Avocado Crust, First Attempt

pie

I love making pies. Anything in the bread family, really. I love the tactile kneading of it, and I seem to have the right sense of what feels right or not — as so much of it is not a science as much as a touchy-feely thing.

But a bit over a year ago, my girlfriend and I went vegan (for ethical reasons), and baking without butter has withered my interest (which includes 99% of the margarines — as we avoid palm oil as part of that). I made a few pies after that, usually using coconut oil, and then I stopped. It didn’t excite me in texture, taste, or handling.

Which leads us to a recent trip that my girlfriend and I took down to Saratoga Springs, where we bought an avocado. It looked perfect: deep green and slightly soft and good smelling, we felt we had to get it. But sometimes an avocado can sit in the fruit basket waiting for someone to do something with it, but like a neglected child — it will eventually go bad.

Watching the little fruit patiently sit, I had the good fortune of remembering reading somewhere that you could substitute avocado for butter in a 1:1 ratio. Makes perfect sense. It’s fatty and smooth in texture. Baked goods are generally eaten at room temperature or slightly warmer, and a blended avocado has about the same softness as butter when butter is at that temperature.

So I tried it. And first let me tell you the bad news (I always eat my cake and THEN the frosting, because the frosting is what I want to remember). The resulting crust was tough. Not quite as tough as say… chewing leather, but tough. I attribute PART of that to the fact that we only had ONE avocado, so I could only make a half recipe — and then rolled it so thin it still gave me both a top and bottom crust. But also I know part of it is simply the avocado. How will I fix it? I’m not sure, but next time I think I’ll put in unseasoned crushed bread crumbs, which may break it up and make it seem more “flakey.”

The PLUS sides are two-fold. First is that the crust held together REALLY well, even when rolled super-thin. The second, and more important is this: it tasted great. It was an apple pie and the crust totally complimented the apples. I wasn’t sure what to think at first, and then I finished eating the whole damn pie in about a day.

I am excited about baking again.

I was also excited about the apples. It is near impossible to find McIntosh apples on the west coast (which until this moment I’ve always incorrectly spelled “Macintosh” like the computer). They are lovely, a little sweet but also slightly tart almost like a crabapple, which works well with lots of sugar (similar principal to that beloved stalk the rhubarb). My father gave us a bag as a housewarming gift when he and my gram visited, and after eating a few, they sat. Like the avocado, I saved them right when they were on the edge. A few of the apples, and a spot here and there, were beyond redemption — but the others hadn’t turned mealy or really gone wrong. I cored and sliced the whole bag, which ended up the perfect amount.

So, on to the recipe!

My old recipe was this:

  • 1.75 sticks butter
  • 2 cups flour
  • cold water (until it holds together)

I had only ONE avocado, which measured just under 1/2 cup. Here’s the proportions I used:

  • 1 avocado (well blended)
  • 1 cup flour
  • cold water (until it holds together)

avocado

So yes, I would suggest doubling that (unless you’re not making a top crust). Roll it to a pie-sized circle, fold it in half and in half again (which makes it easy to move it to the pie plate). Throw in the filling. Cut some slits on the top crust and put that on, and bake at 425 for 35 minutes (make sure there is something to catch bubbling filling overflow, or you may have a very sad oven).

I was very relaxed about making the filling. But for your enjoyment, it was something along the lines of:

Mix this stuff:

  • Enough McIntosh apples to fill the pie
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup evaporated cane juice sugar
  • just under a tsp of cinnamon
  • 1 to 2 tbsps cornstarch

(p.s. apologies for poor quality pictures, my camera is broken and have not had a chance to replace it yet)

12 comments to Avocado Crust, First Attempt

  • War Pig

    New one on me. Never thought of using avocado v. butter. We get our butter at the Amish store from well-treated cows which walk about all day. You know you can make your own with heavy cream, yes? Or is that also unethical to you since it is still cow stuff?

    There is another possibility. It is called Shedd’s Willow Run Soybean Margarine. Here are the ingredients:

    “Guaranteed all vegetable. Contains 2.5 g saturated fat/11g total fat per serving. An important part of your lifestyle! With 100% soybean oil, no artificial preservatives, no artificial flavorings, guaranteed all vegetable, lactose free (with soybean milk instead of cows milk). Willow Run Marg.: 11g fat, 100 cal., 0mg chol. per serving.

