Hashanah and Chanukah, it would be nice to find a way to cut some calories before the sufganiyot come out. Here are a few tips on how to make a healthier, lower-calorie pie this fall.
Butter alternative. Coconut oil is like a butter because it stays solid at room temperature, but it is a much healthier (although not lower-calorie) alternative. Coconut oil works best as a butter substitute to create a flaky crust, although olive oil can work as well for a crust with a different flavor and texture. Coconut oil works well for crumble toppings to substitute for butter. To save on calories, skip a top crust or crumble all together.
Fruit fillings. Canned fruit-pie fillings are full of sugar and artificial ingredients. All you need for an easy, delicious filling is fresh or frozen fruit with a little sugar, some cornstarch or tapioca starch for thickening, and some added flavors like vanilla, cinnamon, or nutmeg.
Replace white sugar. Processed white sugar is refined and very unhealthy. Brown sugar, cane sugar, Demerara sugar, and coconut sugar are all good alternatives. If your recipe lets you use liquid sweeteners, then agave, maple syrup, molasses, and brown-rice syrup are all great options. Use naturally sweet fruits to cut the need for so much sweetener.
Replace white flour. Replace half of the flour with whole-wheat for a less detectable difference, or use whole-wheat pastry flour for a finer crumb consistency. For pies that use graham-cracker crumbs, substitute high-fiber cereal ground in a food processor. Spelt or quinoa flour can also be used in piecrusts.
Whipping cream. Nondairy creamer is really unhealthy, while dairy whipping cream is not too bad but might not be an option when making meat meals. Use full-fat coconut milk to make whipped cream by chilling the can and letting the cream separate from the coconut water. Use just the thick cream and whip it with a little sweetener and vanilla for a delicious whipped cream.
Creamy alternatives. Creamy elements that come from dairy can be replaced with coconut milk, silken tofu, or soaked cashews puréed into the mixture. Any of them will add a creaminess without the heavy dairy cream.
Healthier Pumpkin Pie
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. cane sugar
½ cup coconut oil, solid
⅓–½ cup ice water
2½ cups pumpkin purée
1 cup cashews, soaked for at least 3 hours and drained
¾ cup brown sugar or cane sugar
2 Tbsp. tapioca starch or tapioca flour
2 Tbsp. molasses
2 Tbsp. almond milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. dried ginger
¼ tsp. nutmeg
Add flour, salt, and sugar to a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse ingredients to combine. Add the coconut oil and pulse until texture is crumbly. Add in ⅓ cup ice water and pulse again until it begins to stick together. Keep it a little crumbly to have a nice, flaky crust but add a little more water if necessary to form a large ball. Place dough in plastic wrap and store in the fridge to chill until ready to use.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Remove the dough from the fridge and roll out into a large circle ¼-inch thick, using extra flour to keep the dough from sticking to the surface and rolling pin. Lift crust using the rolling pin for assistance and roll out onto a pie plate. Crimp edges to make a pretty pattern.
Combine ingredients for filling in a food processor and blend until smooth. Pour filling into piecrust. Bake until golden brown and set throughout, 35–40 minutes. Let cool before serving.
Want to learn how to cook delicious gourmet meals right in your own kitchen? Take one-on-one cooking lessons or give a gift to an aspiring cook you know. For more information, contact Take Home Chef personal chef services by calling 516-508-3663, writing to elke@TakeHomeChef.net, or visiting www.TakeHomeChef.net.