THE BLOG
05/10/2016 12:30 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

8 Crusts to Cure Your Fear of Pie-ing

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It was recently Mother's Day and that made me think of my mom and her fear of pie-ing. I also happened to be in the midst of the pie chapter in this massive tome of a vintage cookbook:

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You can tell it's a good one by the number of tags sticking out of the top.

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The pie section is fantastic; full of recipes and techniques I've not seen before. I'm not much of a pie baker, having inherited my mom's crust anxiety, but these variations are enough to make me want to grab my rolling pin and turn on the oven. I figured I'd share them before it gets too hot to bake, in hope that they'll help overcome other people's pie-ranoia.

Now on to the crusts.

1. Spice Spice Baby

Follow your favorite pastry recipe, but sift together 2 tablespoons sugar, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/8 teaspoon ginger, and 1/8 teaspoon cloves with the flour and salt. Substitute orange juice for the cold water.

Imagine how delicious this would be as the base for a pumpkin pie!

2. Cheesilicious

For a one-crust pie, add 1/2 cup (2 ounces) finely shredded Cheddar cheese with the lard or shortening. Double the cheese if you need two crusts.

Great for apple pie or a hearty quiche.

3. Oat My Goodness

Mix 1/2 cup uncooked rolled oats with the flour in your favorite one-crust recipe, and increase the shortening slightly. (For example, if your recipe calls for 1/3 cup shortening, increase it to 1/2 cup.) Bake at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes or until crust is lightly browned.

4. Two-Crust Crunch

Combine 1 tablespoon butter, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1/8 teaspoon grated lemon peel, a few grains salt, and 3 tablespoons flour; mix until it reaches the consistency of course crumbs. Brush top of unbaked pie with milk, then sprinkle with the crumb mixture. Bake pie as directed in the recipe.

5. Peanut Butter Power

Sift 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cut in 1/2 cup shortening and 3 tablespoons peanut butter until pieces are the size of small peas. Sprinkle 2-3 tablespoons of cold water over the mixture, a teaspoonful at a time, mixing lightly with a fork after each addition. Add only enough water to hold pastry together and proceed as for a traditional crust. Bake at 450 degrees F for 10 minutes.

Wonderful with a silky chocolate filling!

6. Nutrageous

This one is great for those who have gluten sensitivity. Just mix 1 1/4 cups finely ground almonds with 1/4 cup sugar, then cut in 1/4 cup butter with a pastry blender. Turn mixture into the pie pan, and press it firmly against the bottom and sides of the pan. Bake at 375 degrees F until lightly browned, then chill.

Substitute the almonds with other nuts to best match the flavor of your pie filling.

7. Coconut Cloud

This delicate shell is also gluten free. Beat 1/3 cup (2-3) egg whites until frothy. Beat in 1/8 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, and 1/8 teaspoon almond extract. Gradually add 1 cup sugar, beating constantly until stiff peaks form. Fold in 1/3 cup flaked coconut. Spread over bottom and up sides of a lightly greased pie pan. Bake at 325 degrees F for 40 to 45 minutes, or until crisp and very lightly browned.

8. Coffee-Coconut Crisp

Last in the gluten-free lineup is this unusual variation. Combine 1 1/3 cups flaked coconut and 1 cup double strength coffee. (If you happen to have instant on hand, just mix a teaspoon of crystals into the cup.) Let stand 30-40 minutes. Drain coconut, then spread on paper towels and pat dry. Spread 2 tablespoons softened butter over the bottom and sides of your pie plate, then sprinkle the coconut evenly over the buttered surface and press into place. Bake at 350 degrees F 10 to 12 minutes or until coconut is crisp.

There you have it: eight reasons to stop worrying about perfection and start focusing on flavor. Now get in your kitchen and make some pie!

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