Hi again, everyone. I won’t bother asking how your week was, because I don’t really know that I want to talk about it. At least not yet. But, like always, the days keep going forward, which means we are getting closer and closer to Thanksgiving. And what is Thanksgiving without dessert, right? And what is a more Thanksgiving-worthy dessert than pie? Maybe cheesecake…but I’m here to talk about my very favorite pie crust, so let’s keep the focus on pie! Pie crust was one of the very first gluten-free recipes that I mastered. The keys are: lots of starch to keep things light and to make the perfect mix with the fat (butter) to create a crispy crust. A dash of vinegar helps too. And best of all, while I suggest gentle handling while kneading and rolling out the dough, that isn’t quite as crucial. See, the reason that we are so careful with pie crust is to (1) not melt the fat in the dough and (2) not activate the gluten in the flour. We’ve removed one of those factors by using gluten-free flours. No risk of tough, gluten-activated dough here! Now we can focus on keeping everything chilled and make ourselves some super tasty pie!
Last Thanksgiving I made three pies: Pecan, Apple, and Maple-Nutmeg Custard. (Don’t worry, my mother made a pumpkin cheesecake, so we fulfilled the pumpkin requirement!) All three were delicious, but this year we have a ton of guests. I plan to scale back to give them some room at the dessert table, so I am planning to make a traditional pumpkin pie using this crust. And maybe a cheesecake, if I can’t help myself.
So here’s the deal with pies. In general, fruit pies can be made with the dough raw, and the pie dough will bake along with the fruit. Filled pies (that do not have a top crust), typically, want a par-baked (also known as blind-baked or prebaked) crust first. Par-baking is nothing to be scared of, just form the bottom shell in your pie pan, place a sheet of parchment over the crust and fill the pie shell with a layer of dry, uncooked beans. Bake for 12-15 minutes at 425 degrees, then remove the parchment and the beans (careful, they are hot!) and bake for another 5 minutes. Then your crust is partially baked and much sturdier. It will hold up better to the liquid, custard type fillings.
So pick your favorite fillings and get planning! I usually try to cook my desserts one or two days before Thanksgiving, as they will keep. Then I can warm them up gently, if needed, while we eat dinner!
Check out my recipe for Gluten-Free Pie Crust!
The big day is just a week away! While many bloggers are posting a recipe a day, with every dish you need for your Thanksgiving meal, I’ve got to be honest with you: I have a huge fundraising event on Sunday, a final paper due on December 1st, and our shows’ going up on December 12. We currently have half of a set that is 3/4 painted, and are only just beginning to make progress on props and costumes. I am up to my ears in cardboard, feathers, and comparative assessments. If it were left up to me, there would be no Thanksgiving at all this year. I’ve turned most of the responsibility over to M’s mum (which she did suggest before I said anything at all!) She has been gracious enough to host most of my family as well, angel that she is. So I’ll make a batch of cornbread tomorrow to allow it plenty of time to go stale (for my Knockoff Pepperidge Farm’s Stuffing–a must) and I will set aside my paper for long enough on Wednesday to whip up a couple of pies, but that will be the extent of my Thanksgiving contributions.
Luckily, I do have a handful of recipes from seasons past that just might be the perfect addition to your Thanksgiving table. Check out below for ideas on stuffings, breads, desserts, and even breakfast for the big day!
My Knockoff Pepperidge Farms Cornbread Stuffing will absolutely be gracing our table. It is the closest it could be to the real deal! And, it is totally chill with tasty, extra additions like precooked sausage, cranberries, and chestnuts! Just gently stir right before the stuffing goes into the oven!
How about some French Bread? Perfect as a base to cube for traditional stuffing, or to slice as is for the table.
Popovers are always first in line on our table at any occasion.
This Quinoa and Wild Rice Stuffing is chock full of apples, squash, sausage and herbs, and a nice change from traditional bread stuffings.
I am all about my pies at Thanksgiving. This year, I’ll be making Bourbon-Toasted Pecan and an adaptation of Deb Perelman’s Nutmeg-Maple Cream Pie. And I’ll be using the Best Gluten-Free Pie Crust for both!
Or how about some Coconut-Pumpkin Custard for a dairy-free dessert option?
Chocolate-Coffee Pots De Creme are surprisingly simple, but make for an elegant (and MAKE-AHEAD) end to the evening.
Pumpkin-Swirl Brownies have all the flavors of Thanksgiving paired with the comfort of chocolatey brownies. The recipe is a cinch to whip up well ahead of the big Turkey day!
These Pumpkin Scones makes the perfect breakfast on a busy Thanksgiving morning. Make ahead and freeze, then thaw for a delicious start to a hectic day!
