The holiday season and onset of Southern hemisphere summer snuck up on us really quickly (and it’s so hard for us to feel in the holiday spirit when it’s hot and sunny every day). Then we moved to a new place, and Pretty Boy and I were both super busy at work. I will get back to posting about Japan, Cairns, our Halloween party, and our move eventually. But in this post, I want to get back to my roots, to what I started this blog to talk about: pie!
Of course, I’ve been making pie here in Australia. Australia has its own pie culture, passed down from the British, but its predominately savory pie. The most common pie shapes I’ve seen are single-serving, cupcake size pies from a commercial bakery or casseroles with a single layer of crust on the top at home. Pretty far from American fruit or custard pie. And the crust is different. Sometimes it’s like puff pastry, sometimes it’s biscuit or short crust. So both American-style pastry crust and American-style fruit and custard pies are rather a novelty here. I’ve been in Australia for over 10 months now, and I’ve finally worked out how to make my American-style pastry crust with Australian ingredients and ovens.
It’s been a challenge. The butter here is different. The measuring cups are different. The measuring spoons are different. The ovens are different. It’s no wonder my crust was different when I first started to make it here! I swear by crust made in a food processor, and I’m fortunate to have my trusty, work-horse of a Cuisinart 7-cup food processor with me to make crust. So the process and methodology are the same, but getting the recipe right has taken some experimentation.
The most recent attempt—pumpkin pie for Halloween—produced very strange results. Before I added the pumpkin custard, as the crust was pre-baking, I observed puddles of melted butter sitting on top of the crust. And then when we were eating the pie, the crust really stuck to the pie pan. I’ve never seen either of those things happen before in all my pie baking and eating experience. The crust also took exceptionally long to brown, so I left it in the oven much longer than I normally would have, hoping for browning and dissipation of the butter puddles. I achieved browning but the puddles remained. They did eventually get sucked back into the crust after it was removed from the oven and allowed to cool, but the final result was really crunchy almost hard (from the prolonged baking), very flakey (from the excess butter), but not tender.
So I’ve been adjusting. First the butter. Butter puddles were an obvious sign that there was too much fat. The water content of the butter here is lower, and unsalted butter is hard to find and more expensive. It’s also measured in grams. So I needed to adjust for that. I’ve heard Irish butter, which is available in the US, also has low moisture content. To adjust for the lower moisture content, which really means higher fat content, I’ve added more flour and water to get the right fat-flour-water ratio. But measuring cups and spoons are different here so I’ve tried to adjust for that too.
Australian cups are slightly bigger than US cups—250 mL compared to 236 mL or 8.5 fluid oz compared to 8 fluid oz. Australian tablespoons are also sometimes bigger—15 or 20 mL here compared to 14.8 (0.5 fluid oz) or 15 mL (both seem available in the US). They call all-purpose flour plain flour here, but the internet has assured me they are the same thing. Because the butter’s already salted, I tried to reduce the amount of added salt, but it’s hard to tell if I actually did since this recipe yields a little more dough than my previous recipe and there’s more salt from the butter. But I have a suspicion that the salt here tastes less salty when added to food and salt is good in pie crust, so I often err on the side of a little more salt. 1 teaspoon seems to work out pretty tasty. Fan-forced ovens cooking and dry things out faster. Not the best for baking, but I usually start covered pie or plain crust at 210°C fan-forced and finish covered pie at 180°C.
I made pie crust this way last week and put it on top of a pot pie casserole as well as a fruit casserole. Pretty Boy took one bite and got super excited, saying, “This tastes like your pie crust!” I’m calling it a success. The summer fruit season here is in full swing, and I’m continually overwhelmed by the amount and quality of fresh, seasonal produce available (Christmas mangos are a thing here. And OMG, the mangos!). While some fruit is destined for pies, most needs no alterations and just gets eaten on its own. Also, it gets terribly hot some days, just too hot to turn the oven on. But anyway, here it is, my pie crust recipe in Australia:
Australian Pie Crust
yields enough for one double crusted pie or two single crusts
- 2 ½ cups plain flour
- 1 tbsp granulated sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 215 g butter, cut into small cubes and well chilled
- 1 cup ice cold water
- 1 tbsp white vinegar
Method for making the pie crust is the same as my previous recipe:
- Place flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor. Pulse until combined (about three quick pulses).
- Add butter and pulse until its cut to the size of peas (also about three quick pulses).
- Combine water and vinegar together. I used to use a pastry blender to mix in the water into the flour, but I don’t have a pastry blender here so I use the food processor for that step too. Pour water mixture into the processor, and pulse to barely combine (about three quick pulses).
- Dump the dough into a large bowl. There will be a lot of dry flour still. Kneed a few times (as few as possible), until dough is mostly together.
- Divide dough in two, press into balls, form balls into disks, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm.