By Kate Payne
Photography by Jo Ann Santangelo
Because I became a pie maker years after going gluten-free, I had no prior experience making pies with regular flour; but a few crusts into my pie career I discovered that pie is pie. The amount of work that goes into a tender, flaky crust is just as much of a process for gluten eaters as it is for the wheat-free camp. Pie is an equal-opportunity project!
Making a good gluten-free crust involves a few more ingredients, but nothing too hard to find. Sweet rice flour, also called mochiko, can be found at Asian markets or at grocery stores with well-stocked gluten-free baking aisles—which is also where you’ll find the xanthan gum. Don’t panic over the price of xanthan gum! It will last for a year’s worth of gluten-free baking adventures.
Ideally, making a piecrust should span two days—the first day to make the dough, and the second to let it rest in the refrigerator. Regular gluten piecrusts need to be refrigerated after making the pie dough to relax the flour and keep it from developing its gluten properties. While that’s not an issue for gluten-free crusts, refrigeration prior to rolling and baking is still a good idea because it keeps the fat from melting into the crust too soon. If pressed for time, prep the crust at least two hours prior to your desired baking time so that it can spend a little time in the freezer.
The perfect pie dough is an elusive goal regardless of one’s capacity for digesting gluten proteins. When adding water to the dough, shoot for a consistency that stays together when pressed but that’s neither gooey, nor the other extreme of too dry and crumbly. Too much handling will melt the fat too soon and result in shortbread instead of the tender and flaky goal.
I add parchment paper to the rolling process to boost morale and increase the odds of success since the ever-so-sticky gluten-free dough can be unnerving. I’ve found that peeling off the parchment slowly—in a horizontal motion rather than vertically—will help to keep the crust intact. If the top or bottom crust has sat out on the counter too long, it may be difficult to peel from the parchment. If that happens, set the rolled-out crust on a baking sheet in the refrigerator or freezer to allow it to firm back up a bit.
The recipe below makes one thick bottom crust or a thinner bottom crust and covered-crust or lattice-top for a savory pie. If making a sweet pie instead, add 2 teaspoons of granulated sugar with the dry ingredients.