This creamy mushroom paneer pie dish by Pavani Manthena was inspired by “Makar Sankranthi,” a harvest festival celebrated across India..
I come from a small town in Andhra Pradesh, India, and now live in Dallas. I love to travel and explore local cuisine (definitely local coffee shops), cultures and diversity.
A work-in-progress Crossfit athlete, I love to read, and after recovering from depression developed a keen interest in human behavior, evolution of civilizations, and diversity in the human race to get answers on societal issues like division, race and oppression.
I strongly believe that women empowerment is a stepping stone for change in society and I advocate girls’ education. I am a mechanical engineer-turned-MBA professional and currently works as strategy operations manager at a manufacturing company.
In my leisure I experiment with smart gardening techniques and growth mediums, explore multiple cuisine ingredients and has a love affair with delicate French patisserie. I am an amateur food blogger and record my experiments on Instagram and YouTube. My aim is to turn traditional recipes into healthy and delicious low glycemic index (aka diabetic-friendly) dishes, a cause very close to my heart since my family has history of diabetes. I strongly believe everyone deserves to enjoy gastronomic experiences and nourish the body with what it needs without sacrificing taste.
The Creamy Paneer Mushroom Pie
Food was the central and integral part of my childhood and any memory of celebration. Moving to the US in 2015 allowed me to explore the world’s best cuisines. It is through food, I learned multiple cultures and evolved to appreciate diversity in cultures and people.
When I accidentally learned the science of bread baking while scrolling through Instagram, it blew my mind. Each time I read about baking and saw expert bakers explaining each ingredient and its function and significance with so much passion, I felt like I had landed in an alternate universe of walking encyclopedias. I moved to a low-carb lifestyle three years ago and I never had difficulty following it since it allowed me to have all my favorite foods. Not at least until I found the world of baking. The lack of low-carb alternative baking ingredients almost rocked my world, but thanks to social media, research and talking to like-minded people, I finally found the best of both worlds.
I love to experiment, create something new and unique. My hobbies/passions have always been around art and focus on visual appeal. Be it fabric and pot painting, making terracotta jewelry or gardening, I always wanted to learn/make beautiful art. And that love for art translates to my dishes.
I was so inspired by festival-themed dishes, especially after Halloween and Christmas, that I started making fusion dishes for Indian festivals and made sure to include Indian flavors.
The theme for this creamy paneer mushroom pie dish is “Makar Sankranthi,” a harvest festival celebrated across India. Coming from a family with a farming background, this is probably one of the major festivals in my household. Sankranti reminds me of marigold flowers, mango leaf garland decorations and hence the pie with such decorations. And oh, Jan 11 is National Milk Day in the U.S., so I chose to make the filling using paneer (freshly curdled milk). Paneer is rich in protein and low in carbs since the whey (sugars) are removed in the curdling process. Do not worry, non keto-ers, I have got you covered. I have two versions of crust – one that is flaky and the other that is low carb/gluten free.
Dough for puff pastry crust:
- 2.5 cups all-purpose flour (or 2 cups almond flour + 1 cup coconut flour + 1 tbsp xanthum gum for the low carb/gluten free version)
- one cup cold unsalted butter (cut into 1 inch cubes)
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tbsp powdered sugar (or sweeter for LC version)
- 1/3 cup ice-cold water
- 1 whole egg, from the fridge
- 1 tbsp white vinegar/apple cider
- Extra flour for dusting ( oat fiber for LC/gluten free version)
For colored doughs (optional):
- 1-2 tbsp matcha powder (or spinach powder) for green color leaves dough
- 1-2 tbsp turmeric powder for yellow flowers dough
- 10 inch pie pan
- Leaf/flower shaped cookie cutters (or any other shape that you like)
- Plastic cling film to wrap dough
- Flat baking pans/pizza pans (or any flat sturdy pan) to rest the dough
- Rolling pin
The main technique for the crust to become puffy is to keep the dough and butter inside the dough as cold as possible. Cold butter lets the dough puff up at a high temperature.
- In a big glass, break the egg, cold water and vinegar, and whisk well. Once they have combined, mix ice cold water to make the liquid total of about 2/3 of a cup. Keep it back in the fridge.
