Who doesn’t like pie? Fresh fruit filling baked into a crispy, flaky crust. Oh so good. I'll take pie over cake any day. I’ll eat pie over donuts. So let me ask you this: would you feel the same craving gluten free and vegan pies? Hmm...
What goes into a good pie? Filling aside, it is all about the crust. (Here is great article on the science behind pie crusts) You want distinct flaky layers that don’t get soggy from the stewed fruit. It should also have a fragrant salty-sweet flavor and crust with substance but not chew. Butter is superior to shortening but is challenging to work with at low temperatures. Shortening is easy to work with, but crusts tend to be crumbly, not flakey. Lard works at a wide range of temperatures, but it is tough to find non-porky tasting lard in the US. (Thank goodness for Waitrose and Sainsbury in the UK). But you have to throw that all out the door with vegan pastries. You have to substitute with processed fats like margarine or use coconut and olive oil which imparts a distinct flavor especially during bakes.
To be upfront, I am not a fan of gluten-free and vegan pastries. Why? First, vegan and gluten-free food tends to be more expensive. I find the global trend to extract a price premium to be absurd. If you want to encourage people to eat healthier, then make it cheaper for the masses. Don’t brand it as high-end cuisine. Moreover, why make it expensive for people who are gluten or dairy intolerant? Second, taste, if you are forcing me to pay a price premium, I certainly do not want to compromise on flavor. I find most vegan pastries to be either closed textured (dense) or worse mealy in texture. As I mentioned earlier in this post, the fat replacements also taste poorly.
Mind you, I have regularly attempted to make vegan desserts. For the most part, I fail on flavor and texture. The fats and proteins in butter and eggs not only provide a taste advantage but a structural advantage to producing pastries that can contain a hot fruit filling. So when a friend suggested I visit Petunia’s Pies and Pastries, I walked in with heavy skepticism.
Petunias is not cheap: $7.99 for a slice of pie. But I’m here. So I ordered two slices and coffee: the Double Crust Apple Pie and the Strawberry Rhubarb Pie. Tasting the Apple pie gave me pause. It was surprisingly flaky. The apples had a pleasant bite and scented with sweet cinnamon. The sauce provided the sweetness the pie didn’t have. The crust was too salty for my tastes, but hey it was good!
The strawberry rhubarb pie filling was excellent. It was wonderfully tart. I didn’t care for the crumble because it was largely flavorless. But lo and behold, the crust was also flakey!
So hats off to Petunia’s Pies and Pastries for creating hope for vegans and budding vegans around the world searching for a real pie crust with bite! Next time, it will be the cakes!
Kent is a management consultant who has spent years traveling for work. His refuge is looking for the perfect meal so that he can reproduce it at home with his wife and friends.