Gluten Free Pie? Gluten Free Pie!

by Donna.

Almost two weeks ago my husband and I decided to go gluten-free for a two week trial period, to see if it would relieve some of his issues.  It has been an interesting experiment, which I will eventually get around to summarising on my blog.  One thing we resolved to do during the two week trial period was to ensure that we did not feel restricted in our eating and our choices.  I was most worried about baking.  I love baking, and had heard so many nightmarish stories about how gluten free flours just “were not the same”.

When I mentioned our idea of a two-week gluten free experiment on Twitter, Nicola (of North 19) pointed me to the Ideas in Food “What Iif Flour”.

What Iif Flour?  Like Ideas in Food, I had read about the C4C gluten free flour substitute in Cooks Illustrated.   Thomas Keller’s French Laundry had developed a gluten free flour substitute that *apparently* worked as a true flour substitute – cup for cup, like for like, in texture and taste.  Sounds too good to be true?

I must admit I was a skeptic.  But with our grand gluten free experiment, I gave it a go.  And with permission from Ideas in Flour, I am re-posting their gluten free flour recipe along with my own pie crust recipe and details on how to make an apple pie, and also some thoughts on how I would improve this the second time around. And yes, there will be a second time around. It was that impressive.

The Ideas in Food “What Iif Flour” Recipe

*reproduced with permission and thanks, from Ideas in Food

700 grams cornstarch
450 grams tapioca starch
450 grams white rice flour
200 grams brown rice flour
200 grams non-fat milk powder
20 grams xanthan gum

Put the cornstarch, tapioca starch, white rice flour, brown rice flour, milk powder and xanthan gum into a large bowl and whisk together. Put the blended powders into a blender in small batches and turn the blender on low and increase the speed to high. Use the blender to pulverize the powders and uniformly grind them. After each batch of powder is pulverized put it into a large bowl. This will take 6-8 times if using a large commercial blender. Once the powders are all finely ground stir them together one last time in the bowl and then put the “flour” into zip top bags for storage.

Note: This recipe substitute has non-fat milk powder, so is not for vegans. It does kind of smell dairy too, which is somewhat off-putting. But the milk protein is what I think makes this substitute work in place of gluten.

Apple Pie

For the crust:

(for a double crust pie)

2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
6 tbsp unsalted butter
app 8 tbsp iced sparkling water (plain water will do but I use sparkling on the advice of a baking master friend)

In a food processor blend the flour and salt, add the butter, and pulse until the butter is thoroughly cut into flour.  Add, tablespoon by tablespoon, the water, until the flour begins to bind.  I found using the What Iif Flour that when this happened the dough formed into a pea shaped consistency.

Remove from mixer bowl.  Form two equal balls of dough.  Flour surface.  Roll evenly to form two discs ensuring enough overlap with the pie dish to be able to pinch the ends together.

Note: I found the pie crust more difficult to handle than crust made with wheat flour. It did not want to bind into one continuous crust, and had a tendency to break into smaller pieces, which then I just put together like a puzzle in the pie dish.

Apple Pie Filling

6 tart apples
1 tbsp caster sugar
generous dusting cinammon (I guess this would be 1-2 tbsp if I were to measure)

Peel and core apples. Cut into slices. Toss together with sugar and cinammon.

Note: make sure to use tart cooking applies. Eating apples break down quickly when cooked, and do not taste as “apple-pie-like”.

Apple Pie

Pour filling into bottom crust, and cover with top crust.  Bake at 180C until apples are noticeably gooey (normally you will see apple syrup peaking through the pie crust). I find this takes approximately 45 minutes.

Note: unlike a wheat-based pie crust, I found the WIF crust to brown very quickly. Keep an eye on this! Once it browns to a level that you are happy with cover the crust with foil.  Alternatively, cover with foil until the last 15 minutes of baking, at which point you can remove the foil and brown it (I am much better at watching the beginning of a process than the end so foil covered after the browning had happened).

Thoughts

I was a bit of a skeptic making this pie, especially worried as I was serving it for dessert at a dinner with friends.  But I figured that the worse case scenario was that everyone could eat the apple filling and discard the crust if it was inedible.

I was in for a shock.  The crust was GOOD. 

The consistency is close but a bit more brittle than a wheat-based crust.  And I believe that the gluten free flour did not bind as well with the butter. The apple filling seemed to take on a buttery flavour which was not like my usual pie, and not as much to my liking. When making the pie again, I would definitely decrease the butter content (down to about 4tbsp) and increase the water (enough to form that pea consistency when pulsing in the food processor).  I realise this will also probably increase the brittleness of the crust, but I prefer that to a buttery filling.  Alternatively, I would stick with single crust pies, like sweet potato, or blueberry, and keep the same butter-to-flour proportion as above, hoping that the butter would “sink” rather than “rise” into the fruit. Fingers crossed.

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