Look at everything you can do with pie dough scraps! Pie dough in all of its buttery, flaky glory can go from scraggly bits piled high in the corner of a floured cutting board to a beautiful, transformative treat.
So why do we throw them away? Are we scared to overwork notoriously delicate dough? Skeptical that we could make anything with such a small amount?
When you make pies for a living like I do, it's impossible not to wonder things like this at 3 a.m. Add a couple shots of espresso and you have a full-blown investigation. Who needs melatonin gummies when you have pie dough scraps to use up?
See, pie dough doesn't want to be manhandled for a couple reasons. The longer you work in a room temperature- or summer temperature-kitchen, the more the butter slivers and shards melt prematurely. Likewise, the longer you mix and fold, the more gluten develops, which is great for (chewy) bread but bad for (tender) pastry. And this is all bad news for re-working scraps.
But the silver lining is that these snags are totally avoidable if you think of pie scraps like you think of yourself at 4 p.m. on a Friday: worked to capacity and ready to relax. As soon as you have your pie dough scraps, swaddle them in plastic wrap, form into a disc, and stick the bundle in the fridge (for at least 30 minutes or up to two days) or the freezer (for up to a month). This will keep the butter in check and help the gluten loosen up. Soon enough, the dough will be ready to have some fun again. Before you work with the dough, let it sit at room temperature for 15 to 30 minutes. This will help the butter to soften, making it easier to roll out the dough without overworking it, while still ensuring that you get nice, flaky layers no matter what you're baking.
Enter these mini recipes, both sweet and savory. If you have one double-crusted pie's worth of scraps, you could also have, say, an appetizer, or snack, or dessert, or breakfast. When you reroll, shoot for 1/8- to 1/4-inch thick, but no need to get ruler-exact. Bake all of the following recipes at 375°F.
Sweet uses for pie dough scraps
If you're looking for a way to use up pie dough scraps for desserts, I have not one, not two, but five different ways. There are many applications beyond just these several recipes, though. Take the Salt and Pepper Palmiers, for example. Instead of the two most trusted seasonings in my pantry and yours, try them with jam and herbs, Nutella, or nuts and cookie butter. Staff Writer Kelly Vaughanloves to place pie dough scraps in a metal baking tin and sprinkle them with cinnamon-sugar, and bake until the dough is golden brown. Food52 Editorial Lead Margaret Eby says that her dad does something similar; he rolls up pie dough scraps sprinkled with cinnamon-sugar and calls them "pie crust cookies!" They're the perfect sweet treat to snack on in between rounds of peeling potatoes, cutting butternut squash, and forming biscuit dough for Thanksgiving dinner.
1. Salt and Pepper Palmiers
Season a scant 1/4 cup sugar to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. (Also good: cardamom, anise, or ginger.) Roll the dough into an 8-inch square, brush with melted butter, and sprinkle with all but a couple spoonfuls of the sugar. Incrementally fold the top and bottom edges inward, until they meet in the middle. Sandwich together. (Like this!) Transfer the log to the fridge and chill for about 30 minutes while you preheat the oven. Slice the log into cookies, about 3/4-inch thick. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet and sprinkle with the remaining sugar. Squash with your palm, if you'd like wider cookies. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the palmiers are deeply browned. Let cool completely before serving, preferably with pitch-black coffee.
2. Nutella Rugelach
Preheat the oven. Roll the dough into a 9-inch circle and spread on a thick layer of Nutella. Slice into 8 triangles, like a pizza (with a pizza wheel, if you have one). Roll up each triangle, like a little croissant. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet, seam side-down. Bake for about 18 minutes, until the cookies' bottoms are browned. Cool completely before serving.
3. Faux-nel Cake
Add one inch of canola oil to a small saucepan and set over medium heat until it reaches about 375° F. Meanwhile, barely mush together your dough scraps, until they form a hodgepodge web. Use a spider to carefully lower the dough into the hot oil. Fry for about 5 minutes, flipping halfway through, until the dough begins to color and crisp. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Let cool for as long as you can stand it (I lasted 4 minutes). Douse in confectioners' sugar. Eat with your hands.
