Friday, November 24, 2006

ECL Experiments With Gluten-Free Pie

(11/23, 4:10am) Boy, I've been baking like a fool lately. I've really enjoyed it!

My roommate and I are hosting a mellow, eating-centered, pj-wearing, movie-watching Thanksgiving later today.

Our friend Annmarie decided to join us for T-day, and she and my roomie are gluten-freers. Their bodily reactions to gluten are NOT pretty.

Annmarie said we had to have pies, so the two of us decided to try to bake up two GF pies: pumpkin and apple. I really wanted to try RLB's pumpkin and apple recipes, and I also wanted to see how well I could substitute GF flour in the RLB flaky pie crust recipe. Oooh! Experiments!

I think the best thing about using RLB's pie techniques for a GF crust will be her dedication to a non-soggy pie crust. I think that is a common ailment with GF crusts, along with being generally not flaky, tender, or tasty. I have high hopes for our crusts. I think they will be flaky, tender, buttery, and not soggy at all.

Keep your fingers crossed.

Annmarie and I agree that good GF baked goods is a huge untapped market. There is presently in Portland maybe one bakery that bakes gluten free stuff- and a very small menu of GF goods at that. One more will be opening up next month, but aside from that? One could go to a very high-end natural foods grocery store and buy their very expensive GF goods.

Or one could figure out how to do it herself. And sell them, my friends. Sell. Them.

So this pumpkin pie:
For the flour, I substituted 1/2 cup Bob's Red Mill All-Purpose GF Flour Mix, 1/3 heaping cup of Tapioca Flour, and 1/4 cup of my rommmate's GF flour mix (Tapioca, Potato, and Rice Flours). Also, a teaspoon of Xanthan Gum, which I guess holds stuff together much like gluten would. I kept all the rest of RLB's ingredients for a Basic Flaky Pie Crust the same.

Kneading the dough until it becomes a stretchy product is not really necessary, as it will never become a stretchy product. So I just mashed up the dough after cutting in all the butter and liquid, patted it into a circle, and let it rest in the refrigerator. Usually resting the dough is to relax the gluten so the pastry doesn't shrink or get tough, but in this case it was to keep the butter cold. And to let each other sort themselves out. Mostly about the butter.

Rolling out the dough wasn't that hard to do, although the edges cracked and split a bit at first. The dough was also very sticky and so I am glad I was rolling it between two lightly (GF) floured pieces of plastic wrap. Transferring the dough into the pan was no problem and turning under the edge went well enough. The dough was still prone to cracking and being sticky, but that also made it easier to patch up any holes or thin spots.

Instead of letting the pastry relax one more time in the refrigerator, I shoved it in the freezer. Again, this was mainly to cool down the butter. The refrigerator was full, otherwise I would have put it there. But actually, the freezer was great because since the pastry has no gluten to relax, I figured it didn't really need to rest up so seriously. Right?

Off the pie went into the oven, and after 30 minutes I fussed with getting foil around the edges. I fussed with that for about ten minutes, it seems. Should have just done what RLB suggested--put the foil on before baking the pie. I really don't know why I didn't.

The pumpkin pie came out after a 55 minute bake, and I tell you, it looks good. The crust is nice and golden, the filling looks all creamy and delicious. I wonder if we could break into the pie tomorrow morning for breakfast? It wouldn't look too bad if we served the pie to our guests with 3 slices already eaten? After all, we are having a mellow, pj wearing Thanksgiving....

(11/24) Pie report:

The pumpkin pie was excellent. The pumpin was creamy and light, spiced but not too heavily (we added 1/4 tsp ground cloves), and just sweet enough. YUM. The crust was crunchy--the gingersnap and toasted pecan crunchy layer is a fabulous idea! The crust was flaky(ish), tender, buttery, and held itself together well. There is a texture difference, but it was fairly minor--just a little bit more grainy, but really not too bad at all. The GF girls really enjoyed the pie and especially the crust. They said it was the best GF pie crust they've tasted! That is so nice to hear!

The apple pie, oh the apple pie. First off, Annmarie was excited she was going to be able to eat a two-crust apple pie. I guess that is a treat! The apples were nicely spiced, tender but not mushy, the juices thick and not runny, and again, perfectly sweet--just enough to take the tart edge off. Yeah!

The crust was a little brittle, but golden brown and crisp. Tender, buttery, again a little grainy. Overall, pretty darn excellent. You know, there wasn't that buttery richness that a gluten pie crust can be, but again the GF girls were pleased as punch.

This crust was harder to deal with for several reasons:
1. The kitchen was super warm from the roasting turkey so the butter softened much more quickly when rolling out the dough.
2. This dough seemed stickier than the pumpkin pie dough the night before.
3. I had to tuck the top crust underneath the bottom crust and pinch everything shut, which was really hard to do because a GF crust really isn't very elastic at all. So nobody wanted to get pulled and tucked and etc. Plus, the dough was seriously sticky, and the butter seriously softening.

I know I should have put the pie in the refrigerator for a few minutes to cool down the butter, but I was getting impatient with the pie prep and just wanted to get it in the oven.

Interestingly enough, neither pie become very aromatic when baking. The whole apartment should have smelled like apple or pumpkin pie while they baked, and especially when cooling, but not really with these pies. Was that due to the GF crust? Or other wierd circumstances?

No matter the lack of aroma, these pies are excellent. And, gluten-free!


  1. [drool]

    I've gone and had a cake idear.

    Chai? Ever considered it as a flava? Maybe, like, chai cheese cake. Or, chai layer cake with some kind of complementary frosting. Or, maybe, like, screw-off-with-your-stupid-chai-cake-idear-jimmysam-cake. . .

  2. or like, chai chocolate buttercream?

    a chai cake would be tasty. with a cardamom-cream frosting. a cahi cheesecake--now that could be tasty. chai pastry cream for eclairs? chai cream pie?

    so many options my friend.

    but that chai chocolate buttercream--that stuff was sooooo good.

  3. or, chocolate chai spice cupcakes by chockylit?

    somehow, the chai gets paired with chocolate. i mean, its a great pairing, but i guess there needs to be some exploration of chai and not think?

  4. I think; therefor I chai.

  5. "Interestingly enough, neither pie become very aromatic when baking. The whole apartment should have smelled like apple or pumpkin pie while they baked, and especially when cooling, but not really with these pies. Was that due to the GF crust?"

    Yes...yes a resounding yes! One would assume the pumpkin / spice and the apple / spice combination would fill the home with luscious smells, but we take for granted that the underlying smells of baking goodies are all the smells of traditional flour with those ingredients wafting through the house.

    The smell of GF Bread does not carry that same homey deliciousness and neither do cakes. You might smell "something" baking...and it might be pleasant (or somethimes not) but it is not that same essence as with gluten, and for me 6 years GF...still does not evoke that same "comfort food" reactions.

    Kudos to you for tackling GF pies to please those you care about!


    Love & Light,