2.21.2010

unintended consequences


I was sick. So I made a chicken pot pie.

Now, this might not sound like the most logical course of events, but let me explain. Becoming an adult does not remove the desire to be comforted when you're ill. (Although it does seem to decrease the odds of that desire being fulfilled. Oh well. Moving on.) So, once the illness fades and you're left with more of a memory of that illness and it's accompanying comfort-desire, but you're now in a position to meet your own needs again without complaining (and assuming that you're human and thus need to eat), it is only logical that making comfort foods feels like the right act to bridge the abyss between sick and well. And what, pray tell, screams louder of comfort than a homemade chicken pot pie?

Well, actually, having now made one, I can say definitively that while the scent, flavor, and experience of eating chicken pot pie is quite comforting, the actual making-from-complete-scratch of it is NOT. It was an in-and-out-of-the-kitchen-all-day process for me, with a big burst of intense activity near the finish line, and the end result being a delicious, but hour-late, dinner. And that was starting with already-roasted chicken from the previous night's dinner.

What was I thinking? Obviously, I was not as well as I thought. Surely only a feverish woman would have the lack of clarity to read a recipe that clearly states it's a long, involved process - hence no one making it anymore - and decide that it would be fun to "throw one together" for dinner. To begin with, there was the issue of chicken stock - I had none, so first had to make a mock one with the giblets I had thankfully saved the night before. Then there was the part about having to cook the vegetables before mixing them into the sauce. And the sauce itself? It was, of course, based on a roux, something I had no prior experience with using gluten-free flours. Oh, and I needed something to cover the whole lot with. I wanted a pastry crust, but not one like my most recent attempt, which was closer to a mock whole wheat crust. (Which has it's uses, but not, I decided, on top of my idealized chicken pot pie.) I wanted it to be lightly golden brown, with the flaky layers I associate with the pie crusts I used to make, pre-gluten-free. I didn't know how to make that happen. So you might say there was a bit for me to contend with.

But you know what? It was worth every effort. Firstly, because dinner that night (and the next) was just what I was hoping for: pure, old-fashioned comfort food that really tasted good. (The roux worked perfectly, by the way, with a 1:1 substitution of my all-purpose gf mix.) Secondly, and more importantly, because somewhere in the hectic-ness of the day, I managed to perform a magic trick. A very important magic trick.

I made the gluten-free pie crust of my dreams.

Honestly, this thing was the stuff of fantasies - really buttery, layer-upon-layer of pie crust fantasies. (What? You don't have such thoughts about pie crust? Who are you?) Well, if you're anything like me, this next photo is going to be food porn for you. Go ahead, ogle it for a good long while. I won't tell.


Do you see? Do you see? Those layers! Those flaky pockets of buttery joy! That beautiful white-into-bronze color! Would you ever in a million years look at that and believe it was gluten-free? Neither would I. And if I hadn't made it myself, I'd assume it was a hoax.

Instead, I'm here to shout from the rooftops (do we have roofs in cyberspace?) that this crust is the real deal. Tender and flaky, and delicious to boot. And it's easy to make (although the method is unusual), and even the ingredients are just basic pantry items for a gluten-free baker. I don't know what made me decide that cream cheese was the missing ingredient in all my other gf crusts, but for some reason I clung to that thought until I could find a good cream cheese pastry recipe to convert. I didn't have to look long - it was sitting on the bookshelf, in Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Pie and Pastry Bible. The only change I would make - and really, I'm just being nit-picky here, because this recipe is close to perfect - would be to leave out the vinegar she calls for. The reasoning being that there is no gluten in my version that needs tenderizing (vinegar's purpose in the original recipe), and it lends the crust just a hint of tang that I think in a sweet application would be a bit odd. On pot pie, though, it was fabulous. Literally, the crowning glory. It was so good, I'm still dreaming about it.

So, needless to say, I may be on a pie-baking kick for a while. I've got lots of frozen fruit stashed away that Josh has been urging me to use up, plus I have only begun to explore the world of savory pies. And then there are quiches. And tarts. And crostatas. Oh my. I can't wait.

