Saturday, February 24, 2007

It's All In the Crust

We are enjoying typical northern California weather; cool, wet, and windy. Somehow that sort of combination makes me want to bake, but something savory instead of sweet.

Last fall, when our late tomatoes were finally ripe, I baked a pie with pesto and tomatoes. The recipe was created by the author of FarmgirlFare. Today I remembered how great that pie was, but knew that the chance of finding good tomatoes in February here is almost nil, so I changed just about everything but the crust and created a savory spinach and bacon pie.

Just remember, though, the reason that this pie is so wonderful really is the crust. There IS also savory, succulent spinach, scented and flavored with onion and mushrooms, crisp bacon and it's fairly dripping with melted cheese, but the crust is still the star in my mind. It is sort of a biscuit dough. If you look at the photo of it in the pan, you can see how it browns nicely both where it meets the pan sides and on the top of the crust. The Parmesan cheese gives it a nice tang, too.

We found out sort of late that we were having another guest, so I made the pie in a 10 inch pan, but didn't increase the filling amounts. Not a great idea. The pie tasted great and did, indeed, feed all of us, but it looked a little thin and the crust looked a little too thick around the edges. It should work just fine in the 9 inch pan.

Since crust on top is one of the hallmarks of entries to this month's Waiter, There's Something in My...Pie, this works perfectly. Bake it up, cut a wedge, pour some red wine and sit back and enjoy whatever weather Mama Nature throws at you. Don't forget to go to Cooksister to check out all the great pies once you've eaten. Might find some dessert.

Savory Spinach Pie
Created by Elle based on a pie found at the blog

Makes One 9-Inch Pie

For The Sauteed Mushroom Mixture:
1-10 oz. package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, well drained
½ medium onion, diced fine
1 cup sliced mushrooms
¼ teaspoon dried thyme

In sautee pan, over medium-high heat, cook the onion and mushrooms in a small amount of olive oil until the onions are transluscent and lightly browned, about 4-5 minutes. Watch so that they don’t burn. Add the spinach and thyme and salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine well. Set aside to cool slightly while you make the crust.

For The Crust:
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder (make sure it's fresh!)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick/ 4 ounces) cold butter
1 cup (about 2-1/2 ounces) finely grated pecorino romano (or other hard cheese)
3/4 cup milk

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Mix in the butter using a pastry blender, fork, or your fingers until the largest pieces are pea-size. Stir in the pecorino romano. Pour in the milk and use a fork to gently form a soft dough. Do not overmix. Divide the dough in two pieces, making one slightly larger than the other.

On a generously floured surface, use a rolling pin to gently roll out the larger piece of dough into a circle about 12 inches across, rolling from the center outward. Sprinkle dough with flour if sticky. Gently fold the dough in half and transfer into a 9-inch pie pan. If the dough tears, simply press it back together with your fingers. Roll out the remaining piece of dough into a slightly smaller circle and set aside (or wait until you have the filling in the pan and then roll it out).

Assembling The Pie:
Sauteed mushroom mixture
6 slices bacon, cooked, drained and crumbled
6 ounces mozzarella, grated, mixed with 2 oz. sharp cheddar, grated

Using a spoon, spread ½ the mushroom mixture over the bottom layer of dough in the pie pan. Layer about half of the bacon over that. Cover the bacon with about 2/3 of the mozzarella- cheddar combination. Layer on the rest of the mushroom mixture (you may not need all of it to fill the pan – the rest would make a great omlette filling). Carefully sprinkle the remaining bacon over the mushroom mixture. Cover with the remaining mozzarella- cheddar mixture.
Roll out the second piece of dough if you haven't already, and carefully place it over the pie. Seal the top and bottom by brushing some water over the outer edge of the bottom crust, then pressing down on the top crust along that edge. Then trim the bottom crust mostly even with the top.

Fold the edge of the bottom piece over the top piece and press together to seal. Use your fingers to make a crimped design around the edge. If any dough falls apart, simply press it back together with your fingers. Don't worry if it isn't perfect. The handmade look has much more charm. Cut four slits in the top of the pie for steam to escape. Bake at 375 degrees F in the center of the oven until the crust is golden brown, about 40 minutes. Cover the edge with foil if it starts to brown too quickly.

Let cool on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes before serving. Crust edges may be sampled much sooner. (As with nearly any pie, if you cut into it while it is still warm, some juice will seep out. If you plan to store any leftover pie right in the pan, simply drain off the juice so the bottom crust doesn't become soggy.) Or cool pie completely, cover, and refrigerate.

This pie also freezes beautifully.


  1. Anonymous11:28 PM

    We had pie tonight too. I agree that it's perfect for this rainy night in the Bay Area.

  2. Yum! Looks delicious!

  3. wow this looks challenging. i wish i'd come across it before the close of the weekend -- ill have to save the recipe for next weekend! thanks for posting the recipe :)

  4. mary, love pie and the bay area both. thanks for stopping by.

    freya, it is, it is...try it.

    linda, it's actually pretty simple if you break it down. three parts, each fairly easy. let me know if you like it, ok?

  5. Anonymous6:44 AM

    you are right it's in the crust, but its hard to ignore the bacon and mozarella too :)!

  6. Anonymous10:38 AM

    Looks awesome! I bet that would make a good leftover as well.

  7. Anonymous7:31 PM

    That look amazing! Delicious!

  8. Anonymous9:00 PM

    veron, glad you comment was a bit tongue in cheek... the crust is great, but that gooey cheese is yum & who can hate bacon, right?

    sandi, it DID make great leftovers. had the last piece for lunch yesterday. different texture, but still good.

    kristen, right you are...very delish.

  9. This looks really good! And your descriptions made my mouth water!

  10. Bacon, spinach, cheese & mushroom - there can't be many happier combos that that!! In fact, this sounds like ma favourite pizza topping for many years ;-) And it's probably STILL my favourite panini filling... Your pie looks and sounds absolutely glorious - both crust and filling. Thanks for joining WTSIM!