Merry Christmas everyone. This pie dough recipe took a long time and a lot of experimentation to get it right. It is my Christmas gift to all my gluten free readers, and to anyone else baking for gluten free friends or relatives. For other gluten free recipe ideas, try the coconut-lime muffins, chocolate melting cake, brownies, or pavlova.
Last Thanksgiving my sisters, who both have gluten-free diets, whined about the lack of a good gluten-free pie crust recipe for their Thanksgiving pumpkin pie.
“We can make a gluten-free crust,” they said, “but we have to pat it in the pan like you would a graham cracker crust. If we try to roll it it falls apart.”
Not being on a gluten-free diet myself, I hadn’t really given it much thought since then until I started experimenting around with other recipes for my blog. If I can’t find the recipe I want, I invent it, and for gluten-free recipes the trick was in learning a couple of key ingredients.
The problem with gluten-free baking is that gluten is the substance that binds flour together so the things you make hold up. Pie crusts made with wheat flour roll out in one piece and breads don’t dry up within a day or two after making them (or in the case of store bought bread, opening the package.) Gluten-free baked goods on the other hand seem to have a tendency toward being dry and crumbly.
I learned of two key ingredients that replace the gluten in gluten-free baking so things will hold together. With my coconut lime muffins I found a way to make baked goods that don’t go bad the next day. One key ingredient, xanthan gum, I learned from a friend from work who bakes his own gluten-free bread. The other I learned on a Holland America Caribbean cruise on the Westerdam.
The Westerdam had daily cooking demonstrations. My husband probably attended all of them, but the ship had so many other things to do (like computer classes) that I only made it to one. There a large Austrian chef showed us all how to make a traditional apple strudel from his home country. Not a sugary breakfast strudel, but something they would eat for dinner. The dough was similar to pie dough, and he said one of the most important strudel preparations included stretching the dough ever thinner without making any holes in it. The key to that he said is to add some vinegar to the dough.
I noticed my friend’s gluten-free bread recipe also listed vinegar as an ingredient, and the gears in my brain began to turn. I tried adding both to my gluten free coconut lime muffins and they turned out wonderful. Next step: pie dough.
The first batch I tried I used shortening and just a little vinegar. It rolled out fairly well, but was a bit on the delicate side. The taste would work for pie where you have a much larger ratio of filling to the amount of crust, but I had just made small tarts, and the taste of the shortening came through a bit too much for those. For lactose intolerant folks who need to eat dairy free and are also on gluten-free diets, it would work, but for better flavor anyone who can eat it would do better sticking with butter.
The second batch I doubled the vinegar from what I tried the first time and used butter instead of shortening. Again I made small tarts and the crust not only rolled out much easier, it also tasted great. This one would easily roll big enough for a pie. I use Bob’s Red Mill gluten free all-purpose baking flour because it is a variety of flours all in one bag, and gluten-free baking works best with a mixture of flours rather than all one kind.
I tried making a full sized pie, and found that while it rolled out fine and tasted good, a fork would not go through it. The only way to eat the pie was to pick the piece up and bite it. I went through several more versions of dough, finding each one to either not taste good, not roll well, or be either too tough or so soft it fell apart. I tried different flours in different proportions and adjusted the amounts of butter, vinegar, and xanthan gum making all sorts of different pies and quiches along the way. Thanksgiving came and went and I noticed my sisters again had a pie with the crust patted into the pan.
Just after Thanksgiving, I made a pumpkin pie with yet another version of my gluten free pie crust. This time it turned out right. At least I thought so. Wanting some other opinions, I took some to work and shared with a couple co-workers. The one on a gluten free diet asked for the recipe. The one not on a gluten free diet said she would not have known it wasn’t a regular pie crust if I hadn’t said it was gluten free. Even my husband, who had grown wary of my experiments and avoided the pie until the very last piece liked it. Those on dairy free diets can still substitute shortening for the butter, but it tastes better with butter so use it if you can.
This recipe is for a one crust pie. Double it for a 2 crust pie.
1/3 cup Bob’s gluten free all purpose baking flour
2/3 cup Bob’s sweet white sorghum flour
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vinegar
3-4 Tablespoons water
Mix flour with salt and xanthan gum in a bowl. Cut in the butter until dough is crumbly. Use a pastry blender if you have one. A fork works fine if you don’t. Stir in the vinegar, then add the water a little at a time, stirring after each addition until all the flour is moistened and it reaches the consistency of normal pie dough. Roll out on waxed paper with a generous amount of Bob’s gluten free all purpose flour (not the sorghum flour) top and bottom to prevent sticking. Use a couple pieces of overlapping waxed paper to make sure none of the crust runs over the edge. Add more flour as needed to insure the crust does not stick to the waxed paper. Place pie pan upside down over dough and flip over, easing dough gently into pan and then carefully remove wax paper. This dough is a bit more delicate than regular pie dough, so handle it with care and be sure to use plenty of the all-purpose flour to keep it from sticking to either the wax paper or the rolling pin.
Gluten-Free Apple Tarts
The filling shrinks down considerably when it cooks, so make sure to pile it up really high in the tart. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 Tablespoon Bob’s gluten free all purpose baking flour
3 – 4 apples
Stir everything except the apple together in a bowl. Peel the apple, slice into quarters, and slice out the core. Chop apple into medium size pieces. Put apple bits into bowl of other ingredients and stir until well coated. Makes 3 tarts. (Use 1 crust recipe for pie dough.)
Divide crust into 6 portions, roll 3 for bottoms of tarts
onto waxed paper as directed in pie crust recipe. Fill each with 1/3 of apple filling. Roll 3 remaining portions for tops. Seal and flute edges and poke a few holes in top crust for steam to escape.
Place bowls on cookie sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 35 minutes or until tops appear golden brown.
If you pre-heat the oven to 425 and then turn it to 400 just before you put the tarts in it makes up for the heat loss of opening the oven to put them in.
Eat as is, or top with ice cream or whipped cream.
Shrimp and Spinach Quiche
6 eggs slightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk
1 cup frozen chopped spinach
2 tablespoons chopped onion
3/4 cup shredded cheese
1/2 cup small shrimp, cooked, peeled & de-veined
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Blend pepper, sour cream, and milk into slightly beaten eggs. Stir in spinach and onion. Sprinkle cheese onto prepared crust in pie pan, coating bottom. Dot shrimp around on top of cheese. Pour egg mixture over shrimp. Sprinkle with paprika. Bake 15 minutes, then turn temperature down to 350 degrees and bake 40 minutes more or until center of quiche sets firmly.