Best-Ever Gluten-Free Pie Crust
Adapted from The Pie and Pastry Bible
Yields enough for a 9-inch pie shell, or a 9 1/2- or 10-by 1-inch tart shell


6 Tbsp/90 grams unsalted butter, cold
1 cup/134 grams gf pastry flour mix (recipe follows)
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1/8 tsp salt (for savory recipes, use 1 1/2 times the salt)
1/8 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup (2.25 ounces) cream cheese, cold
2 1/2 Tbsp ice water

To make:
Cut the butter into small (about 3/4-inch) cubes. Wrap it in plastic wrap and freeze it until frozen solid, at least 30 minutes. Place the flour, xanthan gum, salt, and baking powder in a reclosable gallon-size freezer bag and freeze for at least 30 minutes.

Place the flour mixture in a food processor with the metal blade and process for a few seconds to combine. (Depending on the size of your food processor, you may need to make the recipe in two batches if you decide to double it.) Set the bag aside.

Cut the cream cheese into 3 or 4 pieces and add it to the flour. Process for about 20 seconds or until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the frozen butter cubes and pulse until none of the butter is larger than the size of a pea. (Toss with a fork to see it better.) Remove the cover and add the water. Pulse until most of the butter is reduced to the size of small peas. The mixture will be in particles and will not hold together. Spoon it into the plastic bag. (If you double the recipe for a double-crust pie, it is easiest to divide the mixture in half at this point.)

Holding both ends of the bag opening with your fingers, knead the mixture by alternately pressing it, from the outside of the bag, with the knuckles and heels of your hands until the mixture holds together in one piece.

Wrap the dough with plastic wrap, flatten it into a disc (or discs) and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes, preferably overnight.

Store:
Refrigerated, up to 2 days; frozen, up to 3 months.

To roll out:
Place the disc of cold dough on a large piece of parchment paper. Dust lightly with gf flour (I used sweet rice flour, since it's so fine), and gently roll out into a circle with a diameter of about 11-12 inches. If you find the dough to be too sticky, cover it with another piece of parchment and roll it out that way. If it cracks a bit, just press it together with your fingertips - don't worry, this dough can handle a bit of wrangling! When it's the right size, pick it up, parchment and all, and invert it into your pie plate (or over your pot pie, as the case may be), then peel off the parchment and gently ease the dough into place. Again, any cracks or breaks can be pushed back together. This dough tastes really good by itself, so when you trim the edges, you may want to save those scraps and bake them off for a little snack. Treat yourself.


Fill and bake according to directions for whatever recipe you're following (I usually bake at 350º for tarts, galettes, and other single-crust items, and 425º for double-crust pies), covering crust with foil midway through baking if it looks like it's getting too dark, too quickly.


Tara's Gluten-Free Pastry Flour Mix

2 parts white rice flour, as finely-milled as you can get (I use Bob's Red Mill)
2/3 part potato starch
1/3 part tapioca starch

Blend well with a whisk, in whatever quantity is right for you, and store in a cool, dry place or refrigerate it.

34 comments:

  1. Do you know of a good substitute for the potato starch. I am nightshade intolerant also, and can not have potatoes. However, I have been searching for a GF pie crust, and really want to try this one.

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  2. LaLa - I would recommend trying cornstarch, if you have no issues with corn. Arrowroot starch is another one that I know people use in gf baking, although I have no experience with it. I haven't tried my flour mix with any of these starches, but hopefully it will work for you! The crust is so good - I'd hate for you to miss out! Good luck, and I'd love to hear how it works for you!

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  3. I am going to try this in the coming week. I am such a pie girl and am excited to find a go to crust recipe.

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  4. Preppy Pink Crocodile - I hope you like it! The more I've made it, the more I've realized that the dough doesn't need to stay super-cold when you're handling it, like a traditional dough does. In fact, it rolls out easier and easier as it warms up. Too warm, though, and it's too sticky to work with. Definitely a balancing act, which you will absolutely master if you make this recipe a couple of times! Good luck, and feel free to contact me with any questions!

