December 1, 2011

Gluten-Free Pie Crust

I've had ups and downs with gluten-free pie crusts, but I've finally mastered them. The two tricks are: use less liquid than you think, and heat/warm/cook your filling part-way before putting it in the crust. GF crusts seem to bake and brown more quickly and thoroughly than wheat crusts; I've had a lot of crusts get very dark before the filling cooks the whole way through. If the filling is hot going in, it will cook faster and the crust won't have time to burn.

Also, using alcohol instead of water yields both a better texture and more flavor, and the alcohol itself bakes off. I like using a dry white wine in my savory crusts, and rum or a vanilla-infused vodka in my sweet crusts.

The flour combo can be varied as needed; swap out 1/4 cup of this or that in the recipe as needed. I would avoid soy & corn flours (too strong) and millet or arrowroot (too cakey/fluffy for a pie crust). Nut flours would work well, though baking times may vary.

Recipe can easily be made vegan.

Basic GF Pastry Crust

  • 1.5 cups total flours:
    • 1/2 cup white rice flour
    • 1/4 cup brown rice flour
    • 1/4 cup sweet rice flour
    • 1/4 cup sorghum flour
    • 1/4 cup potato starch or corn starch
  • 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 oz. fat:
    • 1 stick butter or
    • 4 oz. (1/2 cup) shortening or lard or
    • a mix of any of the above, totaling 4 oz.
  • 1 egg yolk
    • or 1 tbs. ground flaxseed mixed with 2 tbs. hot water
  • 1 tsp. brown sugar
    • Or up to 2 tbs. brown sugar for a sweet crust
  • 3-6 tbs. ice cold water or alcohol

  1. Dice butter/shortening/lard into small cubes and place in freezer while you prep the rest of the ingredients.
  2. Combine flours, xanthan gum, salt, and sugar in food processor. Pulse to combine.
  3. Add fat and pulse until crumbly and no large pieces of fat are visible.
  4. Add yolk or flax mixture.
  5. Drizzle in 3 tablespoons ice cold water/alcohol and pulse to combine. Check mixture: press it together with your fingertips. If it holds together, it's done. If not, add another tablespoon and pulse again. Mixture may seem a bit dry, but if it holds together, it's done.
  6. Refrigerate for 15-30 minutes. (Can make ahead; when doing so, let dough warm slightly at room temperature before rolling out, otherwise it will be too brittle.)
  7. Roll out for desired use. Place in pie/tart pan. Refrigerate another 15 minutes before baking.
Bake at 350-375.

For custard-type tarts and pies (including pumpkin pie and goat cheese tart), I like to blind-bake the crust (with foil and pie weights) for 15 minutes; remove foil and weights, prick bottom of crust with a fork, and bake again another 5 minutes.

For best results, heat filling beforehand. Do this by bringing eggs to room temperature. If there is milk or cream, heat that to a bare simmer, then whisk it into the remaining ingredients and pour into pie shell. A heated milk-egg custard mixture should only take 15-25 minutes more in the oven, and your crust shouldn't get too dark.

I've had great results recently with a pear tart, goat cheese & herb tart, and pumpkin pie. I'm working on some of my own ideas; I'll post pics once that happens.

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