Gluten Free Flaky Pie Crust
Oh yeah, you read that right. Flaky, delicious, gluten free pumpkin pie. Maybe you’re thinking, ok big deal? All pies are flaky and delicious. Well, let me tell you a little story about a gluten free pumpkin pie.
There you go. That’s the first ever gluten free pumpkin pie I ever made. Doesn’t that crust look so delicious… and dense and chewy? I made them for Marc and he ate it, God bless him. That kid does like his pumpkin pie. But we were a far cry away from anything I’d really call pie.
Here’s my next pie attempt. It was definitely better, but I had to basically re-form the crust in the pan, it was falling apart so badly.
Do you want more sad looking pies?
Falling apart crust, exploding filling (poor Texas!), and finally: an experiment with yeasted crust. Held together, looked nice, tasted terrible. And so chewy. Just, no.
In my opinion, the crust is the most important part of the pie. We definitely still ate all of those pies (hello, sugar and butter), but I wasn’t proud of them. So the quest to find a decent gf pie crust continued.
Lucky for me (and you!), Alana of The Bojon Gourment exists, and she has the best gluten free pie recipe. It doesn’t fall apart. It’s flaky. It doesn’t taste like gravel. And I’m so excited about it.
Alana just released her cookbook, The Alternative Baker, and you bet I pre-ordered a copy. It’s full of 100% gluten free desserts and beautiful photos.
Including a pie crust recipe. I could hardly wait to try it out. So a few Saturdays ago, I found myself with a whole day and nothing better to do, so I decided it was time.
Before I blather on about pie any more, we need to stop here and I need to tell you something. I mean, you’ve probably already figured it out but: pie making is serious business. This isn’t a “la la, I’m gonna make a pie tonight!” at 5pm kind of thing. I know because that’s how I approach all other things I make. But pies require a lot of time and concentration. They’re not for everyone (well I mean eating them is, but making them not so much). If I’m freaking you out right now with my seriousness, that’s ok. Go make a couple of chocolate chip cookies, or pumpkin cupcakes. BUT. If you’re in for a challenge that will be even more rewarding and delicious because you spent all day making it, let’s go for it!
Ok, so the pie crust. Alana calls for a mix of sticky rice, oat, and millet flours, which is great because those are the flours I have on hand and like to use! She also doesn’t use any gums, just some ground chia seed. A lot of the issues I’ve had in the past with pie is because I always change out the flours and try to omit things like xanthan gum. (In case you’re wondering, xanthan gum isn’t technically a FODMAP, but it does cause GI trouble in some people.) So it was nice that I could actually follow her recipe as-is.
Alana also introduced me to a few pastry techniques: fraisage, which is where you drag the dough across your counter to flatten the butter pieces, and also rolling it out once and folding it before you roll it out again. Both of these take a little more time, but made my crust actually flaky! So, worth it.
Crust is the most important part, but a pie still needs a filling. This pumpkin filling is an old standard I’ve been using for years, and it never disappoints. It’s actually from Angela of Oh She Glows, which is one of the very first food blogs I ever started reading. It’s technically vegan, but I definitely put some melted butter in mine… ha. But I love it because it’s super easy and doesn’t involve cooking any eggs or anything – just some coconut cream to thicken it up (but it doesn’t taste like coconut I promise).
I did decide to roast a pumpkin for this – I was going all out after all – but I think next time I would just use canned pumpkin. If you have fresh pumpkin puree on hand, definitely use it because it is better, but roasting and pureeing a pumpkin was just a little too much extra work for me.
Some notes on timing: Alana advises that from start to finish of pie crust (so not including baking the filling), this takes 3 hours. Time sort of disappears for me when I’m cooking, but I definitely took longer than that. I think I started at 1 and started baking the filling around 5, but that also included a run to Whole Foods to buy more butter (oops!)
Here’s her general timeframe:
10 minutes to mix and fraisage the dough
30 minutes to chill, 10 minutes to roll out and fold, 30 minutes to chill
10 minutes to roll out the dough, get it in the pan, shape it, and dock it
20 minutes to chill
20 minutes to freeze
30-40 minutes to par-bake the crust
Alana also calls for pre-baking the crust with parchment paper and pie weights (or clean pennies, which is what I used). I don’t think I did it quite right because our crust collapsed on the sides, but this step is definitely necessary, as I could tell it would have collapsed entirely if I didn’t have my measly pennies. Because of this I ended up only using about ½ of the filling and baking for less time, but the times below are for a proper, non-collapsed pie.
Gluten Free Pumpkin Pie
- 6-8 tablespoons ice water from 1 cup ice cubes filled with cool water
- ½ cup sticky rice flour
- ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons oat flour
- ¼ cup millet flour
- ¼ cup cornstarch I used tapioca starch
- 2 tablespoons tapioca starch
- 2 ½ tablespoons finely ground chia seed see notes
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter sliced ¼" thick
- ¼ cup cold buttermilk see notes
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch / tapioca starch
- 2 ¼ cups pumpkin puree about 1.5 cans
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ¼ cup full-fat coconut cream or milk use the top creamy part only if using milk – don’t shake the can!