Well, we finally got a bit of snow this past week: a couple of inches evenly spaced to have just enough time to melt in between snowfalls. Thankfully, things didn’t get too icy. Considering the season has been positively balmy, it was a welcome bit of change. I had the day off during the first snowfall and was struck by a cooking binge. The end of the day found me with roasted banana bread and chicken pot pie topped with gluten-free puff pastry, with the dinner rounded out by new potatoes, green beans, and kale chips. Yes, at the end of the day, I had plenty of dishes…but that doesn’t guarantee that they all came out well. My “banana bread” was a ruin. The taste was similar to what you might expect, but only if you could ignore the texture, which was remarkably akin to play dough.
I had decided to try a new flour mixture, lured by the promise of sorghum flour and millet flour, two of my favorite whole grain flours. But while I was measuring in he various ingredients, tiny alarm bells began to ring. Over half the mixture is starches? Millet is the same weight as rice flour and sorghum nearly there…they can’t need that much balance. Isn’t it supposed to be 60/40 grains-to-starches, max? An entire quarter of the mix is potato flour…? And there was the trouble. Too much starches, specifically potato starch. Of lately, I’ve been using more of it, because I love the elasticity it adds, but too much of the starch, at the least, means baked goods that rise beautifully in the oven, only to sink and shrink as they cool. At the worst, it means playdough banana bread.
Undaunted by the failed banana bread, I figured I would try my hand at Nicole’s Gluten-Free Puff Pastry. This rolling and turning business couldn’t be that hard…right? Truth be told, I’m not sure if I did it right, but there was a lot of rolling and folding and chilling and pressing that left me with a (fairly) manageable dough with the butter well-incorporated. And since I had puff pastry, I might as well make some Chicken Pot Pie for the pastry dough to top. It’s only logical.
Lucky for me (and M) my first attempt at Chicken Pot Pie turned out much better than my banana bread. Truth be told, the puff pastry didn’t puff much, but it did make an extra-buttery, beautifully crunchy top shell. My recipe for Chicken Pot Pie is inspired by Ina Garten’s–her’s was the first I stumbled upon that seemed classic. But Ina’s recipe is huge (even though it claims to feed four), so I immediately cut it down. And I didn’t have all of the ingredients. It all worked out in my favor, though. Instead of 1 1/2 sticks of butter and 1/4 cup of heavy cream, my gravy gets by on a bit of oil, a splash of milk, and only two tablespoons of butter. Let’s just put the pie crusts out of our heads, for the moment. But quite seriously, if you need a dairy free recipe as well, and already have a reliable dairy-free pie crust up your sleeve, this recipe is a cinch to adapt! Chock full of vegetables and warmed gently by spices, it was the perfect dinner for the day of our first snow.
Gluten-Free Chicken Pot Pie
- 1 prepared batch of uncooked pie dough or puff pastry, chilled
- 3-4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or 2 BL, SL chicken breasts)
- 2 1/2 c. low-sodium chicken stock
- 1 chicken bouillon cube (I used a packet of Trader Joe’s Better Than Bouillon)–make sure the brand is GF
- 4 Tbsp olive oil or canola oil
- 2 Tbsp butter, divided
- 2 small (or 1 large) onion, chopped
- 1/2 cup gluten free flour mix (I used 2 parts white rice flour to 1 part cornstarch–just trade off spoonfuls, it doesn’t need to be exact)
- 2 Tbsp milk or cream
- 1 c. chopped carrots, par-cooked (confession: I tossed mine in the microwave for 2-3 minutes)
- 1/2 c. celery, finely chopped
- 1/2 (heaping) c. frozen peas (about 5 oz or half a bag)
- 1 c. frozen pearl onions
- 1 Tbsp rosemary
- 1 tsp. poultry seasoning
- 1 tsp. minced garlic
- 1 tsp. paprika
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 egg, beaten with 1 Tbsp of water for an eggwash
If pan-frying the chicken, heat 1 Tbsp of oil in a large saucepan. Add chicken and cook over medium heat for about 20-30 minutes or until browned and cooked through. If roasting chicken, preheat oven to 350 degree F, lightly rub chicken with olive oil and roast for 35-45 minutes until cooked through. Sprinkle cooked meat with salt and pepper and set aside to cool. Turn the oven up to 375 degrees F. Place your crust dough on the counter to come to room temperature.
While the chicken is cooking, chop all vegetables and measure out the flour mix. Pour the chicken stock into a small pot and heat until simmering. Add the olive oil and chopped onion to the saucepan where you cooked the chicken (or scrape a bit of the brown tasty bits from the roasting pan into a new saucepan). Cook over medium-low heat until the onion turns translucent, about 10 minutes. Melt in 1 Tbsp of butter and then turn the heat to low. Add the flour and stir constantly for about 2 minutes, scraping up all of the sauce from the bottom of the pan until the roux turns golden brown. Add the chicken stock and continue to stir until thoroughly combined. Simmer over low heat for 1-2 minutes, until thickened. Add milk, rosemary, poultry seasoning, garlic, paprika, salt, and pepper and stir until well incorporated. Add in carrots, celery, peas, and pearl onions. Cube the cooled chicken and add to the vegetables. Mix well.