    Ingredients

    Liquid Soybean Oil and Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil (80%), Salt (2.6%). Contains Less than 2% of the Following: Soybean Flour, Soy Lecithin, Beta Carotene (Color), Vitamin A (Palmitate).
    Directions

    Keep refrigerated. ”

    As to where to buy it, I dunno. My daughter used it in her vegan phase. She got it through a vegan connection of some sort.

    As for your dough being tough. Well, try putting some vodka in the crust in place of some of the ice water. The alcohol stops excessive gluten formation from your rolling it so thin (overworking).

    Personally I use Granny Smith apples in baking recipes. Or a Granny Smith/Golden Delicious mix.

    That’s a very inventive substitute, the avocado. I applaud you. One I definitely would not have thought up on my own.

  • Hey @War_Pig, I haven’t tried Willow Run. We recently found one margerine locally “Hannaford” brand which didn’t have palm. I can’t say I love the taste, and I generally try to avoid hydrogenated stuff. I know, picky, right? But if I’m not going to bake amazing stuff, I have little interest in baking. That said, I’ll keep an eye out for Willow Run and give it a try!

    Granny Smith’s are excellent. I may be biased by my New England upbringing, but McIntosh’s will always be my thing. :)

    I used to use vodka occasionally for butter crusts, although I found it really unnecessary. But in this case, not a bad idea. A friend also recommended adding some oil because avocados don’t have as much fat as butter.

    Needless to say, I have bought two more avocados, and will have time early next week to try them out (and they’ll be ripe enough to be tried).

    I don’t want to use cookrookery as a soapbox, we all gotta live the life we gotta live, but I will answer questions. Maltreatment is definitely an issue in the larger dairy industry, but as you said, can be got around. The other main issues are forced pregnancy, generally not letting calves have any of mom’s milk, and what is done with the boy calves — the dairy industry is essentially the veal/meat industry. That said, the Amish are pretty awesome.

  • Muzhik

    I wanted to mention to make sure your margarine doesn’t use any GMO soy.

    Second, I second the vodka approach. I have a bottle in the fridge dedicated solely to baking pie crusts.

    Third, I’m not sure about using the Golden Delicious. The ones we get around here can turn mealy when baked in a pie. YMMV.

    Fourth, how ripe do your avocados need to be? My concern there is if, like most tomatoes, the avocados are picked when they’re still not ripe and allowed to ripen in some warehouse in an undisclosed location. Since I don’t have a food processor (just one more thing that has to be stored, needs to be washed and is hard to clean), I’m thinking I would just coarsely chop the avocado, throw it in a bowl, and hit it with the hand blender set on high. Or not, if I can’t get them to the right stage of ripeness.

    (I should point out that fresh avocados are not usually an issue where I live. Iowa is known far and wide for its magnificent fields of avocados stretching to the horizon. Which reminds me: I have an uncle who asked me to sell his farm for him. Very reasonably priced, certified checks only, and I’ll be sure to send you the farm within two weeks of getting payment.)

    BTW, I agree re: the Amish — we have a lot them living in our neck of the woods.

  • Vodka. Okay. I will be drunk with the baking.

    Avocados, I would say “pretty ripe.” You need them soft enough to blend well. If not in an area where they get to ripen on the vine (which sadly I’m not either), they do ripen fine just by sitting around it seems. They’ll start to feel kinda soft. Then blend them however you can. I used a cuisnart hand blender in the comes-with-it-attached-bucket-with-blade-thingee to do mine (that’s that that little bucket thing in the photo is).

  • War Pig

    My paternal grandparents had dairy cows for many years. I used to help when young by hand milking the cows which were ill and on antibiotics. Back then, antibiotics were not allowed in milk, apparently. Their cows walked the fields and ate grass as well as grain meal with molasses added (that was what enticed them into the milking stalls). The boss cow was a massive Holstein and I’d wait by the fence for her. She always came through the gate in the middle of the herd. I’d jump on her broad back and ride her into the barn. Papaw always said I looked like an elephant mahout. My grandparents had Holsteins for volume and Guernseys and Dairy Shorthorns for increased butterfat. You were paid not only for volume, but by grade according to butterfat content back then.

    Hand milking a warm cow on a cold morning was one of the more pleasant farm chores. I’d lean into the warm flank and milk her. I’d squirt some of it toward the cats to make them dance on their hind legs. The buckets of milk from a sick cow were given to the rest of the animals as we could not sell it. I’d tip some into a tin for the barn cats, then into another bowl for the two dogs and the rest went to the hogs. The hogs would all fight and squeal as they tried to shoulder up to the trough to get some warm, fresh milk.

