So yesterday when I made my old standby apple pie, I also baked a skilletful of pie for my vegan/lactose-intolerant friends. No butter. No hydrogenation. I've tried Earth Balance before, but found it made a rather rancid-flavored pie. I turned to my favorite dairy substitute: coconut.
I froze 1/2 c. coconut oil in a little dish, and then shaved it into a pint of (salted) flour. I added the usual amount of water (enough to make a ball), and rolled it out into a bottom crust for a #9 cast-iron skillet. Coconut oil, unfortunately, is composed of fat crystals that are all of the same size. Butter has fat crystals of lots of different sizes, which means that it softens and melts gradually. Coconut oil, on the other hand, is more like water: it's hard, or it's liquid. This makes it a capricious & wily ingredient for things like pastry dough: if it melts all the way into the dough, you have no flakes, but if it stays in hard lumps, you have a heavy pie crust with holes in it where big fat lumps used to be. The bumps should be soft enough to give when you roll out the dough. By the time I was done rolling it out, the coconut oil was definitely liquefying, leaving me with a sticky dough. I just hurried myself up and got it in the fridge again quickly as I could.
For the filling, I mixed 1/2 c. rapadura sugar, 3 T. cornstarch, the juice of half a lemon, and 6 c. chopped pears.
I topped the pie with a streusel made from 1 c. flour, 1/2 c. rapadura, 1 c. shredded coconut, and 1/2 c. coconut oil. In retrospect, the coconutty flavor disappears from the crust during the baking, so there was no need for me to develop the coconut theme any further in the streusel. I should have left out the shredded coconut.
Also, I realized too late that the ripest pears had already seduced my housemates, and I had to bake with crunchy unripe pears -- lame!
It was delicious anyhow. The crust had a rich flavor and flakes enough to satisfy me -- but didn't brown as well without those milk sugars.