- 1 tablespoon butter, melted or vegetable oil for vegan version
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- pinch ground cloves
- pinch salt
Make the crust: Fill a ½ c measuring cup with ice and pour water into it – this is your ice water. If you’re making buttermilk with vinegar + milk, go ahead and mix that too.
- In a large bowl, mix the flours (sticky rice, oat, millet, tapioca) with the chia seeds, sugar, and salt. Scatter the butter pieces on top of the flour and cut into dough with a pastry cutter or your hands. You want the butter to be a little larger than typical pie dough – Alana recommends a gravely texture with lots of almond-size chunks and some smaller pieces.
- Mix ¼ cup of ice water with the buttermilk and add this to the flour mixture 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing with a spatula to mix everything evenly. Only add enough water for the dough to hold together when you squeeze it — this will mean that there are still some dry bits around the edges but this is ok. It’s better to add to little liquid than too much. Now you have a few options.
Option 1: If you’re short on time, just knead the dough to mix some of the butter and gather up all the dry pieces. Form it into a ball and flatten slightly; wrap in plastic wrap or a plastic bag.
Option 2 (recommended!): Time to fraisage. This creates a flakier dough as we’re going to flatten the butter chunks. Pour the dough onto your counter and, using the heel of your hand, drag sections of the dough across the counter several inches. This will be messy, and dough will stick to your counter — it’s ok. Do this a few times to get all the butter, but keep in mind the more you work with the dough, the sticker it’s going to get. If your have a dough scraper, use it to get the dough off the counter (or just use a spatula), and form the dough into a fall. Flatten slightly and wrap in plastic.
- Refrigerate the dough until firm, 30-60 minutes (I did 45).
Option 3: Fold. This is a technique pastry chefs use to give croissants and the like their flaky laters. Read: the secret to flaky pie crust. It’s technically an option, but you should do it. Take the dough out of the refrigerator (let it sit on the counter for a sec if it’s gotten too hard to roll). Dust your counter with oat flour, and roll the dough into a circle/rectangle that’s ~¼ inch thick (it helps to start by gently pressing down with the rolling pin until it’s softened enough to actually roll). If the edges crack, press them back together. You’ll get a shape that’s just a tad smaller than what you’d make a pie crust. Now, fold the dough into thirds — like a letter — and then thirds again. (Like this and this.) Re-wrap and refrigerate for another 30-60 minutes.
Option 4: Repeat the above step again for even more layers. (I'll admit I didn’t do this as I was running short on time, but perhaps next time I won’t roast a pumpkin and will do this.) Refrigerate again for 30-60 minutes.
- At this point you can refrigerate the dough for up to 2 days or freeze for up to 2 months.
- Grease a 9-inch pie plate with butter or oil. Take the dough out of the refrigerator (let it sit on the counter for a sec if it’s too hard to work with). Dust the counter with oat flour and roll out the dough into a 12-inch circle (remember, press gently with the rolling pin first until it’s soft enough to roll, and press the edges together when they crack). Flip the dough over occasionally so it doesn’t stick, and when it gets too big to flip, lift one side at a time to re-distribute flour under the crust.
- Fold the crust in half and then half again and ease it into the pie plate. Trim the edges to 1 inch larger than the plate. Fold the edges under and give the crust a wavy edge by shaping it with your index finger and thumb. Prick the bottom all over with a fork. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Pre-bake the crust: Move an oven rack to the lower third of the oven and remove all other racks. Preheat the oven to 400F. If you have a baking stone, place it on the rack.
- If you’re not using a baking stone, place the crust on a baking sheet. Line the crust with parchment paper and fill it to the top with pie weights, dry beans, or clean pennies (you can clean pennies in vinegar). Make sure the pie is filled enough that the weights press into the sides, otherwise your crust will collapse which is sad.
- Bake for 15-30 minutes, until the dough can hold its form without the parchment. Remove the parchment and weights and cook for another 8-12 minutes, until the bottom is dry and slightly toasty. Reduce the oven temp to 350F (if you’re using a pizza stone, leave it in the oven).
For the filling: Whisk the maple syrup and tapioca starch together in a small bowl. In a medium bowl, mix the pumpkin, sugar, coconut cream, butter, vanilla, and spices (cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, salt). Add the maple syrup mixture to the pumpkin mixture and whisk / beat until smooth. Taste and adjust spices as necessary.
Bake the pie: Pour the filling into the pre-baked crust and smooth with a spatula. Bake for about 45 minutes, checking after 25. If the crust starts to brown but the filling isn’t done, cover the pie with foil.
- Let the pie cool on the counter for 1 hour. Transfer to fridge to set for minimum of 3 hours or overnight. (This is very important!)
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