New Adventures in Sourdough: Piecrust.

Several months ago, I wrote an article for the Daring Kitchen website on uses for discard sourdough starter. After that article, I was contacted by fellow Daring Baker, Shelly, about a new baking group that was forming. A monthly, no pressure challenge to bake up something using sourdough starter and then link up to each other to compare, contrast and congratulate. I was really excited, and then - sadly - I totally forgot about it.

Fortunately, Shelly sent me another reminder email. And also fortunately, the item this month was pie crust!

sourdough pie crust

When I clicked through to the link on Sourdough Surprises for a recipe suggested as a starting point for sourdough pie crusts, I was so happy to see Alanna's (the Bojon Gourmet) site pop up. The Bojon Gourmet has been one of my longtime favorite baking sites, and I also know from experience that her recipes are usually very reliable. In fact, I really thought that her all-butter pie crust was my favorite!

bojon piecrust.
Alanna's All-Butter Pie Crust.

I wondered if sourdough fortified pie crust would remind me of the fermented yogurt dough crust I've made from Sally Fallon's recipe. I actually thought about letting the butter come to room temperature and then mixing the crust more like a dough, and allowing it to fully culture (7 hours or longer) before refrigerating and continuing. Then, I decided that I would take a shortcut and just process everything in the food processor.

That choice eliminated the messy work of fraisage, or using the heel of your hand to scrape bits of the dough across the work surface to enhance flakiness. I used the food processor to first aerate the flours with the salt and sugar, then to cut in the butter, and finally to pulse in the sourdough starter. Then, I transferred the whole mess into a plastic bag, where I gently kneaded it into a ball. I let it sit for several hours in the fridge before taking it out to bake into a shell to house a banana cream pie.

banana cream pie layer

I'm certain that using the fraisage method to work the dough would have contributed to a more tender, flaky crust - but I actually really liked the quick, no mess version as well. It made a very stable crust for a baked shell. For the pre-baked shell, I preheated the oven to 350, rolled, crimped and then docked the crust with a fork thoroughly. Then, I lined it with parchment and filled with my pie weights: a few cups of red and white beans. Bake for about 20 minutes with the pie weights in place, then remove the weights and continue baking until lightly browned, another 10-15 minutes or so. Cool on a wire rack until room temperature and then fill with your choice of icebox pie favorites. This crust is substantial, nutty tasting and crisp - a great choice for a refrigerator pie.

To make my banana cream pie, I used a lighter pastry cream that I snagged a while back from a disappointing Epicurious recipe. It was billed as a light version of Boston Cream Pie, and let's face it, if you are making a Boston Cream Pie, don't go for a light version. This pastry cream has only 2 egg yolks per cup of milk (by contrast, I think Dorie Greenspan's has 6), making it a good, not-too-sweet layer to complement sliced, ripe banana.

There is no way I would use skim milk in a pastry cream recipe(I have to draw the line somewhere). I also doubled the volume, which is the perfect amount for a 9 inch pie.

Vanilla Pastry Cream - Light Version for Pie (adapted from epicurious)
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 6 T. sugar
  • 4 T. cornstarch (I would suspect arrowroot would also work well)
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 2 c. whole milk
  • 2 t. butter (I eyeball this, just add a little butter)
  • 1 t. vanilla extract

Whisk yolks, sugar, cornstarch, salt and 2 T. of the milk together in a small bowl or measuring cup. Bring remaining milk to a bare simmer in a saucepan, and add the yolk mixture, stirring constantly. Boil until thickened nicely, about 2 minutes, but maybe not quite that long. Remove from the heat and add the butter and vanilla extract, whisking well to combine (and make sure the butter is fully melted in). Transfer to a bowl, and cover with plastic wrap, letting the wrap rest directly on the surface so that a skin doesn't form. Cool to room temperature.

banana cream pie

When both the pastry cream and the pie crusts are cool, spoon the pastry cream into the shell, and smooth gently with a knife. Slice bananas, (I used almost 2 for this pie), arrange them on top of the pastry cream so that they sit shoulder to shoulder and then top with lightly sweetened, whipped heavy cream. Stash in the fridge for a few hours prior to eating.

So, now for the links:

I hope to be able to make a better commitment to this baking group, and it shouldn't be too difficult since sourdough starter is always plentiful around my house!