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  5. May you be three-times blessed by every positive force there is! After yet another GF pie crust recipe failure went in the trash, I turned to yours; perfection! Miracle of miracles, it rolled out like regular pie dough! None of this "just mash it into the pie pan" stuff. And when I went to peel off the wax paper, it actually released! None of this sticky goo that couldn't be scraped and ended up in the trash! You're my savior, because I LOVE pie. Fruit pie, and quiche, and meat pies, and chicken pot pies; not for me the cakes and brownies of the world-give me pie and I'm in heaven. The pie I made was an apple pie WITH A TOP CRUST!!!! It's gorgeous! And the crust is delicious; it actually has a bit of filo dough consistency.I left the xanthan out-can't tolerate it. Also can't do potato starch, so I subbed arrowroot and sorghum in equal parts for it. And no food processor, cut in the cream cheese & butter by hand w/ a pastry knife. I used a little more water, just adding it slowly till the dough was the right consistency....it was just like making pie in the gluten days :) Wish I could add a picture to this post-it's so beautiful to me I want to share :) Thank you thank you thank you!
    -Megan

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  6. Anonymous/Megan - That's WONDERFUL! I am truly so happy to hear that the crust worked for you. It's amazing how a deceptively little thing like pie crust has the power to make or break us, you know? And to find a method that is a joy to work with AND eat, and to know that you will never be defeated by another crust, is indeed reason to celebrate. I am doubly pleased to hear that the crust worked with your omissions/substitutions, because a versatile, flexible recipe is that much more valuable! Yay for you, and thanks so much for the feedback!

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  7. do you think i could use tofutti cream cheese? i figure earth balance will be fine replacing the butter. thanks! this looks so promising!

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  8. Anonymous - I'd give it a try. I've never used Tofutti cream cheese before, but if you've found it to be an acceptable alternative to regular cream cheese in other applications, I see no reason why it wouldn't work here. Good luck!

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  9. Tara, do you have any idea how much this shrinks when you bake it? As I always blind bake my pie bases before I put the filling and lid in and would like to know how much overhand to leave. Thanks.

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  10. Hi Isie, that's a good question. I rarely blind bake my shells, but when I do, I line the crust with foil and then fill it right up to the edge with pie weights/dried beans/rice. I find that keeps the edge of the pie crust even with the lip of the pie plate. If I only add enough weights to cover the bottom, the sides do tend to shrink a little, maybe about 1/4 inch. Hope that helps!

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  11. My sister in law sent me a link to this crust and I can't wait to try it! I am right there with you on the food porn I could look at a center fold of that crust!! The recipe looks a lot like the gf crust I've been making for 18 years but with cream cheese instead of crisco (which can be greasy) is this the secret I've been waiting for?!

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  12. Pétra - I get nothing but compliments on this crust, from both gf-eaters and the non-gf crowd. And I really do believe that cream cheese makes all the difference. I hope you try it!

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  13. I am trying to find a pie crust for a friend who has acquired wheat, egg, yeast, soy and milk allergies over the last year. I know that the butter and cream cheese are the magic ingredients for making this wonderful, but would this work in any way without them? I saw that Pétra had used crisco. Do you think the butter in this recipe could be replaced with crisco?

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  14. Anonymous - Crisco would probably work, I honestly have no real baking experience with it. But I hesitate to fully endorse leaving out the cream cheese, or even adding extra Crisco to make up for it, as the cream cheese is key to this recipe. (Also, I've never heard of a dairy- AND soy-free cream cheese. But maybe I'm wrong.) It might be better to try a gluten-free pie crust recipe that only calls for butter, and then just use Crisco in place of the butter. I know that Shauna/Gluten-Free Girl has posted a butter-only pie crust recipe that is easy to make and turns out great results. Good luck, and I hope your friend gets to eat pie soon!

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  15. Hey Tara, would you explain who much a gram is in tsp or tbp please? Wanted to baked your apple tart but it is listed in grams. Not sure about the conversion? Cheers! Linda from So Cal

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  16. Hi Linda! I'm not sure which recipe you're referring to - both the apple pie and the apple rosette tart on my site are in volume measurements (cups, teaspoons, etc.). Just let me know which recipe you're looking at and I'd be glad to help with the conversion!

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  17. Are the pastry flour mix proportions by volume also, or by weight? I messed up my first attempt at this crust, but it was still much better than anything else I have tried. Thanks!

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  18. Glenn - Hello! You can measure the flour mix either way, actually. I used to do it by volume, but soon switched to weight (even before I was using weight for the rest of my recipes) due to the speed and ease of weighing vs measuring. Weighing will ensure your mix is consistent, but careful measuring by volume should produce a mix consistent enough in it's grain-to-starch ratio that you shouldn't notice it affecting your baking. And I'm glad you like the crust, even with mistakes!

