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!
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|
Well, perhaps I’m a little behind in blogosphere standards, but its better late than never to round-up my plans for Thanksgiving! And since today is Prep Day #1, this update can help me build up my game plan for the next 48 hours. Look at that multi-tasking skill!
This year, my family is doing Thanksgiving on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. My mother works Thursday night, I have a shift at a major American retail store early (so early!) Friday morning, and my sister is coming home with a friend on Wednesday then switching to her friend’s house for Thursday then back to our home for the weekend. Plus, with Monday and Tuesday as my days off, I would have plenty of time to prep the food. All in all, Wednesday was a better day to celebrate.
We’re sticking to a fairly traditional menu, but this is my first Thanksgiving tackling gluten-free traditions. I’ll admit, last year, only 4 weeks after going “off” gluten and at the home of an old family friend, I cheated. Considerably. (Confession: I am a stuffing addict). I wasn’t ready to tackle the huge task of de-glutifying traditional foods, and I wasn’t so adjusted to making the fuss necessary to keep myself safe and healthy. I didn’t want to impose.
This year, I’m closer. At the very least, I will be entirely gluten-free. My mother is still making a batch of her from-the-bag store-bought stuffing mix that I was raised on. I’ll be following along with the mix-in recipe on the back of the packaging, starting with a base of old-fashioned, flour-free cornbread. Other than that sticking point, all of our rolls, our pie crusts, our gravies will be wheat- and gluten-free. I’d say that is several steps forward.
The clock is counting down on my prep time, so, here is our
- Turkey (21 lbs, no brine or anything snazzy. Just my mother’s tried & true roasting. I’ll keep an eye out for any family secrets–we’ve never had dry turkey, and we’ve never had to brine for that moisture)
- Gravy isn’t too hard for us, as we’ve always made gravy with cornstarch, even before I stopped eating gluten. An extra minute to double-check that our broth was gluten-free was all the prep we needed.
- Pepperidge Farms Cornbread Stuffing for my mom, sister, & guests with the traditional celery/onion/herb add in listed on the bag.
- GF Cornbread Stuffing made with Nicole Hunn’s Old Fashioned Cornbread, a recipe using only corn meal. I made the batter last Friday, and spread it into a greased jelly roll pan (the wide, flat cookie sheets with a low lip all around) and baked the bread at the same temperature for 10-15 minutes. The bread came out moist and thin, so that every crouton will have the crispy crust. With this stuffing, I will be trying to imitate the recipe on the Pepperidge farm bag (and maybe win over the critics for an entirely GF Thanksgiving for next year). Look out for onions, herbs, celery, broth, etc adding to the mix!
- Potatoes (I’ll be the first to admit: we’re going a little overboard on potatoes this year. Ah well, ’tis the season to indulge!)
- Mashed Potatoes mixed until smooth with onion and chive cream cheese, cream, and butter. Any extra will be mixed up for potato pancakes to go with our eggs and turkey hash the next morning.
- Roasted Red Potatoes With Balsamic Dressing was one of two dishes my sister specifically requested she make. I’m a sucker for balsamic vinegar, so a second potato dish joins our table.
- Sweet Soul ‘Taters from Ree at The Pioneer Woman. I made this recipe once, on a whim for no more special an occasion than a Tuesday night. It was gone by the next morning–my mother and I polished it off for breakfast. Sweet and crunchy, this will be the bridge dish between dinner and dessert.
- Green Beans won’t get too fussy, although I was sorely tempted to try adding bacon and shallots for a casserole. But this year, we stick to the classic: sauté’d with butter, letting the fresh green taste keep center stage.
- Popovers will be gluten-free, mostly because my GF recipe starts in a hot oven, and my mother’s needs to start cold. I used a recipe modified from Living Without‘s October issue
- – 1 c. milk
- -4 eggs
- -1/3 c. tapioca starch/flour
- -2/3 c. white rice flour
- -Dash salt
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Place a 12 cup muffin tin in the oven to preheat. Keep the tin warm until you are ready to pour in the batter. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs and milk until well blended. Add tapioca starch/flour, white rice flour, and salt. Whisk until combined and smooth. Carefully remove hot baking tin from oven. Lightly grease with cooking spray. Pour in batter, filling cup s 3/4 full. Place popovers in preheated oven and bake for 10 minutes at 425 degrees, then turn the temperature down to 350 degrees for the final 15 minutes. It may be my old, finicky oven, or knowing my mother’s tried-and-true recipe also necessitates a temperature change, but this is the trick that works best for me.
- Cranberry Sauce is the second recipe my sister claimed. All I know is that it will contain oranges as well. We also have plenty of that lovely American staple: canned, jellied cranberry sauce. We will serve it in the perfect can shape and all. Some traditions cannot be broken.
- Pumpkin Pie using my riff on Bette Hagman’s Dream Pastry Pie Crust and the filling recipe on the back of the Libby’s can of pureed pumpkin. Again, a classic.
And we have our family’s tradition of pickles (sweet and dill) and olives (traditionally black, though we’re stirring things up and adding feta-stuffed green olives to the mix) and nuts to tide over the nibblers in the last hour, when all the smells drag everyone to the kitchen, milling apprehensively as we wait for popovers to rise, for the turkey to set, as we mash the potatoes.
