Friday, January 22, 2010

Pie is back in my life! Gluten-free pie crust

Just as there are distinct differences between "dog people" and "cat people", when it comes to food I firmly believe that there is a significant distinction between "cake people" and "pie people".    This is not a lukewarm subject for most...when asked, most people can firmly and vocally place themselves in one camp or another.  For those who claim to like both, or who are undecided, I submit that they are aliens.  Just my opinion.

As for me, I am firmly a PIE GIRL.  Why?  Because pie is a luscious study of contrasts -- textures, flavors, and versatility.  Crisp pastry against smooth filling (or chunky filling) that can be sweet or savory.  Pies can be breakfast (bacon and egg quiche), entrees (chicken pot pie), country fair prizes, or snacks on the go (oh, how I miss McDonald's fried cherry pies!).   And they're just plain delicious.  Take that, cake!

When I was learning to bake as a kid, for some reason I learned how to make apple pie from scratch.  It became my signature dessert -- people requested it as gifts, and over the years I've even gotten several spontaneous marriage proposals from them (one from a woman)!  People were impressed because I made the crust from scratch, which was unusual then, and freakishly obscure today.  It's not as hard as people make it out to be --  just like everything else fab, it just takes a bit of practice.   And I've developed some techniques to make it easier for beginning pie bakers.

When I went gluten-free due to my allergies, I went in search of a decent pie crust that was flaky, tender and delivered that pleasurable contrast with the filling.  Time and time again I was dissapointed.  Most gluten-free pie crust recipes were nasty things that made me either sad or mad -- tough, dry, crispy or stiff, with no flavor.  But this year, once again, Rebecca Reilly has delivered!  Last Christmas, I made two pies with her crust recipe from her book Gluten-Free Baking (you can see it in the Amazon box on the right hand side of my blog).  Tastewise, it was close to my old crust recipe.  The texture was slightly less flaky, but it was good enough to fool people who weren't even noticing that it was gluten-free!  Yay!

I'll include the recipe for the crust, and my famous apple pie here.   And I'll work on this crust recipe a bit to determine if I can adapt a version which doesn't use eggs for you egg-free people.

NOTE: the picture shows my Christmas pumpkin and rhubarb pies.  The recipes aren't quite worked out yet (they were a little runny when I made all my substitutions), when they're fixed I'll post them at a later date.

Flaky Pastry adapted from Rebecca Reilly
Double Crust

Equipment you'll need: 9" heavy aluminum pie pan (don't use glass or it won't brown!)
rolling pin
pastry cutter (or two forks)
waxed paper

1-1/2 cups gluten-free mix (I used Bob's Red Mill Multipurpose GF flour since it has no rice)
If you can have rice, you can also use 1-1/2 cups of Rebecca's gf mixture: 2 c. brown rice flour+ 2/3 c. potato starch, + 1/3 c. tapioca starch and save the rest.

3 Tablespoons sweet rice flour (I used sorghum flour instead)
2 tsp. sugar (omit if using for savory filling)
1/4 tsp. salt
9 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (I used Spectrum organic vegetable shortening instead)
1 jumbo egg
1-1/2 Tablespoon cider vinegar or lemon juice

Mix together the gf mix, sweet rice flour (or sorghum flour), sugar and salt.  Cut the butter into chunks, and use a pastry cutter (or two forks) to work the butter into the dry ingredients to form a coarse meal.  Once thoroughly mixed, make a well in the dry ingredients and break the egg into the well.  Add the vinegar or lemon juice.  Use a fork to stir from the center, working the flour into the egg to form a soft dough.  Shape into a flat cake, cover and refrigerate if it's too soft to roll out.  You'll want the dough to hold a shape, but not be so stiff that it cracks.  You'll want the texture to be like Play-doh.

Cut two large pieces of waxed paper, about 3"-4" wider than your pie plate.  On one piece of paper, sprinkle a little of the gf mix (or cornstarch) onto the paper to keep the dough from sticking to the paper.  Take out your dough, and flatten it a bit with your hand to make it sorta round.  Sprinkle the top with a little more mix or cornstarch, then put the second piece of waxed paper on top.   The you can use your rolling pin to roll out the dough.  Start from the center and roll outwards.  Because of the waxed paper, you can flip it over and adjust as you go along if it becomes uneven.  (When it gets really unruly, I also pin one corner of the paper with my hip against the counter to keep it from moving.  Hey, whatever works, right?)  Roll the crust to be about 2" wider than your pie pan (measure using the pan itself!). 

When it's the size you want, peel off one side of the paper, put the pan upside down on top and flip it over into the pan, and adjust.  Then peel off the other paper, tada!  Then cut another two pieces of waxed paper and roll out another circle for the top crust, Cover the rolled out dough and put them both in the fridge while you make the filling.

Famous Apple Pie filling
From Farm Journal's Complete Pie Cookbook

Pastry for 2 crusts
6-7 cups of sliced, peeled Granny Smith apples (2 to 2-1/2 lbs)
3/4- 1 c. sugar (adjust depending on how tart the apples are)
2 Tbls. cornstarch
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg (it'll make a huge difference if you can use fresh vs. pre-ground)
1/4 tsp. salt
2 Tbls. butter cut into small pieces (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Peel and slice the apples into a large bowl. 
Combine sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt, the mix among the apples (easiest if you use your hands). 

Put filling into 9" pie crust -- it will be high, don't worry!  Then arrange the small pieces of butter (if using).  Add on top crust then trim the crust edges with a knife so they're even all around.  Then you can decorate (or "flute") the crust edges together as you like. Cut small vents in the top to allow steam out. 

Bake in hot oven 50 to 60 minutes or until crust is browned and apples are tender.  Serve warm or cold.

Oh pie, I missed you so.  Welcome back!

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