    Their cows were all bred naturally by the bull, named Max, if I recall correctly. He was a fine, old gentleman and I was quite safe in the stall with him. I’d hand feed him turnips and old apples which had gone soft. I got an early sex education on the farm (1950s) watching Max do his prodigious duty. Calves were allowed to nurse for I believe a few weeks, then sold. Mamaw always said a cow produced more milk if she was allowed to suckle her own calf for a bit at first. The milk went into a large vat and everything was steam cleaned. The vat chilled the milk and the milkman came twice per day on a dead-regular schedule, 7 days per week, and he would not wait for man, beast or god. He even came on Christmas Day. The milk had to be placed in steam-cleaned cans and the milk man’s helpers loaded them onto the chilled truck. They went to Cudahay’s dairy in the county where it was all pasteurized and made into drinking milk, cream, ice cream, cheese, etc. When the milk man came back he brought sterilized, empty cans and they swapped them out for the full ones.

    Old days, man. Old days.

    OBTW, for us heathens, do you think a 50/50 mix of butter and avocado may work? The flavor possibility intrigues me and I may try it. I like avocado and I like pie crust.

  • @Warpig – beautiful images. I stayed on a dairy farm a couple of times as a kid and there really is nothing like fresh milk still warm from the cow.

    @Chris – As you know, I’m not a baker (though I’m working on my first sourdough starter) but as I understand it pastry gets its flaky texture from lumps of unmelted butter (which is why all the ingredients have to be chilled so thoroughly before baking). Would avocado work the same way?

  • Muzhik

    @Chris and @Daniel, you might be interested in this pie crust recipe. It’s called the Iowa State Fair Blue-Ribbon Pie Crust:

    2 cups flour, lightly spooned into measuring cup
    1 tsp. salt
    1/2 cup canola oil
    1/4 cup milk (don’t know why you can’t substitute almond or soy milk)

    1. Mix together flour and salt.
    2. Combine oil and milk in a small bowl. Do not stir.
    3. Add oil and milk to flour.
    4. Stir it up.
    5. Form it into a ball.
    6. Divide the ball into two, one slightly larger than the other. The larger (for the bottom crust) is about 8 oz., the smaller (for the top crust) is a little more than 6 oz.
    7. Flatten the pieces into hockey pucks, place between sheets of waxed paper, and roll them out.

    Quick and easy.

  • @War_Pig, what lovely memories, thank you for sharing. And yes, the old days, I wish they were still here. Lovely.

    And I’m sure a 1/2 butter/avocado would work (which I write with more than a little envy)

    @Muhzik, Huh. Sounds too simple to be true. I must try it.

  • Muzhik

    I made it last night after posting — got a huge craving for apple pie. Found out the hard way that this recipe works great for a regular-sized pie, but if you’re using a deep-dish pie shell it might be a mite short.

  • War Pig

    @Muzhik. Make a double batch for deep dish and use the leftovers to eat, cut into strips and baked, then brush on some melted butter (if desired) and sprinkle on a little salt. Fresh pie crust is one of my favorite snacks. Pie crusts saved my dad’s life, once. He had to have a leg amputated (diabetes) and would not eat after surgery. Doctors despaired of his life, saying he had “given up”. I knew he lusted after pie crust even more than I do, so I made a massive batch (3/4 bag of flour) and took them to him in hospital in a large plastic tub. He called for milk and began eating again, and doctors had to take away the pie crusts until after he had eaten his regular food as that was all he would eat if left to his own devices. They rationed him to 4 pieces after each meal. True story.

  • Looking forward to your crusty updates, Chris. And War Pig . . . that true story is awesome.

  • War Pig

    Thanks, Matt. Dad went on to live another dozen years. It’s strange how some of the simplest things often have the greatest impact. Food and the love of it runs in all of us, I think. Generally when someone is on their way out, their appetite goes first. Another problem is keeping a chemotherapy patient well-fed. It can be a challenge, but is absolutely vital. My grandma had chemo but always kept her appetite, and was successful as a result. That is why I always say if someone is on chemo, let them eat what they want, regardless of medical advice or “proper” nutrition. If they want a lot of chocolate cake, let them have it, or meatloaf, or pie crust or butterscotch pudding or cornbread or whatever they crave. It may screw with their cholesterol or blood sugar a bit, but the alternative is they give up, quit eating, and die. And if the chemo fails and they are doomed, anyhow, why not leave happy instead of miserable? Eating poached eggs and cream of wheat? Bah! Best to go with a belly full of cornbread and beans, greasy greens, or a cheeseburger and a chocolate milkshake.