I’ve got a gluten-free recipe for you this week, a gluten-free pie crust. I thought I’d share it now, so that you can do your own experiments with the recipe before Thanksgiving.
Pie was something I thought I’d have to give up when I decided, in May, to cut gluten and wheat products and most grains most of the time, out of my diet. I am not a celiac, thank God, but I did hope that going gluten-free would address some of my health issues. I have arthritis in nearly every joint in my body, and over the past few years, I’ve put on some belly fat that does my back, hips, knees, and feet no good at all. I also have serious stomach issues from taking anti-inflammatory drugs for twenty years. And each year for the past five, at my annual check-up, my blood sugar numbers were a little bit worse, despite the basic goodness of a diet rich in garden vegetables and lean meats. I hoped that ditching the GMO-laden wheat that permeated my diet, in the form of homemade whole-wheat breads, etc., would address some of these issues.
But it was hard to think of giving up pie in my quest for better health. Really hard. Cake, I can take or leave, but I love pie. I love all the possibilities for fillings, and I love the crust. Some people don’t like crust. I do, when it’s done right, and it’s tender and flaky. And just a year or so ago, I’d finally found a whole-wheat crust I actually liked. So, in a quest for gluten-free pie crust, I looked around on the internet and found some recipes for ground nut pie crusts which are suitable for custard-type fillings. Well, that’s all well and good. I do like custard pies, and Thanksgiving pumpkin pies would work with a nut crust. But what was I to do about my cherished sour cream apple pie, and traditional apple pie, and peach pie, and apricot pie, and blackberry pie (and those filling packets I made up for the latter four and either froze or canned)?
I found some expensive flour blends. By the time I paid the shipping on them, the price tag on one pie would be more than I could stomach. Not an option for this thrifty gal. More research, and I found some recipes for making your own gluten-free flour blends with which you can make a rollable pastry crust. But where was I going to find things like potato starch? I live in a very rural area of Northeastern California. We do some of our shopping in Reno, and I’d managed to find almond flour in the bulk foods section at WinCo in Reno. I’d look there for the ingredients for making a flour blend, I thought.
And to my great delight, in the bulk section at WinCo, I actually found a gluten-free baking flour blend that had many of the ingredients of the make-it-yourself flour blends I’d found recipes for online. Great. I bought a couple of pounds of it, brought it home, stashed it in a jar in the fridge, and then realized I had no idea how to use it. What ratios, what additions, what liquids? No clue. I searched WinCo’s website and found many other recipes for the items I buy in bulk at WinCo, but nothing for this gluten-free flour blend. It was a new product this summer, and I guess nobody has gotten around to posting any recipes for it. So it was up to me.
I like experimenting, and I’ve been cooking long enough to know how to substitute similar ingredients, so I thought I’d be able to figure this out. The first thing I did was to look up gluten-free flour blends from mass producers. I wanted to see what the ingredients in their flours were, and what recipes they had posted. I found a King Arthur gluten-free baking flour recipe. The ingredients in the flour were not an exact match to the flour I’d purchased, but close. So I decided to use that recipe in the same proportions, with the same additions, only substituting the WinCo gluten-free baking flour. And it worked! I really thought I’d have to tweak the recipe, experiment more, but it worked, first rattle out of the box. I’ve made the pie dough twice now, and I have to say, it is easier to work with than traditional pie dough. It rolls beautifully, and it bakes up nicely. It does not taste good raw (I think it’s the fava bean flour in the mix that doesn’t taste good raw), and that’s going to disappoint my grandchildren next time they help me bake a pie, but it’s very good when baked. It isn’t as flaky as traditional pie dough, but it is tender, and there’s no bean flavor at all when the crust has been baked. And it is economical. I can’t tell you now how much per pound I paid for it, but I remember how delighted I was to find a gluten-free flour that cheap, after the online research I’d done.
Gluten-Free Pie Crust
(makes one 9” crust, can be doubled for two crusts)
1 ¼ cup gluten free baking flour (from WinCo)
1 tablespoon sugar (I’ve used white sugar and organic coconut palm sugar, both were good)
2 teaspoons cornstarch
½ teaspoon xanthan gum (also available at WinCo in the bulk section)
½ teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons cold butter, cubed
1 large egg
2 teaspoons lemon juice or vinegar
Use a metal pie pan: spray with cooking spray or lightly grease. Whisk dry ingredients or combine/pulse in food processor (see note). Cut/pulse butter into dry ingredients until crumbly. Whisk egg and vinegar together until foamy. Add to dry mixture and mix until dough holds together in rough ball. Add 1-3 T. cold water, if necessary. (If I use large eggs, I find about 2 T. water necessary. If I use an extra-large or jumbo egg, I need to use less water, maybe only a tablespoon.)
Shape into disk, wrap in plastic, and chill 1 hr. (or as long as overnight).
Rest 15 min. at room temp before rolling. Roll on plastic wrap or silicone mat, heavily floured (I used brown rice flour). For top crust, brush with milk, half & half, or cream, and sprinkle with Demerara sugar (optional).
For custard pies, blind bake at 375 about 25 min. Use weights (dry beans or rice) to keep crust from puffing. Remove weights, bake an additional 10-15 min. or until lightly browned. Cool before filling.
For fruit pies: Bake at 425 on bottom rack for 20 min., then move to middle rack and lower heat to 350; bake until crust is browned and filling is bubbling.
For meat pies (like chicken pot pie): Omit most or all of sugar. Try adding a tablespoon of finely chopped fresh herbs or a teaspoon of finely crumbled dry herbs to dry ingredients before mixing.
Note: If you have a food processor, use it! It makes the whole process much faster and easier. Just makes sure your butter is really, really cold. You can cut it into cubes and then stash it in the freezer for a few minutes while you assemble the rest of the ingredients. If you are using a food processor, with your finger on the pulse button, add the liquid ingredients as the motor is running. Stop mixing when the mixture rolls up on itself in a ball. Don’t overmix. You’ll heat up the butter and your dough won’t be as tender. The flour will absorb the liquids as it rests in the fridge.
With the one 9-inch crust, I made 8 pear mincemeat-filled turnovers (click link for the pear mincemeat recipe in a previous post). I think they look beautiful, and they taste so good. This is definitely a Thanksgiving-worthy recipe.