First off, THANK YOU all so much for voting me through Round 3 of Project Food Blog . I ended up winning the Reader’s Choice Award , which quite honestly left me stunned and amazed. I truly cannot thank you all enough!
For this “Picture Perfect” round, we were challenged to “go above and beyond and use photography to create a step-by-step, instructional photo tutorial.” Hmmmm this is what I do ALL THE TIME.
Since photo tutorials are a big part of what I regularly do, I knew I wanted to step it up for this round and do something somewhat tricky and difficult. I found my inspiration, as always, at the market…
Root vegetables are some of the most nutritious, and yet comforting foods that exist.
This was the first week that I’ve seen them back in all their colorful glory on the produce stands.
I spent the morning crafting a recipe in my head, and picking out each and every vegetable that would help me bring it to life.
With our veggies in tow, I headed home excited for a big day of cooking.
Since the point of this challenge was to showcase a step by step tutorial, I wanted to challenge myself to do something difficult, something that scares me. And you know what really scares me? PIE.
I have made one pie in my entire life, and that was a year ago as part of a baking and pastry class assignment. For some reason dough and baking intimidates me, but I figured this was the perfect time to conquer that fear, and show you guys that something scary can actually be quite simple. And to make my task just a little more complicated, I decided I was going to make it vegan. Hold onto your hats, this is a good one…
Harvest Root Vegetable Pie
Since this recipe is comprised of 4 main components, I thought I’d do them one by one to show you how it all comes together. Let’s start with the most important aspect of a pie – the crust.
Flaky Vegan Pie Crust
1.5 cups whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup Earth Balance (vegan butter)
1 tsp sea salt
5-6 tbsp cold water (as needed)
In baking, the best way to be accurate is to weigh your ingredients, so bust out your food scale and add your flour to a big mixing bowl.
Then cut up the (vegan) butter into tiny cubes. The most important part of making a good pie dough is to keep everything COLD. Dice it straight out of the refrigerator, and aim for pea sized pieces.
Using your hands, drop the butter and a few tablespoons of cold water into the flour, and begin cutting the butter into the flour. It is important to distribute the butter as well as possible, and keep it in tiny pieces. I added a few ice cubes to the water to make sure it stayed cold while I was mixing – cold is key!
As it starts to come together, just add 1 tablespoon of water at a time. It won’t take much, and you want to stop adding water juuuuust as it begins to start holding together and taking shape. At this point you might want to dump it out onto a floured cutting board, and mold it into a big dough ball.
Once it holds together, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator to cool for at least an hour. Cold dough is critical – trust me. I may or may not have had to make three separate pie doughs to get the perfect one (only for you guys…).
While your pie dough cools, scroll down and get to work on your filling. An hour later, unwrap your dough and grab your rolling pin.
Make sure you have a LOT of flour on your cutting board, and then carefully use a rolling pin to roll out the dough so that it is an even thickness, and big enough to fully cover your pie dish.
This next step is the trickiest part. Carefully roll the dough onto your rolling pin – rolled up like a towel. Then transfer it over to your pie dish and unroll it across the surface – this method should cause minimal stretching and breakage during transport.
Mold the dough into the pie pan, and allow excess to hang off the edges. (Note: I had lots of extra dough because I used a double recipe!)
Cut the dough overhanging the sides off, leaving just enough to pinch in on the edges.
Using your thumbs and pointer fingers, pinch around the edges to create a ruffled pattern. So pretty!
Final product – WHEW! That was a lot of work. It took me three tries to successfully make a GOOD vegan pie crust. But it was so worth the challenge, because now I will never fear pie again.
Now what are we filling this pie shell with? I knew all along that I wanted to make a savory pie, rather than a dessert pie. The root vegetables sparkling with all their vibrant color at the market gave me the inspiration to do something different – a root vegetable pie. While your dough cools in the refrigerator, get to work on your fillings…
Roasted Root Vegetables
5 cups of diced root vegetables (your choice!)
olive oil (as needed)
salt and pepper (to taste)
Start by preheating your oven to 375 degrees. For this pie, I decided to go with a colorful medley of beets, turnips, carrots, and red potatoes. Don’t let the old rules stand in your way – when I roast vegetables I leave ALL the peels on, even the carrots. Do not fear the peels – I promise they will not hurt you.