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  19. Followed the crumb trail to this recipe, yes, it's food porn. As the former Tart Queen of Knox County (at least) who gave up pie baking upon giving up gluten, I am inspired to try again. That crust sure looks right. Have to go shopping for ingredients. I'll report back.

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  20. Hi Tara, back again - more success! This pastry was fantastic. I was a bit nervous went it came to kneading the crumb, but I just pushed on and it was AMAZING!

    It was the first time my son has had a meat pie in 2 years - and he had two serves, for a picky 7 year old there is no greater praise. (My sceptic, wheat loving husband also went back for more ;p )

    My thanks once again!

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    1. Excellent! I'm so glad your whole family loved it!

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  21. This pie crust is a miracle! I tried it just last week, and it's the first gluten free pie crust I've tried (and I've tried MANY) that I would actually count an unequivocal success! I may actually go ahead and try a double crust pie this week - something I haven't done since my celiacs diagnosis three years ago.

    One note to others trying this recipe for the first time: I did have to let the dough warm up to room temperature again before I could work with it at all. That might be because the food processor I used cut the fat up a little too fine. However, you're right that the dough can take some wrangling! It turned out beautifully in spite of that.

    Thanks again for sharing this recipe. I am enjoying baking pie again!

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    1. Oh, that's fabulous to hear, Jamie! I'm so glad that you loved it, and that you can go back to baking pies again! It makes me very, very happy to know that.

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  22. Thank you so much for this recipe! I didn't have any xanthan gum, so I used an egg (doubled the recipe). I was baking in a hot, hot kitchen without access to a food processor, so I had to use everything warm. I did end up refrigerating the two balls of dough, though, and everything turned out well. Very very tasty and everyone loved it! Thanks so much :)

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  23. This looks like a fantastic recipe - I'm all over it!

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  24. This looks great! I have a question, though. For your flour mix, are the parts by weight or volume?

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    1. Oops, thanks for pointing that out, Annie! I measure by weight (grams, specifically). And recently, I've played around with the balance of potato and tapioca starches (while keeping the same total ratio of 1 part starch to 2 parts white rice flour). My current blend is: 440 grams white rice flour, 154 grams potato starch, and 60 grams tapioca starch. I find that this blend works amazingly well for pretty much any pastry I try - I use it exclusively for pies, cakes, cookies and other confections at the restaurant. Good luck - I hope you try the pie crust!

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  25. I am going to try to make this recipe for a pecan pie. The first and last GF crust I made was for a linzertorte, and although it tasted delicious it was beyond painful to work with. I am pretty excited to test it after all these glowing comments! :)

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  26. I just made this recipe for a raspberry pie. I tried a different recipe Saturday and it was pretty gross. A piece of the crust broke off into the raspberry juice on the pizza pan I cooked the pie in so I had to try it and it tastes like regular pie crust. :) Mine looks nowhere near as nice as yours but it makes up for it in taste. Thank you so much for this recipe. I love it!! Thank you!!

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  27. I just made the pie crust recipe and took it out of the oven 15 minutes ago. A piece of the pie crust broke off and fell into the raspberry juice (from the pie) on the pizza pan that I cooked it on. I had to try it and it tastes like real pie crust!! I'm so happy, because I tried a different recipe a few days ago and it tasted horrible. Mine looks nowhere near as nice as yours but that's ok, because it tastes great!! Thank you so much!! Can't wait to try it again!!

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  28. I realize this is almost two years to late...someone mentioned making a pie crust for a person with multiple allergies including soy. They asked if they could substitute Crisco, unfortunately Crisco is made of vegetable shortening-which means soy. There is a Palm shortening out there made by a company called Spectrum that they might be able to use. Your pie crust recipe sounds wonderful, if only I could figure out a substitute for the cream cheese that I could eat. I am going to try many of your other recipes however. Thank you for sharing them with us.

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  29. I made this crust this week for a friend who cannot have gluten or nightshades (I used cornstarch instead of potato). It came out wonderfully and my friend was so happy! Thank you!

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  30. In making the pastry flour . What does parts mean?? Does it mean cups? I like to make a large amount so I do not have to keep making it

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