Everyone needs a good gluten free pie dough recipe. What would Thanksgiving be without pies and how in the world would you be able to make the beautiful Gluten Free Tomato Pie I’m about to post.
I know pie pastry intimidates some, including me at the beginning. But, the secret to a flaky pie crust is the same for Gluten Free as it is in regular baking with wheat flour. Everything has to be cold. The reason is that the chunks of butter are what provide your pastry with all that flaky goodness. The heat in the oven creates lovely air pockets and if the butter melts while you’re making and rolling the pastry, well, you just end up with a texture that’s less than desirable. One good thing though: with gluten free flour, you don’t need to worry about tough dough from over development of the gluten. Yay!
Before I went to culinary school, I was in awe of my then mother-in-law’s pie dough. To this day, it’s probably the best I’ve ever had. I was amazed that she did all the mixing by hand. Took me a while to figure out her secret. Besides her gentle handling of the dough, her hands were like ice. So, that wasn’t going to help me – ‘miss hot hands.’
My way around that was to use the mixer or the food processor. I ended up having plenty of practice during the early years of my culinary career. The restaurant where I was a pastry chef, was known for their pecan pie (I can see why – it had a bonus layer of cheesecake under all those yummy pecans). So, I would make 6 pies a day and got plenty of practice getting it right.
So here are my tips for perfect gluten free pie dough.
- Keep everything cold.
- You may not be crazy like me, but I even throw my flour in the freezer for 15 minutes before I start.
- Cut the butter into 1 inch cubes (divide one stick into 4 pieces) and place in the freezer for 15 minutes before mixing.
- Place your food processor bowl and blade in the freezer for 15 minutes before mixing.
- Use ice water.
- If you have hot hands, dip them in ice water and pat them dry before you start touching the dough.
- After the dough is mixed, shape into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for, at least, 1 hour and up to overnight before rolling. Let it sit at room temperature for a few minutes to make rolling easier.
- If you have difficulty rolling, roll the dough out between two pieces of floured parchment.
- After carefully removing the top piece of parchment, place the pie pan upside down over the pastry and flip the whole thing over. Then carefully remove the parchment, trim the edges and form the crust.
- After the dough is in the pan, place the pan back in the refrigerator for 30 minutes while the oven preheats.
- If this is for a big event, please practice beforehand so you can perfect your technique. We don’t want any stress here.
- And, please don’t be afraid. What’s the worst that can happen? Maybe don’t answer that.
One last word. Shortening and lard (delicious animal (pig) fat) make the best pies. I love the taste of butter, but it increases the challenges here because it melts quickly. Butter also contains water, and each brand has different amounts of water. By law, there is a standard of identity for butter, that requires that butter be made up of 80% milk fat. That means that the remaining 20% can be water, whey or waxy milk solids. With shortening and lard, they are 100% fat with higher melting points that are more forgiving. If you aren’t opposed to using those ingredients, or a combination of them and butter, you might want to give it a try. Just remember, if using shortening or lard, the water may need to be slightly increased.
No, really, this is the last word. There are many recipes out there that call for an egg in their pie dough. I tried it just so I could see what that was all about, cause I’ve just never done that before. Eggs have a lot of tremendous functionality in baking. Of course, an egg is just not the whole egg – there’s the white, that can provide leavening and strength and the yolk that can provide fat, taste, color and emulsification (holding liquid and fat together). Well, what it does in this case is make the dough too tough. Salt and butter are enough flavor for me and the crust browns nicely. If you use this pie crust for a hand-held pie, you may choose to add the egg to strengthen things up a bit and enable you to hold the pie without disaster.
You CAN do this!
Start with everything cold – cut the butter into 4 pieces and freeze for 15 minutes. Place your food processor bowl and the blade in the freezer for 15 minutes. Mix the flour, xanthan and salt together and get that in there too.
Pulse the flour mixture a few times to combine. Add the butter and pulse 6 quick short bursts. The butter should be the size of hazelnuts or larger.
Add 4 Tablespoons of ice water and pulse two quick bursts . Squeeze a small amount of flour/fat mixture together to see if it’s moist enough. If not, add 1 Tablespoon at a time followed by two quick pulses. Dough should come together in a ball. Shape into a flat disk and refrigerate for, at least 1 hour, before rolling. Roll out on floured parchment, or, if needed, between two pieces of parchment until the circle is about 2 inches larger in diameter than the pan you’re using. Place the pan upside down over the rolled out dough and flip the whole thing over. Carefully, peel away the parchment. If your dough is pliable enough, you may be able to fold the dough in half and lift it up and into the pie pan. Unfold and move on.
Trim dough around the pan so that it extends about an inch and a half from the pan.
Fold the top dough over to the outside and tuck behind. In the case of the tart pan, I make sure the dough is tucked into the seam and I level off the top. If this were a pie pan, I would let the dough extend over the top a bit so that I could form a decorative crust. You don’t want it extending too far over the rim. That’s when the crust bakes around the pan and the piece will NOT come out with the crust attached.
To blind bake the crust, dock the dough by using the tines of a fork to make holes in the bottom crust. Place a square of foil into the pan and fill with dry beans or uncooked rice to weight it down. Bake in preheated 400F oven for 15 minutes. Remove weights and bake an additional 15 minutes until lightly browned. There! You DID IT!!!
*Gluten Free Farina All Purpose Flour Mix Formula here.
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