The pre-dinner nibbles are a bit of a mystery. I’m not sure who first set out the dish of pickles and olives on that first Thanksgiving…most who hear this tradition look at me like I’m a little crazy. Finally, last year, my friend from New England backed up my insistence, as her family does the same. Maybe its a northern thing? My dad is from New England. Either way, I’ll have a dish out for all of my Thanksgivings. It keeps fingers from picking at the turkey wings.
I keep going back and forth as to whether I should make another vegetable dish (or another dessert) but time will be that deciding factor. Today (Prep Day #1) I’ll be baking the sweet potatoes, mixing the wet and dry for Sweet Soul ‘Taters but storing the two parts separately. I’ll be mixing the pie crust dough and let that refrigerate overnight. My cornbread has been going stale on the counter all weekend. Tomorrow, I’ll chop all the veggies, bake the pie, and set up mise en place. The turkey will have to go in quite early Wednesday morning, so that we can eat by 1pm or 2pm, and having everything set up in a clean kitchen will let us have a little longer to sleep.
Thanksgiving dinner. Here we go!
I have a…ahem…special friend who is about to have a birthday. Or just did, as I’ve finally discover how to time post publishing for later dates, I’m sticking to the safe side of things and putting this to publish after his birthday. Though I doubt he knows about this blog. But just to be safe…
Anyways: special friend+birthday=birthday festivities. Also, coincidentally, he is also gluten-intolerant. I met him a year before my own diagnosis, and it was the time spent with him that really prompted my to guess that gluten was my issue, and to start the food journal that confirmed that diagnosis. It was gluten or it was coffee, folks. I have to say I’m glad it was the former. I love my lattes. Or any coffee really. But I also love alliteration. Deal with it.
Anyways. Birthday. I’d toyed with the idea for a while, knowing my friend’s love of pie and, frankly, his obsession with snickers. All of my searching for snickers pie resulted in some odd mixture that used the candy bars and cream cheese. Probably still delicious, despite the promised heart attack, but I wanted something more pure, something undeniably “Snickers+Pie”. When I found this chocolate caramel tart from mybakingaddiction.com I knew we were in business. Here was the starting point I was looking for.
Adapted from Jamie’s Chocolate-Caramel Tart on mybakingaddiction.com
The Crust:(I tried several different crusts for this pie: Jamie’s shortbread, traditional pie crust, and finally settled on a graham cracker crust. I like the touch of cinnamon and the guaranteed crunch against the soft caramel and chocolate.)
- -2 c. graham cracker crumbs (while I’ve made my own before, I saved some time and crushed up Kinnikinnick Gluten-free Graham Crackers)
- -6 Tbsp butter, melted
- -1/2 c. brown sugar
- -1 tsp cinnamon
The Filling (Caramel & Peanuts)
- -1 1⁄2 cups sugar-3 tablespoons light corn syrup
- -1⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt
- -6 tablespoons water
- -6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- -6 tablespoons heavy cream
- -1 tablespoon sour cream
- -1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- -1 1/2-2 c. dry-roasted, salted peanuts
The Chocolate Ganache
- -3/4 c. heavy cream
- -3/4 c. (4 oz) bittersweet or dark chocolate chips/pieces
Make the Crust: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Whisk graham crackers crumbs, cinnamon, and sugar in bowl until well-mixed. Add melted butter, stir until all crumbs are coated and mixture sticks together when pressed between fingers. Press mixture into 9-inch pie pan or 6 (3.5 in) tart pans. Make sure crust is even throughout bottom and sides of pan. Refrigerate until firm (about 30 minutes). Bake for 13-15 minutes. Allow crust to cool.
Make the Caramel: Put a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk together sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 6 tbsp. water and bring to a boil. Allow to boil, without stirring, until a candy thermometer inserted into the syrup reads 340° (PLEASE check your candy thermometer before use. Temperature is crucial here. Attach your thermometer to a pot of water and bring to a boil. Water boils at 212 degrees F. Read what temperature your thermometer is at when the water boils and adjust your waiting for the caramel temperature accordingly. For instance, my thermometer read 5 degrees to low. I had to wait until my thermometer read 345 degrees for this caramel). Remove pan from heat and whisk in remaining ingredients (butter, cream, sour cream and vanilla) until smooth. Pour a thin layer caramel into cooled pie or tartlet shells. Then add peanuts to remaining caramel and stir until thoroughly coated. Pour peanut-caramel mixture into shells and let cool slightly; refrigerate until firm, about 3-4 hours.
Make the Chocolate Coating: In medium bowl, combine cream and chocolate pieces, reserving about 1 Tbsp of chocolate pieces for seed. Microwave on high for 30-second intervals, stirring well between each intervals. After 3 or 4 intervals, stir chocolate and cream for 1-2 minutes. The remaining lumps should melt into the mixture. Add you seed chocolate and continue stirring until those melt in as well. Spread chocolate evenly over pie/tartlets and refrigerate until set, about 4 hours. If desired, slice a mini snickers as garnish. Serve cold.