Violets and Amaranth

Eating weeds and gaining grains: an adventure in eating

Pie Crust Evolution (the annual flour blend)

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Over the recent holidays, I perfected my pie crust.  I was so excited.  Every pie came out perfect- a good blend of flaky and yet it held together.  Yes, my gluten-free crust held together.  I know I’ve blogged about pie crust here before, but this year I learned to cut back on tapioca flour.  I’ve observed that tapioca flour carries some of the characteristics of, well, tapioca.  Think boba or bubble tea, and then eat something with a lot of tapioca flour, and you’ll see what I mean.  That said, tapioca flour is certainly useful, especially when you cook without egg or gluten, but in pie, or even bread and cakes, there is a limit to how chewy you want the crumb to be.  For a few years I was making my baked goods too chewy, and now I’m experimenting with finding a more subtle texture.

What’s the difference?  In 2014 I discovered coconut flour and discontinued using sorghum flour altogether.  Why? I’ve never liked the taste of sorghum flour, even though it added some binding and protein to the mix.  Also, the Enjoy Life company stopped using sorghum and switched to millet.  I emailed to ask why, since we can’t have millet, and they said it is hard to source sorghum that is guaranteed soy-free, which we also can’t have.  Around this time I found coconut flour, and while a very little goes a long way (seriously, never use more than about 1/4 cup at a go), it adds binding and fiber to the mix, and it absorbs liquid really well, which I think helps prevent chewiness.  It also seems to help the baked product keep its shape, even without egg.  Tree nut allergies are one set of allergies we don’t worry about here.

Through all of this I realized that every year I come up with a new flour blend for standard baked goods.  Now that there are so many pre-blended all purpose gluten free flours on the market, I keep wondering if I should just experiment with those and give up blending my own, but, for now, I like the control and the ability to keep learning about the properties of different flours.

The go-to flour blend of 2014 ends up being….

  • 2 parts sweet rice flour- sweet rice flour has glutinous properties (without the gluten!).  It makes for a nice texture, but helps the baked good stick together.  It isn’t sticky enough though for egg-free baking all by itself
  • 1 part tapioca flour- like I said, I didn’t get rid of it all together, I just try to keep it in check, never more than about 1/2 cup per recipe
  • 1/2 part coconut flour- up to 1/4 cup.  Never more, or the coconut taste takes over and it’s too heavy.  Coconut flour is very high in fiber.
  • 1/2 part potato starch- this seems to give baked good structure without making them too sticky. Like the sweet rice flour it brings some lift and lightness to the blend.

What will 2015 bring?  No idea.  But I’m interested in exploring modified tapioca starch.  I’ve heard good things about it for making bread.  I’m still trying out good bread recipes.  I’m just not happy yet with breads, but who knows, maybe 2015 is the year.  But enough about bread and flours, on to the pie.

This recipe evolved thanks in part to a Good Eats episode on pie crust, and the book Allergy-Free Deserts by Elizabeth Gordon.  The end result isn’t like either of their recipes, but I’m an academic and I like to cite my sources 😉

This is a double recipe and makes enough for about 2 pies, or enough to make at least a dozen pie jars.  Seriously, if you’ve never made pie jars before- do it.  Just remember to use the wide mouth jelly jars and you are in business.  That was our 2014 homemade gift to co-workers and teachers.  I made them all apple-quince-cranberry pie jars.  They were a big hit.

Flaky Gluten Free Pie Crust

  • 2 sticks butter, chilled
  • ½ cup ice water, aproximate, will depend on the day
  • ¼ cup coconut flour
  • 1 ½ cup sweet rice flour
  • ¼ cup Tapioca Flour, plus more for rolling
  • 1 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • ½ teaspoon table salt

1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine flours, xanthan gum, and salt by pulsing 3 to 4 times. Add butter and pulse 8 to 10 times until texture looks coarse.

2. Dice the butter and measure out the water.  Place both in the refrigerator while you prepare the flour

3. Remove lid of food processor and drizzle the surface of mixture with water. Replace lid and pulse about 5 times. Add more water and pulse again repeating until mixture forms a ball when pulsed. Place mixture in large zip-top bag, squeeze together until it forms a ball, and then press into a rounded disk and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

4. Remove dough from refrigerator. Place a little less than half of the dough in a pie bag and sprinkle both sides with flour. Roll out with a rolling pin to a 10 to 11-inch circle, making the dough about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. When rolling, roll in one direction only and rotate the dough and 1/8th of a turn with each roll, until the dough is large enough to fit a pie plate. If the dough is too thick when it reaches the right diameter, put less dough in the bag for rolling.

5. Open the bag again and set a pie pan on top of dough. Turn everything upside down and peel plastic from bottom of dough. Trim edges if necessary, leaving an edge. If the dough cracks, just press it back together.

For blind baking: poke holes in dough and place in refrigerator for 15 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Place a large piece of parchment paper on top of dough and fill with dry beans. Press beans into edges of dough and bake in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove parchment and beans and continue baking until golden in color, approximately 10 to 15 minutes longer. Remove from oven and place on cooling rack. Let cool completely before filling.

For filling right away:  Fill raw dough with your favorite topping and bake per your recipe’s directions. Use the extra dough to roll out a top.

Remember- leftover dough stores well in the freezer until the next time you need pie crust.

 Sorry no photos this time either.  I never think to take pictures of the food anymore!  This recipe isn’t very hard.  Go make your own pie and then you’ll now what it looks like.  Feel free to post a picture below 🙂  Have a lovely rest of winter!

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