Dice them all up and aim for even sizes – that way they will all cook at the same rate. Toss the veggies in a few glugs of olive oil (yes, that is an official recipe term) and salt and pepper to taste. Toss well in a big bowl.
And lay out on a single layer on a sheet pan.
Put them into the oven for about 30 minutes, and give them a stir halfway through. Roasted deliciousness awaits you at the end.
And while your dough chills, and your veggies roast, you can work on another pie layer! (This recipe is really just a test in multitasking.)
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 shallots, minced
4 cups diced mushrooms
1/2 cup vegetable stock
salt and pepper (to taste)
Start by sautéing the shallots and garlic in olive oil for a few minutes until they start to brown.
Then add the mushrooms and let them cook down until they are very soft and giving off a lot of moisture. Stir occasionally to distribute through the heat!
Once they have cooked down quite a bit…
Add a 1/2 cup of vegetable broth. In traditional duxelle, the mushrooms cook in red or port wine, but since I don’t cook with alcohol, the veggie broth worked as a great substitute.
Cook over medium heat until almost all of the moisture has cooked off. The result will be tiny mushrooms PACKED with a ton of great condensed mushroom flavor.
Now set those aside and get ready for layer #3 – the last one! Almost there…
Fluffy Mashed Sweet Potatoes
4 cups cubed sweet potatoes
1/2 cup almond milk
1 tbsp Earth Balance
salt and pepper (to taste)
Start with a big steaming pot, and add about 1 inch of water to the bottom to boil.
While you (literally) wait for water to boil, cube up the sweet potatoes and add them to a steamer basket.
Let them steam over boiling water for about 10-15 minutes – you want them to be really soft and falling apart.
Then add the sweet potatoes, along with the almond milk and Earth balance, and a pinch of salt and pepper to your stand mixer. Start on low (using the whisk attachment), and then slowly crank it up to high speed. Scrape down the sides a few times, and whisk until fluffy!
Voila – delicious mashed sweet potatoes! Really, is there anything better?
Yes, yes there is. And I am about to show it to you. Now that you have patiently made a pie dough, waited for it to cool, made your three vegetable fillers, and then rolled out and shaped your crust, we are ready to assemble the pie. I promise it will all be worth it…
Spread the mushrooms across the bottom of your crust in an even layer.
Next, add you middle layer – roasted root veggies. (This is the face of what three pie doughs will do to a girl.)
And finally, top it with the third layer – the mashed sweet potatoes.
Don’t be fooled, this is not pumpkin pie!
Into the oven at 400 degrees for 25 minutes, or until the crust starts to brown.
Halfway through cooking, pull out the pie and top with a layer of almonds and a sprinkle of cinnamon – just a hint of crunch and spice to send this pie over the edge of deliciousness.
I was up at 7am to head to the market, and after multiple pie dough attempts and several joyous hours of cooking later, I had this piece of perfection sitting in front of me by 7pm.
The cinnamon and almonds really took things to a whole new level.
The entire point of this challenge (to me) was to follow the motto that I strive to do here through each and every recipe – taking something scary and making it seem easy and approachable. I am happy to report that flaky vegan pie crust is most definitely achievable, and well worth the effort.
Okay, I can’t take it anymore – time to dig in.
You’re looking at a little slice of root vegetable harvest heaven.
The crust turned out perfect and flaky, and I challenge anyone to tell me you would know it was vegan.
If you forced me to choose, I’d have to say my favorite layer was the mushrooms – cooking them down gives them soooo much flavor.
Even though this recipe seems somewhat complex and complicated, it’s really not. And sometimes it’s worth it to spend a few more hours in the kitchen to get something really special at the end.
Because when all is said and done, there is no better feeling than eating something totally delicious and unique, and the great feeling that comes from thinking – I made that – with each and every bite.
Thank you all again for keeping me in this competition well beyond my expectations. Voting begins Monday at noon!