Coconut oil is a type of vegetable oil made from pressing the natural oil out of coconut meat. It is becoming more and more popular, and is now more widely available than ever before. Like any fat, it has many culinary uses, but because it is a solid a room temperature, it is popular for bakers looking for an alternative to regular vegetable shortening in recipes. One especially popular use for it is in pie crust because the coconut oil can be cut in to a flour mixture to produce a flaky crust.
This Coconut Oil Pie Crust uses pure coconut oil instead of butter or shortening. The coconut oil is a soft solid when it is at room temperature, so it can be cut in to flour easily using your fingertips or with the aid of a food processor. It is important that the oil be at the right temperature (around 70F or so), however, because it will become very hard when it is cold and can start to separate if it is too warm. The finished crust is very tender, similar to a shortening crust in texture, and browns beautifully in the oven. The coconut oil has a definite coconut smell and slight flavor to it when it is uncooked. In the baked crust, you might pick up the tininest hint of coconut if you are eating the top edge of the pie crust by itself (but it is very subtle), but you won’t pick up any coconut in the rest of your pie because any trace of flavor that is left after baking is overshadowed by any pie filling.
The most difficult part of working with coconut oil in a pie crust is rolling out the dough after it is prepared. This is because the coconut oil is very hard when it is cold – so hard that it can be difficult to roll out, as the fat would rather adhere to a work surface or the rolling pin than stay inside of the dough. Pie dough needs to rest in the refrigerator before rolling to allow the gluten in the dough to relax, so you must resist the temptation to skip chilling the dough. The cold coconut oil will warm up more slowly than butter or shortening, so you just need to let your dough warm up more than you normally would before rolling it out and work carefully when you do. You’ll probably also want to use a little extra flour to keep the coconut oil to sticking to things as you work.
In the end, coconut oil produces a great crust and can definitely be a good alternative to butter or shortening the next time you are ready to bake a pie.
Coconut Oil Pie Crust
Makes enough for one 9-inch pie. Recipe can be doubled for a double crust.
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup coconut oil, room temperature
4-7 tbsp water, cold
Whisk together flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Rub in coconut oil with your fingertips or a pastry blender, pressing it into the flour mixture and breaking it up, until mixture resemble very coarse sand and no pieces larger than a pea remain.
Using a fork, stir in cold water until dough almost comes together into a ball. Add water gradually, a tablespoon or two at a time. Press dough into a ball with your hands and wrap in plastic.
Chill for at least 60 minutes before using.
Makes crust for one 9-inch pie.