Top photo is a pie with an egg wash sprinkled with granulated sugar; the bottom photo is without any type of glaze on the top crust. Both are yummy!
This post is dedicated to my friend Kate McDermott, the Queen of Pie.
As I’ve traveled this road called “gluten intolerance,” I’ve run across many gluten-free baking “holy grails.” One of them is a good, flaky pie crust. Somehow, pie crust has gotten a bad rap in the gluten-free world. From my research, I think think this is mostly due to the fact that gluten-free flours act a bit differently from wheat flour. So, if you are someone who made wheat pie crusts before and is now making gluten-free pie crusts, you need to let go of some of your assumptions about how pie crust dough must be treated. Once you do this, your pie crusts will be golden and flaky and delicious! Take it from me–as someone who baked wheat pie crust pies before I became gluten intolerant, and who now bakes gluten-free pies as a gluten-intolerant person– once I released some of my preconceived notions of the “shoulds” around pie dough, I’ve had success. And, I’m excited to share that success with you!
First and foremost piece of advice: do not be intimidated! Pie crust is actually easy and fun to make, and you can be playful with it. It is also quite forgiving, and you can fix any flubs you make along the way. The main thing you need is patience and a little time.
Most recipes for wheat pie crust recommend using dough that is as cold as possible in order to keep the fat (usually butter or lard) in separate bits throughout the dough. This helps the wheat crusts to be flaky. This is not as important for gluten-free pie dough. Gluten-free flours naturally make a flaky crust. This is because there is no gluten to make it tough. So, for gluten-free pie dough, you need to keep the dough cool, but not as cold as you would with wheat crust pies. The fat should keep some separateness from the rest of the dough (i.e., you don’t want to beat the dough with a mixer or anything), but not as separate as it would be for wheat crust dough.
What this means you can let the ingredients in the gluten-free crust meld together a little more than you might with a wheat crust. Last month, my friend, Kate McDermott, made this crust recipe and gave me some terrific feedback. Her main comment was that the fat and the other ingredients really wanted to be together and did well when brought together more than one would with a wheat crust. She also said that the little leftover bits that she made into little crust snacks were really good–flaky and light.
This conversation was an “ah-ha” moment for me. As I thought about it, I realize that my crust performs best when it’s allowed to be a little more pliable and a bit warmer than I would let a wheat crust dough be. When I make gluten-free empanadas, it’s the crusts that I make at the end, when I’ve been working with the dough for a longer time, that work the best. This was what Kate was talking about: the dough was a bit warmer and the ingredients were melded together more at the end of the process than at the beginning. After thinking about this, I realized that I had still been a bit stuck in the concept that pie crust dough had to be: 1) very cold; 2) with the fat more distinct from the other ingredients in the dough. These are concepts leftover from my days as a wheat baker. Thanks to my experience, and Kate’s comments, I am no longer stuck on these points.
This means I’ve changed my thinking about how this crust should be mixed. In the previous incarnation of this recipe, I instructed bakers to use a food processor to combine the ingredients. This method kept the dough colder and kept the ingredients more distinct from each other. No more. I now recommend an older technique–rubbing the ingredients together with your fingers. This adds a little warmth to the ingredients and gets the ingredients melded together more than they would be if a food processor is used. This is awesome, because you need fewer gadgets to make the pie! (Although if you prefer to use the food processor (or any other method) of combining the ingredients, go right ahead.)
Edited to add 7/29/10: Another tip I have for you is to go SLOW when rolling out your dough. When I say slow, I mean slow. Like a snail. Slow and steady wins the pie crust race. An additional tip: don’t use much pressure as you roll. Be light as a butterfly. If it starts cracking, slow down and use an even lighter touch with your dough. It takes patience, but your result will be worth it. Think snail and butterfly. This mantra will help. (or at least it will make you giggle)
Edited 11/17/10: I realized that my gram measurements on my flour and butter were incorrect. I have corrected them.
I’ve adapted the recipe from one by Lynne Rosetto Kasper of The Splendid Table (Love. Her.). It’s almost foolproof!
Jeanne’s Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour Mix (mix together and store in a cool, dark place):
1 1/4 C (170g) brown rice flour
1 1/4 C (205g) white rice flour
1 C (120g) tapioca flour
1 C (165g) sweet rice flour (also known as “glutinous rice flour” or under the brand name, Mochiko)
2 scant tsp. xanthan gum
(you can also use the gluten-free flour mixture (not baking mix) of your choice–just be sure it contains xanthan gum. Or, you can add 1/4 tsp. xanthan gum per cup of gluten-free flour. If you use bean flour, it will add a bean taste to the pie crust)
OK, let’s get started! This will be fun!
