Today I made my first foray into the realm of gluten-free baking. My sister recently developed some food sensitivities including gluten and when she heard I was making pumpkin pie from fresh pumpkins for (Canadian) Thanksgiving, she asked if I could make the pie crust gluten-free. Not wanting to dive head first into experimentation when the whole family’s dessert was on the line, I agreed to make a tiny pie just for her.
For the gluten-free pastry I followed a pie crust recipe I found at gluten-free-girl. Well… Sort-of.
After doing some reading on xanthan gum (which I was able to find) and guar gum (which I was not), I was a little bit skeptical of including these gums in the pastry. I read mixed reviews of recipes that include xanthan gum, the main complaint being texture. I decided to split the recipe in half and make one tiny pie with xanthan gum and one tiny pie without. Good thing I decided to cut the recipes in half since the recipe turned out to be sized for two crusts.
I used a different mix of flours to those called for in the recipe, basically using what flours I found in the organics section of my local grocery store. The mix I chose was:
- 5 oz almond flour
- 3 1/2 oz tapioca flour
- 5 oz rice flour
- 2 1/2 oz quinoa
Almond flour is my new nemesis. It might just be the brand of almond flour but my flour was a really, really inconsistent grind. Some of it was extremely fine (as it should be) but there were also relatively large chunks of almond in it. I ended up running the whole bag of flour through my sifter. My sifter now has almond flour stuck in between the two meshes and I just barely made it to 5 oz of sifted flour — the rest was almond chunks.
Nobody has had a chance to try the finished pies yet but I have to say quinoa flour just does not smell very nice, at least not as an ingredient in a pie crust for sweet pie.
The non-xanthan batch mixed up reasonably well and I was able to form it into a ball and get it wrapped and into the fridge with no trouble.
I had a little bit of trouble while mixing up the xanthan batch. The texture seemed all wrong while I was mixing it and it refused to stick together properly even when I reached the maximum amount of water the recipe calls for. I eventually managed to coax it into a ball, wrapped it and stuffed it into the fridge.
Once I was finished with the dough I moved onto baking up the pumpkins (remove stem, cut in half vertically, clean guts, rub cut with butter, bake face down on a baking sheet for an hour). I found an excellent post in /r/cooking that gave instructions on roasting pumpkins — with pictures! — so I followed that. Due to poor (excellent?) planning, I ended up with almost three full pies’ worth of pumpkin puree and enough pastry in the fridge for three full pies so I decided to bake up everything into full-sized pies.
Rule of thumb for pie pumpkins / sugar pumpkins: one whole pumpkin per pie.
When it came time to roll, I started with the non-xanthan batch. It was a bit troublesome to roll out because it kept breaking apart but it wasn’t catastrophic. I managed to get it into the pie plate mostly whole and I spent a few minutes patching up cracks and broken bits.
Next I rolled out the xanthan batch. What a catastrophe. I don’t know what happened. It might’ve been my fault, I freely admit. Either way though, I rolled out the dough, lifted my silicon baking mat off the top and the crust was a spiderweb of cracks. Turns out it was even worse than it looked — when I lifted the parchment paper under the crust to put the crust into the pie plate, the whole thing crumbled to dust. That batch went in the garbage. I just could not get it to hold together.
I’ll get a verdict on how the non-xanthan batch turned out tomorrow. In the meantime, I think I’m going to stick to glutenous pie crust unless I’m baking for somebody who explicitly needs their treats gluten-free — my regular crust went off without a hitch. Going to have to see about whipping up another batch of dough so I can use up the filling that went with the aborted xanthan-gum crust and I’ll probably make it regular glutenous dough.
Oh, and one more thing. If you make pie and you don’t own a silicon baking mat you need to go out and get one. This is the first chance I’ve had to test-drive the one I picked up a few months ago and it’s amazing. A layer of parchment paper on the bottom, the baking mat on the top and the crust in the middle makes rolling a snap. I may pick up a second, larger mat for underneath.