Editor’s note: We’re right in the middle of pie week. We’re rolling out expert opinions on crust, where to find your ideal pie nearby, guidance on how to make your best lattice and, yes, plenty of inventive seasonal recipes. To get you inspired for your own pie making, we reached out to Hannah Kirshner of Sweets & Bitters to show us how to master pie crust without gluten:
Not eating gluten doesn’t mean that you’re not eating pie this year. In fact, I’m here to tell you that you can make a gluten-free pie crust can be so good that no one will even notice it’s not the classic. I’ll even be making most of my pies with it this year.
I’ve baked enough with gluten that I understand how to activate it in a chewy sourdough or inhibit it in shortbread. Gluten-free baking on the other hand is a whole other science. When I want to understand how and why a recipe works, I often turn to America’s Test Kitchen, and their new book on gluten-free baking is pretty brilliant. My gluten-free pie crust started from their recipe, but I’ve changed it to my taste. For simplicity and flavor, I swapped buttermilk for their blend of liquids, and I make the dough by hand (as opposed to with a food processor).
I’ve learned that gluten-free crust can get soggy even more easily than a traditional crust. Cooking, or otherwise thickening, the filling helps. Also, like crusts that include gluten, you can start the pie directly on the bottom of the oven, on either a preheated baking stone, steel or cookie sheet. These tricks actually make any pie — with or without gluten — better.
Do yourself a favor though: don’t be like me and skip the instructions. The first time I made gluten-free pie crust I just looked at the list of ingredients and ran with it. But the method is important. As my grandfather would say, “If all else fails, read the instructions!”
Gluten-free buttermilk pie crust
Makes one double crust pie or two single crusts
13 ounces gluten-free flour* (see note for cups measurement)
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum (for binding, do not omit)
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
16 Tablespoons (2 sticks) cold butter
1/2 cup buttermilk
*2 3/4 cups Americas Test Kitchen blend, 2 1/3 cups King Arthur or 2 2/3 cups Bob’s Red Mill
1. Whisk the flour, xanthan gum, sugar and salt together in a large mixing bowl. Cut the cold butter into thin slices and toss it with the flour mixture. Put this in the freezer for 10-15, minutes until the flour is cool to the touch and the butter is firm.
2. Cool your hands on the outside of the frozen bowl. Quickly work the butter and flour through your hands to press the butter into thin flakes. When the mixture is the texture of breadcrumbs, with lots of large but very thin flakes, put it back in the freezer for a few minutes.
3. Pour the buttermilk into the flour-butter mixture, and quickly distribute it to moisten all the flour. Work the dough into a loose, crumbly ball. Transfer it to a piece of plastic wrap, and using the plastic wrap, press it into a 6-inch disc. Wrap tightly, and refrigerate for at least an hour to let the moisture distribute. This dough does not freeze well, so use it within two days. (Wrap with plastic, not wax paper, or you will loose too much moisture).
4. Take the dough out of the refrigerator and let it warm up at room temperature for 15 minutes before rolling it out. The dough is more crumbly than wheat dough, so you need to roll it out between two sheets of parchment or plastic wrap. If it cracks or crumbles, just press it back together. Roll it out a few inches wider than your pie plate.
5. Transferring this dough to the pie plate is a little tricky. Remove the top sheet of plastic or parchment from the dough. Place the pie plate upside down on the dough. Slide one hand under the bottom sheet, and flip the whole thing over. Peel away the plastic or parchment, and press any broken bits of dough back together. If making a single-crust pie, form a decorative crust around the edge. Freeze for 15 minutes to 1 hour before filling or par-baking. If making a top crust, roll it out and refrigerate on a cookie sheet until ready to use.
6. Bake as you would any other pie. To par-bake a single crust, simple place it in a 400 degree oven (no need to weight it) until pale golden brown, about 20 minutes. It’s best to fill the pie while the par-baked crust is still warm.
Photo credit: Allison Davis