Gluten-Free Pie Crust (makes a double crust for a 9-10 inch pie) (refined 11/17/10; 11/17/10)
-adapted from one by Lynne Rosetto Kasper
Note: This recipe uses my gluten-free flour mix:
Special Equipment Needed
-9-10 inch glass or ceramic pie pan (I’ve found that glass and ceramic create more flaky crusts than do metal pie pans)
2 1/3 C (350g) Jeanne’s Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour Mix
1 TBL granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 C (8oz; 230g; 2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold and cut into pieces (you can also use lard)
1 TBL vinegar (I use apple cider vinegar)
5-7 TBL cold water
extra tapioca flour for rolling out
First, make the filling for your pie. I have two for apple pie that you can find here. Set the filling aside at room temperature while you’re making your crust.
To make the crust:
Place flour, sugar, and salt into a large bowl. Mix together with a spoon until combined. Add butter pieces to the dry ingredients mixture. With fingers, start rubbing together the butter and the dry ingredients. This will take some time. Do this until the resulting mixture looks like wet sand mixed with pebbles. I like to do this by hand to get a feel for the dough. You may also do this initial mixing with a food processor if you’d like:
Add the vinegar and rub into the mixture. Add water a TBL at a time, rubbing into the mixture. You want to add enough to create a dough that holds together well, but isn’t wet. During the winter here in Seattle, I’ve consistently used about 6 TBL. During the summer I’ve used closer to 5 TBL.
Divide the dough into two fairly equal pieces, shape into disks, and wrap each disk separately in plastic wrap. Refrigerate the disks for 20-30 minutes (or until the disks are cool and nicely firm but not hard). NOTE: if your kitchen isn’t too hot, you can roll out your first crust right away. Just put the other piece in the fridge to chill while you roll out the first piece. My kitchen rarely gets too hot, so I always roll the first piece right away. This is always the easiest dough to roll–it’s at the exactly right temperature.
Prepare your rolling surface. Sprinkle tapioca flour over your rolling surface. Also sprinkle flour over your rolling pin. When the disks are chilled, remove the first disk of dough from the fridge and place on your prepared rolling surface and sprinkle top of dough with tapioca flour. The key to successfully rolling out gluten-free pie dough is to go slow. When I say slow, I mean SLOW. And with a light touch. If your dough starts cracking, slow down and don’t press so hard with your rolling pin. With your rolling pin, carefully and patiently roll out the dough into a 12″ circle (it should be at least 3″ larger than the top of your pie pan). If the dough sticks to the rolling pin, add more tapioca flour.
NOTE: the dough should be cool but not too cold. It should roll fairly easily and should not break while you’re rolling it. If it does break a bit, don’t worry–breaks are easily fixed by smoothing the dough over the breaks. If it seems too cold and you’re really having to work hard to roll it and it’s breaking a lot, step back and let it warm up a little bit before you continue. Alternately, if the dough is floppy and seems to be “sweating,” it is too warm and should be refrigerated for awhile longer
In the next step, you are going to roll the dough around the rolling pin in order to transport it to the pie pan. In order to do this, sprinkle tapioca flour over the entire surface of the pie crust dough. Now, put the rolling pin on top of one side of the dough. Wrap the dough around the roller until you’ve gotten all of the dough onto the pin. The dough should roll easily around the pin without any breaking.
NOTE: again, if the dough breaks a lot while you’re rolling it around the pin, it’s a bit too cold. Step away and let the dough warm up a bit before proceeding
Unwrap the dough from your rolling pin onto the pie pan so the pan is covered evenly. Now carefully press your dough into place. Proceed slowly, starting with the middle bottom of the pie pan and working out to bottom corners and then up the sides
Place your pie pan with the bottom crust dough in place into the refrigerator while you roll out the top dough.
Preheat your oven to the temperature required for your chosen pie filling.
Roll out the top dough the same way you rolled out the bottom dough.
Carefully press top and bottom crust dough together at the rim to form a seal. You can create a decorative edge by pinching the dough together with your thumb and forefinger of one hand and the forefinger of the other hand. Or, you can carefully press down along the rim with the tines of a fork. Be sure you’ve created a good seal–any unsealed portion will leak filling all over your oven floor during the baking process
Now make slashes in the top crust dough to create air vents for steam to escape during the baking process. I usually do two levels of them–the top row alternating with the middle row–to make it decorative.
If you are so inclined, roll out some of the leftover scrap dough and cut out cute designs to put on the top of pie. For example, for an apple pie, I cut out an apple with a leaf:
Also, if you want a little bit of a glaze on top of your pie, I recommend using some beaten egg to brush on the top and then sprinkle with granulated sugar. It will create the effect of the top photo of this post.
Now your pie is ready for the oven! Your baking time and temperature will depend on your filling. I usually bake apple pies for 10 minutes at 450 degrees and then lower the temperature to 350 and bake for another 35-45 minutes.
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