- Sift flours and mix salt and powdered sugar. Divide the flour into half (dough 1) and 2 quarters (dough 2 and 3) in separate bowls.
- Take dough1 flour and mix half of butter cubes, press dough and butters together or mix using a fork. Do not overmix or knead. Press butter and flour until butter becomes pea size and well coated with flour mix. Take half the liquid mixture add it to the flour butter mix little by little in a cup. You may not need all the liquid. The dough should have a grainy sand texture with few butter pea-sized lumps. Press butter and flour mixture into a disc and wrap it in plastic film. Keep the dough 1 disk in the fridge.
- Repeat the same procedure for dough 2 and 3 flours. Mix turmeric in one (dough 2) and matcha/dried spinach powder (dough 3) in another quarter before adding butter. Repeat the same procedure and fold them individually in plastic wraps. Keep the colored flour discs in the fridge. Keep all doughs in the fridge for at least 3-4 hours or overnight.
NOTE: The decorations on top are optional. The pie can be done with half dough itself but having a layer of crust on top adds more flaky texture to the pie.
Creamy mushroom paneer filling:
- 11 oz paneer crumbled (or grated)
- 1 lb mushrooms cubed to inch size
- One medium red onion (thin-cubed) – about 3.5 oz
- 1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
- 2 tbsp butter or ghee
- ½ tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- 1 tbsp chilli powder (less for a milder version)
- 1-2 tbsp heavy cream
- In a heavy bottom pan, add butter and let it melt. Add red onion and saute well until the cubes turn translucent. Add ginger-garlic paste and mix well. Let the mixture saute well for a couple of minutes. Add all powdered spices and saute well until the mixture releases oil.
- Add crumbled paneer and saute well for a minute on medium-low heat. Add cubed mushrooms to the gravy and saute well. Reduce heat to low and mix well. Let the mixture cook for 3-5 min. The gravy should be thick, with very little moisture. Adjust spices if necessary. Add heavy cream, saute, and turn off the flame.
- Let it cool and keep the fridge until the pie crust is ready.
NOTE: The stuffing is ready to serve – alone as a curry, or with rice or roti.
- Once cooled down, place the dough 1 disc on a clean and floured surface. If you are making the LC/gluten free option, please use oat fiber to dust the surface. Spread the dough into a thin disc that is about ⅛ inch thick. Using a rolling pin, carefully roll the dough and place it on top of the pie. Using fingers, carefully press to shape the dough in the shape of pie. Using a sharp knife perpendicular to edge, cut the extra dough to make the pie border as clean as possible. Press fork on dough randomly all over the pie dough to make small holes. This allows even distribution of heat and avoid the breakage of the dough during cooking. Keep the pie in the fridge for an hour to let it cool.
- Repeat the same procedure for colored doughs and cut the dough in required decoration shapes using cookie cutters. Place the cuttings on a flat pan and keep them back in the fridge until ready to use.
- Remove cold pie crust and spread cold filling inside pie. Do not over stuff, leave at least ⅛ inch height between pie edge and top of the stuffing. The stuffing & dough will puff when put in the oven, so leave some gap to accommodate the shrinkage and puffing. Preheat the oven to 400F.
- The pie can be cooked at this stage itself. But you love to decorate a pie like I do, line the top layer using mushrooms, colored dough flowers or any other decorations you may like.
- I did my decoration using crumbled paneer in the center, two rounds of mushrooms around it and the next round with dough decorations.
- Keep the decorated pie inside the oven in the second rack and bake at 400F for 20 minutes.
- For all-purpose flour dough: Reduce the temp to 350F and bake for 45 minutes. Keep checking the pie every now and then and if the top crust starts to get brown, cover it with aluminum foil. Continue to bake since the bottom crust layer will still be uncooked.
For LC/gluten free dough: Cover the top layer with aluminum foil. Reduce the temp to 350F and bake for 15 min.
- Once baked, carefully remove the pan and let it cool completely. Once cooled, carefully remove the pie crust pan (if using bottom removable pan). The pie is ready to serve as is or can be paired up with mint chutney or ketchup.