4. Sandwich Cookies
Roll out the dough and cut it into circles or squares (I used a wine glass). Sprinkle with raw or regular sugar. Freeze for at least 15 minutes, until firm-this will encourage the shape to hold its own and reduce excess puffing. Meanwhile, preheat the oven. Bake for about 13 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool before sandwiching with whatever you have on hand. My favorites: lemon curd, blackberry jam, melted dark chocolate, any ice cream.
5. Topless Cream Puffs
Find a mini muffin pan, roll out the dough, and cut into circles slightly larger than the pan's cups. Gently nestle the circles into the cups. Freeze for at least 15 minutes, until firm. Meanwhile, preheat the oven. Bake for about 10 minutes, until the bottoms are browned and sturdy. Cool completely, then fill with big plops of barely sweetened whipped cream.
Your pie scraps won't look as beautiful as this dough (sorry), but here's the palmier-shaping idea. Photo by James Ransom
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Savory uses for pie dough scraps
If you're all pie-d out and can't take another dessert, there are savory ways to make use of pie scraps too! You'll meet more palmiers, but this time with ham and honey (I couldn't give up on alllll of the dessert just yet. After all, it is the holidays!). I also walk you through how to make cheese straws and crackers that may be the best you've ever tasted.
1. Ham and Honey-Dijon Palmiers
Roll the dough into an 8-inch square. Generously brush with Dijon mustard, then drizzle with honey. Sprinkle 1/2 cup thinly sliced, finely chopped ham on top. Incrementally fold the top and bottom edges inward until they meet in the middle. Sandwich together. Transfer the log to the fridge and chill for about 30 minutes while you preheat the oven. Slice the log into cookies, roughly 3/4-inch thick. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Squash with your palm, if you'd like wider cookies. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the palmiers are deeply browned. Serve warm, ideally with Champagne.
2. Cheese Straws
Sprinkle 1/4 cup grated sharp, white cheddar over the dough scraps. Bring together lightly and quickly, to form a cohesive disk. Bundle tightly in plastic and pop in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Roll into a rough rectangle and cut into 1-inch strips. Now fold a strip so that it's half the original length, then twirl the two legs together. Repeat with all of the strips, setting them on a parchment-lined baking sheet as you go. Sprinkle a little more grated cheese over each straw to create lacy, frico-like borders. Freeze for at least 30 minutes as you preheat the oven. Bake for 22 minutes, until very colorful. Cool completely before serving.
Roll out the dough. Cut into tiny circles or squares or goldfish. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt, or coarsely ground pepper, or poppy seeds, or everything seasoning. Freeze for at least 15 minutes, until firm — this will reduce excess puffing and encourage the shape to hold its own. Meanwhile, preheat the oven. Bake for about 13 minutes, until golden brown. Cool completely before serving with any soft cheese or creamy dip.
4. Mushroom Puffs
Preheat the oven, find a mini muffin pan, and roll out the dough. Cut into circles, slightly larger than the pan's cups. Gently nestle the circles into the cups. Add a heaping teaspoon of duxelles to each dough shell. Pinch shut, like a tiny purse. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until the crust begins to brown and the puffs have opened like shumai. Serve warm.
5. Breakfast Crostata
Preheat the oven. Divide the dough in half. Form each half into a disc, then roll each into a circle (about 6 1/2 inches in diameter). To eat, add 2 tablespoons grated cheddar and 2 tablespoons cooked (and squeezed out!) spinach. Pinch and fold the edges inward, to form each circle into an individual crostata (these are rustic, which means whatever you do is right). Use your thumb to create a divot in the spinach. Bake for 25 minutes total, until the bottoms are browned and crisp. At the 12 to 15 minute mark — less time for a harder yolk, more time for a softer one — gently crack an egg into to the center of each crostata. Serve warm.