While pie crust is far from boring (cut-outs! lattice!), its flavor has mostly played second fiddle to that of the filling. That is, until Ashley Capps, pastry chef at Buxton Hall Barbecue, blew our minds. She adds flavorings to her pie dough that back up the fillings. The way Capps uses ground ginger and black pepper in a crust to bring out the different tones of a hot toddy pie? Flavor on flavor on serious flavor.
Inspired by this revelation, senior associate food editor Claire Saffitz decided to put together a few combinations and tips to make a flavored pie crust.
Rules of the Game
When it comes to flavored pie crust, less is more. Ideally, the flavoring of the crust serves to enhance the flavor of the filling, not compete with it. To avoid clashing flavors, use only a hint of herbs, spices, extracts, and zests (unless the filling is on the simple side, in which case a more vibrant crust is understandable).
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Claire suggests pairing “citrus zest with fruit pies, warm spices with custard pies, and vanilla with just about anything.”
Liquid flavoring like fruit juices are not recommended—they add more moisture and can potentially cause tough crusts. The exceptions are extracts like almond or orange blossom water; they’re very concentrated and thus add little moisture relative to the flavor they impart. So we suggest dry additions over wet—for instance, if you’re searching for a lemony bite, use the zest rather than the juice of the fruit.
Here’s a rundown of flavors to demonstrate what pairs well with each other, just to get you started:
•¼ tsp. ground allspice + ½ tsp. orange blossom water in crust —> pumpkin or sweet potato pie filling
•1 tsp. poppyseeds + 1 tsp. thyme leaves in crust —> lemon meringue pie filling
•¼ tsp. ground anise + seeds from ½ vanilla pod —> apple pie filling
•1 tsp. finely chopped rosemary + 1 tsp. finely grated orange zest —> apple pie filling
•1 tsp. poppyseeds + 1 tsp. thyme leaves —> chocolate pie filling
•½ tsp. almond extract + 1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest in crust —> chess or other custard pie filling