For a long time in my kitchen attempting gluten-free pie dough was easily one way to throw away expensive ingredients. I made my share of GF pie wrecks after decades of being a gluten pie maven. It was mighty discouraging.
Think ratios. Ruhlman ratios, to be specific. Buy the app or the book, already. It is worth every penny whether you bake gluten-free or not. And for fantastic gluten-free pie dough it is just that easy. No need for fancy gimmicks, gums, or other oddities.
Pie dough ratio is 3-2-1 easy. Three parts flour to two parts fat to one part liquid.
I use 300 grams of GF flour made up from superfine brown rice flour, superfine white rice flour and arrowroot. I use 200 grams of fat split somewhat evenly between icy cold shortening and unsalted butter. I use 100 grams of icy cold water. Add a pinch of kosher salt, a touch of sugar if it is a sweet pie and that’s it.
My food processor is my friend in this case. I toss in the flour, salt, sugar and pulse to mix it all up. I sprinkle the top with the shortening and butter cut into pieces. Pulse until it looks like coarse stuff. I put the ice water into a cup with a spout and while the food processor is running I pour it in through the tube which lets it dribble in.
Once it comes together in a mushy ball, stop. Don’t even bother to look at it. Just dump it out onto a large piece of plastic wrap. Remove the blade carefully – scrape the rest into the pile. Pull the wrap up around it, smash it somewhat flat into a disk and pop into the refrigerator for at least two hours and overnight is better. You can freeze it at this point in a zip lock.
The dough will seem impossibly gooey, and it is, but leave it alone. When you get ready to use it, break off pieces and keep the rest in cold storage. Let it set for a few minutes while you prepare to roll it. Using plastic wrap (parchment tends to stick) place a large piece on the counter top or rolling surface. Sprinkle tons of arrowroot starch on the surface. Take your dough piece and shape it into a ball and place on the starch covered plastic. Flip it over or sprinkle it with more starch.
Arrowroot (or other) starch is your friend.
Prepare to be messy – you will be covered in starch dust. Using another piece of plastic wrap placed on top of the dough ball and as big as the one on already on the counter top – use your rolling-pin to make some indents in the dough. Press the dough down with the rolling-pin so that it looks like a row of u-shaped divots. Now do it the opposite way so it is a checkerboard of divots. That helps the dough not split apart when you begin to roll.
Roll from the middle of the circle out. Use a light touch. If you just roll back and forth it tends to rip the dough and make it uneven and tough (yes, GF dough can get tough). Make sure it is loaded with starch as you go along. I lift the top piece of plastic often and move the dough to make sure it is still free and add starch when necessary.
Keep rolling gently until the circle is bigger than your pie pan. If you’ve used plenty of starch which has now made the dough less sticky, it should be moveable. It might break but so what. You can glue the pieces together easily. One way to get it into the pan is to dust the top of the dough circle with starch again and using your rolling-pin, lift one edge onto the pin and keep going slowly so that the whole piece of dough is now rolled up like a coil around the rolling-pin. Starting on one end of the pie pan (overhanging it slightly) unroll the dough slowly and gently over the pan. Gently take the edges and let the dough slide into the pan – try not to stretch it because that will lead to both shrinking and cracking if you are blind baking it. Press the edges and trim.
You can repeat that whole thing for a pie top, but make the piece slightly larger so that it fits over the heaping pile of filling in the pie. Crimp the edges together with a fork, trim, cut some slits for vent holes and bake.
I bake all my pies at 350 no matter what the pie recipe says. It is a good temperature to make the crust golden, but not burned and it eventually cooks the filling. It will take longer to bake, but I’ve never had a bad result. I have, however, ruined the crust baking at a higher temperature for a long period of time. If you really want to bake a pie at 400 or 425, I’d do it for a short time and then turn the oven down to 350 to finish.
It also helps to brush the top crust with an egg wash (one beaten egg with a bit of water or cream) to give it a shiny golden glow. For a pie that needs to bake for a long time, like a fruit filled pie – I wait until the last 45 minutes to brush the top.
Got a crust in pieces? Use pie glue. If the dough is not yet baked, pinch the edges together until it is one nice piece again. If the dough seems to need something more, use scraps of dough (always handy to keep around until your pie is completely finished) and patch and pinch. A touch of water on your finger helps glue it together.
Blind pie baking cracked the shell? Again, save those dough scraps. Using little worms of dough, place them on the cracks and with a slightly wet finger, paint the dough into place over the crack. Almost like using spackle on a wall crack. Bake a few minutes more – but only a few minutes.
Dough shrinking after blind baking? Yeah. I know. I’ve no idea. Anyone who does have an idea about that, speak up in the comments and help us out!
Foil or parchment stuck after blind baking? Sometimes it happens and other times not. Now I always butter the parchment or foil before I press it on (butter side down). Never sticks when I do that, but be careful pulling it out.
Pie weights? Nah. I’d lose them or forget I have them. I buy cheap big fat dried beans and spill them over the foil or parchment (buttered!) and reuse them until they begin to lose their usefulness (as in they stink).
Dough seems undercooked in fruit pies or double crust pies? Happens. Ceramic pie plates do that if you place them on a baking sheet – or at least it does for me. I tried metal pie pans and that helps, but the best way is to not place the pie pan on a baking sheet directly. Place the baking sheet on the rack below to catch the drips and let the pie pan sit directly on the oven rack so the heat can get to the bottom without protection, so to speak. If I am making a single crust pie with fruit (like a crumb topped pie) I prebake the crust for about 15 minutes and that always helps.
Crust won’t roll? Just pat it into the pan and go with the crumb top or open top pie. I’ve even made lattice tops that will work when a bigger piece wont’ stay together. You can even do dough shapes like cut-out cookies and place those in a pattern on top and it will serve nicely as a top crust.
|Oh My, Pie Crust, Gluten-Free||
- 300 grams GF flour – superfine brown rice, superfine white rice, arrowroot starch
- 200 grams total of unsalted butter and shortening, ice-cold
- 100 grams ice water
- pinch of kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar (optional)
- Place dry ingredients in a food processor and pulse to mix. Add cubed pieces of butter and shortening and pulse until it looks like coarse crumbs – about 10 good pulses will do it. While processor is running, pour ice water into feeding tube so it drips in. When dough merges into a smooshy ball turn it off. Dump dough on plastic wrap removing blade carefully and scraping all the dough into the ball. Wrap and refrigerate at least two hours and overnight is better.
- On a large piece of plastic wrap covered in starch place one half of the dough. Cover with more starch and more plastic wrap. Press down with rolling-pin in one direction and then another. Roll from center out into a circle making sure dough is not sticking. Add more starch if necessary. Place dough in pie pan.
- Proceed with the pie recipe.