The Dish on Pie
Try these tricks for lightening up the classic holiday dessert.
By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
Pumpkin, berry, lemon meringue, caramel apple, chocolate cream ... these are all my favorite pies. Most everyone has at least one favorite pie (some of us have five). Many of us have fond memories of eating our mother's (or grandmother's) home-baked pies. If you're really lucky, you have memories of making pies with your mother or grandmother.
And nothing says "pie" like Thanksgiving and the holiday season that follows. Of course, all those holiday delights can really pack on the calories. But there are some foolproof ways to lighten almost every pie, from top to bottom. This way, you can get your pie fix, but with fewer calories and fat grams. And sometimes, these tricks help you work in more fiber and nutrients to boot.
Baking a lighter pie is as easy as 1-2-3. We'll start with the crust and work our way up.
Tips for Lighter Piecrust
You know that nice, flaky piecrust you love so much? It's flaky because of the particles of fat layered in between particles of wheat flour. Some recipes call for shortening and some use butter. The one my mom always made called for vegetable oil.
With health in mind, you have a few options when it comes to piecrust:
One more note about crust: Maybe it's the "cutting in" of the fat, maybe it's all that rolling you have to do to get the dough just right, but for some reason I loathe making pie crust.
I've been playing with my mom's awesome oil piecrust recipe to try to boost the fiber and take the amount of oil down as far as possible. Check out the results in the recipe below. It tastes so good that I've found myself eating the raw dough straight from the bowl -- always a good sign.
Keep in mind, though, that since the crust is part whole wheat and lower in fat, it boasts a brown color and a slightly tougher texture than your typical crust. I really like it, though. I especially like that I can pat the dough straight into the pan, no rolling required!
Tips for the Pie Filling
Pie fillings range from tart (lemon or Key lime) to fruity (apple, berries, etc.) to nutty (pecan) to creamy (chocolate cream) to veggie-like (pumpkin and sweet potato).
When you're trying to lighten pie filling, you've got two things to look out for: sugar and fat.
Many pie filling recipes call for a cup of sugar. That adds up to about 100 calories per serving, just from the sugar in your filling! You can cut the sugar calories in half either by using half the sugar the recipe calls for (this usually works well in a fruit filling) or by substituting Splenda for half the sugar.
Then there's butter. One sweet potato pie recipe I looked at called for 1/2 cup of butter. That's a tablespoon per serving, adding about 100 calories and 12 grams of fat per serving -- and that doesn't even include the crust!
You can usually trim the butter in fillings to 2 tablespoons, then add in a few tablespoons of orange juice, rum, or even maple syrup (especially if you've cut the sugar in half). Some fruit pie recipes don't include butter in the filling, but call for dotting the top of the filling with butter. This is, in a word, unnecessary. Don't dot, and save yourself the fuss and calories.