Pour the mixture into a large casserole dish or into 4-6 individual, oven-proof dishes. Smooth the top and sprinkle over a pinch each of salt and pepper. Roll out the dough to about 1/4-1/3 inch thick, larger than the top of your dish(es). Mix the egg and water together into an egg wash and rub some of the wash all along the edge of the dish. This will help the crust stick. Place the dough over your casserole, pressing it gently to the sides of the dish to seal it. Brush the entire top with egg wash and cut a slit or three to allow the steam to escape. Place the casserole dish onto a jelly roll pan (a baking sheet with a low rim) to save your oven from any drips. Place into the preheated oven and cook for 1 hour, until pie crust is golden and crisp and the gravy is bubbling.
Ahhh, pie. One of the glorious inventions of mankind. I’m suspecting more and more (with each pie made) that I am part of the group who believes pie is better than cake. Cupcakes? Nah. Mini pies. Or tarts! (Tarts count, right?) Birthday cake? Birthday pie. At this rate, I might be asking for pie at my wedding. Its just so good! And lucky for everyone, especially beginning gluten-free bakers, I’ve found pie to be one of the easier gluten-free items to make. My mother has said she prefer my gluten-less pie crusts to normal crusts.
|Gluten-free Peach-Berry Pie|
Think about it. What are the big worries about making pie crust? 1) Warm hands. Well, gluten-free crust can’t solve that, but a few rinses under cold water and breaks with an ice-pack can. 2) Light, flaky crust. All of this hubbub about cold is to ensure that the butter stays cools and doesn’t melt. Because in wheat-filled pie crusts, butter is the big solution to making a flaky crust. But without the wheat and without the gluten, we G.F. bakers have to turn to the multitude of gluten-free flours and starches out there. And starches are the key! In fact, this pie crust is made entirely out of starches which makes for a wonderfully crispy, flaky crust. (Just don’t throw away the cold butter because of it). And finally (3) over-rolling the dough. Over-rolling is always a worry when rolling out wheat-filled pastry dough and cookies. For the same reason that kneading is good for bread: kneading and rolling activate the gluten. And gluten makes for tough, chewy baked goods. Awesome for bread, not as great for pie crust. But our wonderful gluten-free dough doesn’t have that problem. Roll and reroll if you need to (just keep the dough cold)!
|Gluten-free Bourbon Apple Pie|
Pie is wonderfully versatile, and pie crust even more so. In addition to all of the fruit and pudding fillings, a pre-baked shell could work in a pinch for cheesecake crust. I’ve used this recipe for quiches, for tarts, turnovers, cinnamon twists, and filo-type cups, even baked up in mini discs to top like a pizza. This recipe is adapted from the marvelous Bette Hagman’s Dream Pastry Crust. It is easily doubled or tripled, but the recipe below makes enough for a two 9″ pie crusts (one bottom, one top or two untopped filled pies)
|Unbaked Gluten-free Pie Crust|
Gluten-Free Pie Crust:
- -1 cup sweet rice flour (not rice flour. This is a starch and sometimes called Mochiko Rice Flour or Glutinous Rice Flour. Look in the Asian section of your supermarket)
- -1/2 cup tapioca starch
- -1/2 cup cornstarch
- -1/4 cup potato starch (not potato flour)
- -1 rounded tsp xanthan gum
- -1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 c. ice water
- -1/2 cup butter
- -1/2 cup butter flavored crisco/vegetable shortening
- -1 egg, cold
- -1 Tbsp. GF vinegar (I’ve heard you can sub an equal amount of lemon juice, but I can’t vouch for those results)
Combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk until well combined. Add small cubes of butter and margarine and cut into flours with two knives or a pastry cutter. Or, go with Shauna’s awesome idea and grate the stick of frozen butter into your flours. Sadly, this doesn’t work quite as well with the Crisco. The end result should have butter bits about the size of peas, or a tad smaller, but should be lumpier than cornmeal. Lightly beat together the egg, water, and vinegar. Add to mixture and mix with a fork or your (cold) hands until a dough forms. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and chill for at least 60 minutes, up to overnight.
Preheat oven to 425 degree Fahrenheit (for an pre-baked shell) or according to your filled pie’s recipe’s directions. Remove dough from fridge, allow to rest for 10 minutes. Divide in half and roll out one half into a disk about 1/8″-1/4″ thick. Press into pie pan. For pre-baked crust prick with fork and bake for 10-12 minutes until pie begins to brown. Or use pie weights. Follow your filled pie’s recipe’s directions for baking your filled pie.
|Gluten Free Cherry & Blueberry Mini Pies|