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I was making a pie the other day -- a mock apple pie*, to be exact, which is unusual enough. But I came up short on butter and don't keep any shortening stocked in my kitchen. Desperate, I searched online for any substitutes, including olive oil, and found a small number of hits and recipes.

I ended up erring on the safe side and just made a brown sugar crumble topping, but I've been curious about an olive oil crust ever since. Has anyone attempted it? What are some of the differences between olive oil and butter or shortening? What would be the result of using a combination of all the fats?

*Mock Apple Pie uses no apples, and is a carboholic's dream. It was for a themed party and I don't intend to make it often. But it's quite a fun surprise to try out on unsuspecting guests at least once!

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3 Answers 3

Hot-water or raised-pie doughs, I have had success with olive oil.

With your average apple-pie crust (mock or not), the consistency seems to be more fragile in rolling out and shaping: got better results by pressing the dough directly into pan after sprinkling in rather streusel size pieces, if you can picture that.

Advantage there is that the dough need not come completely together first and can be played with in the pan until even thickness whereas kneading folding and re-rolling can easily lead to toughness.

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The trick to incorporating olive oil into your crust is to freeze it first until it's opaque and congealed, "like the consistency of slightly melted sorbet." From the recipe for an olive oil double crust; it has a "surprisingly neutral taste... [and by freezing it] helps the fat blend into the dough in little pockets, creating the flakiness you crave (Moskowitz, Vegan Pie in the Sky p. 39)"

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+1 Freezing sounds like a great solution. –  Caleb Apr 3 '12 at 2:32
That does sound like a great tip! Thank you. I'm not sure about the neutral taste though...olive oil has a pretty strong flavor IMO, but I usually use grapeseed oil for a neutral flavor anyways. –  TheSpatulaQueen Apr 4 '12 at 2:53
@TheSpatulaQueen thats what I thought as well, but that's directly quoted from the book, and I have made it with the Boston Cream Pie recipe and it was great. Like she said; ...surprisingly neutral. It probably amounts to a combination of the heat cooking away the taste as it goes from a gel state to 350'F, as well as the flour masking the taste –  mfg Apr 4 '12 at 20:27

I don't think any sort of oil would work at all for a flaky pâte brisée type of flaky pastry crust. Those kinds of pastry rely on having layers of solid fat separated by dough. As the pastry cooks, the fat melts into the dough but leaves the distinct flakes. Oil might be useful in other types of crust, such as some sort of crumb crust.

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I don't see why the melting would be a problem. The only thing you have to do is to ensure that some dough builds. After all, you can make a good crust with melted butter. But what I would find problematic is the softness of the dough, it is very hard to work with. –  rumtscho Apr 2 '12 at 8:26
I agree with @caleb, most pastries get their flakiness and fluff from the shortening layers in the pastry melting as it bakes, not before. Some chefs will use multiple types of shortening, each with its own different melting point, in one crust. This adds an especially delicate texture. Often the dry ingredients are chilled beforehand also, to promote the layering process. –  Derrick Boudwin Apr 8 '12 at 4:51

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