I feel like I say this a lot, especially when it comes to cheese: I've been meaning to talk about something for a long time. This
time, it's about a certain cheesy pie crust, which can instantly enhance any savory hand pie, turnover, meat pie, galette, or rustic vegetable tart. I've even been tempted to use it in a sweet application. It's just that good.
Following is a recipe for this flakiest of pastry doughs — I think the additional fat from the cheese aids in this. Get the tips on how to ensure the most tender and flaky crust, what not to do when you're making this dough, and what kinds of dishes you can create using this recipe as a base.
The only qualm you'll have over this dough is that you didn't discover it sooner. Sorry about that. If you're married to your pâte brisée or basic pie dough recipe, there really may be no better recipe to take a chance on than this one. Punched up by a hefty hit of Parmesan, there's not much else that I'd feel as confident getting behind.
Those salty-nutty-cheesy notes from the crust compliment just about any savory dish. And I'm pretty sure I mentioned the flakiness, too, but just to reiterate: it's kinda perfect, this recipe, it really is. If you've never attempted making pie dough from scratch, try this one. And soon.
Some ideas to get you started: Try it with savory hand pies, like these Pork and Guinness Hand Pies, or this Meat Pie with Artichokes, Cipollini and Mushroom Tart or even this Shallot Tart Tatin.
The recipe comes from Martha Stewart's Pies & Tarts book, and the dough forms the base for a Cherry Tomato, Bocconcini, and Zucchini Pie, baked in a deep-dish pie plate.
• Find the book: Martha Stewart's New Pies and Tarts: 150 Recipes for Old-Fashioned and Modern Favorites, $16.49 at Amazon
If you want to be free-form about it, make a galette. That's what I did, which turned out to be as tasty as can be, with slow-roasted tomato slices, mozzarella, and fresh thyme. Ideas for successful fillings or toppings are pretty endless. Try using vegetables tossed in olive oil and salt and then spread into the crust (good picks would be fennel, sweet onions, fresh corn, butternut squash, or even cauliflower), in conjunction with a cheese (try manchego, fontina, fresh ricotta, burrata, or gruyere), or maybe a meat (sopressata, fresh sausage, or bacon).
Look at the captions on the pictures above for some tips when making the dough. Some other things to keep in mind:
- Don't over-process your dough, especially after you begin to add the ice water. Doing so develops the gluten in the flour, which leads to a tough, very unflaky, crust.
- Try other cheeses in the dough! Aged pecorino, manchego, Piave, or Grana Padano would all be great choices, but don't go for anything too melty, like Comte or cheddar.
- When rolling your dough, try your best not to incorporate excess flour. Use just enough to ease your dough into shape, flouring as necessary underneath and on the top of your dough round, rather than onto your rolling pin itself. Keep a dry pastry brush at the ready to brush off clumps of flour as you roll, and chill the dough at any point if it becomes too soft.
- Chill your dough before baking! After assembling your tart, galette, or pie, chill it until firm in the freezer or refrigerator. Then bake it hot, at 400 degrees, until it starts to color. Turn down your oven to 375 if the crust begins to brown too much, and bake to completion.
- Before baking, brush your crust with 1 egg yolk plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream, for a pretty sheen.
Gather your dough into a disc in a large piece of plastic. It'll still be quite crumbly but should come together pretty easily. Don't overwork your dough here.
Savory Cheese Pie Crust
From Martha Stewart's Pies & Tarts
Makes enough for eight 4-inch double-crust pies or one 10-inch pie
2 1/4 cups all-pupose flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon coarse salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 large egg yolk, plus 1 large egg yolk for egg wash
1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water
1 tablespoon heavy cream, for egg wash
Pulse flour, cheese, salt, and butter in a food processor until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add 1 egg yolk; pulse to combine. Drizzle in 1/4 cup more water, and pulse until dough just comes together. (If dough is still crumbly, add up to 1/4 cup more water, 1 tablespoon at a time.) Form dough into a disk, and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate or freeze until firm, about 30 minutes.
Nora Singley is an avid lover of cheese, and used to be a cheesemonger and the Director of Education at Murray's Cheese Shop in New York City, where she continues to teach cheese classes for the public. She is currently a TV Chef on The Martha Stewart Show.
Related: Quick Family Meals: Savory Pies
(Images: Nora Singley. Recipe reprinted from Martha Stewart's New Pies and Tarts: 150 Recipes for Old-Fashioned and Modern Favorites)