Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Mushroom-Cashew Pies

Cloudy skies.  Highs in the 60s.  Purchased $9 worth of shortening today.  Let the holiday baking season commence (it's a very long season)!

Pies about to go into the oven!
I've been planning for a long time to make these pies, and if the end of summer is about anything, it's about avoiding your work getting to the recipes on the list on your whiteboard.  I've had a similar thing several times up at trails cafe in Griffith Park (the cafe that was also the inspiration for the lemon lavender cookie).  It's an incredibly rich, savory little thing--the kind of thing you might feel guilty about eating if you hadn't hiked up to the cafe in the first place.

For the filling, I actually followed the recipe from the filling in Walnut- and Mushroom-Stuffed Tomatoes quite closely, but I used cashews instead of walnuts, and I added some nutritional yeast (in some of the pies) at a later step.

I must confess that the filling was made after I got home from a night out... the measurements might be a bit off, but I don't think you can really go wrong; you just risk not having enough filling.

To go with the pies, I also made a huge delicious vat of Mushroom Gravy.  But I've since decided that it might be mushroom overkill to pair this with the pies.  Perhaps.  But do you know what mushroom gravy goes absolutely amazingly with?  Oats and rice sausage.

So.  The filling is delicious; the crust is slightly lethal (but also delicious)--so you could easily use the stuffing (with or without gravy) on its own or stuffed in veggies.


But oh, this crust.  I'd been wanting to try this recipe for Flaky Vodka Pie Crust for months, ever since my friend Starskee brought it to my attention.  In the process of preparing it, I learned an important fact:

**vegan shortening is real!**

I'd just assumed that you either a) used earth balance even though it is too soft to be called "shortening," or b) used a hydrogenated oldschool thing like Crisco.  Much to my surprise, there are several other options!  First off, coconut oil, which is solid at room temperature and even looks like Crisco.  Secondly, there are several commercial but nonhydrogenated and minimally processed vegan shortenings: Spectrum makes one entirely out of palm oil, and Earth Balance makes one out of nothing but a blend of palm, soybean, canola, and olive oils.  Of course, there's a double bind when it comes to minimally-processed processed foods: why don't I just buy the oils myself?  For this first run, though, I went with the Earth Balance shortening, and I think it yielded very good results.  And at $3.99 for 4 short sticks, it was an easier decision than a big jar of coconut oil.

This crust is very good.  You can read the original recipe for more info about the amazingness of using vodka.  Although it all makes sense, given vodka's lower freezing point and not-being-water, I'm not sure that the end result was all that different.  I still found the dough a little bit challenging to work with.  I think that it's actually the very large amount of shortening that makes this crust so delectable.

But.  If the thought of 23 g of fat in just one serving (1/8 recipe) of crust freaks you out, or if you're feeling cheap or lazy, you could definitely use my standby recipe for Basic Oil Pie Crust--it's still plenty rich, but it has . . . um . . . half the fat of this recipe.

In assembling the pies, I followed the lead of Manifest Vegan's recent post on turnovers.  I baked them more or less completely, but I froze most of them for later.  I'll thaw them as needed and then reheat them in the oven/toaster oven at a lower temperature.  Like Hot Pockets, but way sexier.  I might also freeze some of the gravy in those little 1/2-c glad tupperware cups--perfect also for servings of pesto, chutney, or tomato paste.

Filling for Mushroom-Cashew Pie
olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 pkgs mushrooms (I used crimini), minced
thyme, dried
fresh parsley, minced
fresh sage (not too much--this stuff is potent!), minced
1 c cashews, chopped
nutritional yeast (optional)
1 recipe pie crust (flaky vodka crust recipe follows; basic oil crust would also work)

1. Heat oil in a large skillet.  Saute onion several minutes, then add garlic, then add mushrooms and saute until everything is soft and juicy.  Add a bit of tamari, and stir in thyme, parsley, sage, and cashews.  Turn off the heat; set aside to cool.
2. Preheat oven to 400*.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
3. On a floured surface, roll out the pie crust dough until less than 1/4-in thick.  Cut dough into 6-in rounds.
4. On each round, place a little half-moon of filling, leaving a generous margin (see photo).  If desired, sprinkle a spoonful of nutritional yeast over the filling.  Fold crust over and seal the semi-circle by pressing gently around the edges first with fingers, then with fork tines.  Also poke the pies in the middle a few times with a fork.
5. Place pies on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.  Bake for about 30 minutes, or until tops of pies begin to brown.  Makes about 8 pies.


For the flaky vodka pie crust, I changed only a few things: I used some whole wheat as well as white flour, which tends to suck up more liquid, and I halved the sugar.

Finished product: Mushroom-Cashew Pie in Flaky Vodka Crust
Flaky Vodka Pie Crust
(adapted from

1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 c whole wheat flour (whole wheat pastry flour would be better)
1 TB sugar
1 tsp salt
3/4 c cold margarine, cut into 1/4-in cubes
1/2 c (1 short stick) cold vegetable shortening, cut into small cubes
1/4 c cold water
1/4 c cold vodka

1. In a large mixing bowl whisk together the flour, sugar and salt. Using a fork or pastry blender, cut the margarine and shortening into the flour until mixture resembles coarse sand. Take extra caution that you don't over mix.
2. Drizzle half of the chilled water and vodka over the mixture then gently toss using your fingers. Drizzle the other half in and toss again. Now use the open palm of your hand to press down the dough to compress it. Break up the dough with your fingers and compress it again. Cut the dough in half inside the bowl with a spatula.
3. Wrap each piece of dough in plastic wrap, compress it to a 4 inch disc and chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour. This dough can be kept in the freezer for up to 6 months for later use.   Makes enough for a top and bottom crust, or for 8-9 turnovers.

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