Starting a gluten free diet can be challenging at first, but luckily companies like Bob's Red Mill (which I'll refer to as Bob's) are busy creating flour blends and mixes that can easily take the place of your all purpose flours. In recent years, our family has had to eat gluten free and dairy free, so things like butter-laden pie crusts were a thing of the past.
I use pie crust to make pies like pumpkin, apple, and peach-raspberry, and even dishes like chicken pot pie. The only difference is that for a savory pie, you will not top the crust with sugar.
If you have had any trouble making a dairy free crust, I’m here to help. The explanations below are lengthy, but I explain what to do and not to do when making a gluten free and dairy free pie crust. If you would like my recipe for an absolutely delicious gluten free and dairy free pumpkin pie, visit this link. This post below is just about the crust.
Here are some things you need to know before you start:
- One bag makes two generous crusts; either a top and bottom, or two crusts. When I made a fruit pie in a deep dish pie pan, there was really too much crust in my opinion. My advice is to save the extra and make some little cutouts. They make a great decoration for the pie or even shortbread-style cookie. Plan accordingly. I personally don't like a thick crust.
- Instead of all shortening, try using a combination of shortening, a butter substitute (I like the soy-free Earth Balance sticks) and coconut oil. I found this worked best to make a super-flaky crust. I refer to this as the fat.
- Make sure your shortening is very cold. If you can, place the fat in the fridge the day before. I usually place the fat in the freezer for a few minutes before I start my pie crust but this might make it too cold. And if you are using a butter substitute stick, cut it into smaller pieces before you chop it up.
- Always mix the crust with your hands to be able to feel it. Add enough water to the dough so that there are no cracks.
- Dairy free pie crust tends to fall apart more. Roll it out between two pieces of plastic wrap or even in a large zippered freezer bag. Whenever I have tried to roll it out with tapioca flour or a gluten free flour, it causes the crust to fall apart.
Now let's go through the steps. The whole process from the time you take the bag out of your cupboard to the time the pie goes in the oven should take about an hour and a half (with an hour for the crust to rest in the refrigerator).
First, Measure the Fat (At Least 3 Hours Before)
Let’s talk about measuring shortening for a minute. It’s a messy thing. The recipe on the back of the bag calls for 20 tablespoons total of shortening. If you convert 20 tablespoons to ounces, it equals 10 ounces. I learned that, because of the water content of butter, a measure of 1/2 cup shortening does not weigh 4 ounces like its butter equivalent. Get the equivalents here on this post about how much shortening weighs. I now own a scale and find it much easier and less messy to weigh the shortening.
For this pie crust recipe I use 240 grams of a combination of the three butter substitutes. I probably use about 90 grams each of the shortening and Earth Balance then made up the rest of the measurement with the coconut oil (closer to 60 grams)
Once the fat is measured, place it in the fridge about 3 hours before you want to start. If you are like me and did not factor in those 3 hours, place the fat in the freezer to get extra cold for about 5-10 minutes. My coconut oil and shortening are always at room temperature.
One more thing: make sure the pieces of the shortening are cut into smaller pieces. For example, as part of the measurement I used a stick of the soy-free Earth Balance. Before this goes into the freezer, I cut the stick up into smaller pieces. This really helps with distributing the fat into the flour. If you don’t do this step, the fat may not properly incorporate.
Mix the Fat with the Pie Crust Mix
Once the fat has gotten super cold, get everything else out: Bob’s Gluten Free Pie Crust Mix, a food processor fitted with the metal blade (the most efficient way to cut the fat into the flour), ice-cold water (a bowl of cold water with a few ice cubes), a large bowl, measuring spoons, and plastic wrap. I find letting the fat get a tiny bit soft helps. So 10 minutes in the freezer, then less than 5 minutes on the counter. If you don't have a food processor, you will need to “cut” the fat into the flour mix using two knives or a pastry blender. Proceed to the ice water step.
Place the entire bag of pie crust mix in the food processor first. Place the cold fat into the food processor, making sure there are no big pieces. On the directions, it says to pulse 10 times for about a second for each pulse.
Here’s what I learned. When I took the shortening out of the freezer and it was super cold, it did not get cut properly in 10 pulses. When I put it in the freezer to get it cold but then left it out on the counter for about 5 minutes, it almost was fully cut in the 10 pulses. Bottom line: if you put the fat in the fridge the night before to get cold, you will probably be able to cut it properly in 10 pulses, maybe 15 total. If you use the freezer method, you might need to pulse it more than 10. The harder the fat is, the more pulses it will take. You need to use your judgement. If you see big pieces of the fat, continue to pulse but do not overdo it.
Add Ice Water to Mixture in the Bowl
Next, and this is very important, transfer the mixture into a large to medium bowl. Do not try to mix this in the food processor. You need to be able to feel it. I also tried mixing it with a spatula. That didn’t work too well. Your hands are your best tool. Once the mixture is in the bowl, distribute (meaning don’t dump it all in one place) 6 tablespoons of ice water. Mix that together. You might need more water so don't discard it yet.
Form Crust into Two Discs
This is also very important: if the mixture does not hold together, add more water until it’s smooth. If there is not enough water, it will fall apart when you are rolling it. At that point, it’s much harder to fix. Make sure there are no cracks in the dough. This is something that when you do more than once it will become easier. Divide the dough into two pieces and shape each into a round disc. Note: if you are making one pie in a deeper pan, divide the dough into two; 2/3 and 1/3 discs. You can save the smaller piece for another use.
Roll the Crust
Keep the discs in the fridge for about an hour. You might be able to keep it for longer but the consistency of the dough might be affected.
While the discs are in the fridge, get out the rest of your pie filling ingredients, a rolling pin, more plastic wrap for rolling, and pie pans.
I highly suggest using an egg wash if you bake dairy-free. If you use a dairy substitute instead of butter, the crust tends to be whiter. An egg wash is made with 1 egg mixed with 1 teaspoon of milk or water. If you are egg-free, try using a milk substitute, like coconut milk, instead.
Bake the Pie
Preheat the oven about 20 minutes before you are ready to bake to make sure the oven is nice and hot.
Take the discs out of the fridge and prepare the filling ingredients. Let the discs sit out about 5 minutes before rolling. Now, here’s where you have to follow the rules. Roll one of the discs of the dough between two pieces of plastic wrap (or possibly in a large freezer bag). I have tried to do this with my rolling mat and tapioca flour; it resulted in a crumbly crust. Place the pie pan on top of the plastic to estimate how much more the dough should be rolled. I usually estimate there to be 2-3 inches all around.
Once the crust is rolled out, remove only one of the pieces of plastic. Carefully flip the crust onto the pie pan, remove the plastic wrap, and press into the pan. Remove excess dough and make a decorative crust on top with either your fingers or a fork. If the crust breaks, add small amounts of water to seal/fix. Repeat with second crust in the second pie pan if using.
Divide pie filling evenly between two pies. Carefully brush crust with egg wash. Sprinkle some sugar on the crust if it's a sweet pie. Place in the oven and follow the directions for your pie. I like to place mine on a baking sheet to prevent spills or crumbs from going into the oven.
When the pies are baking, keep an eye on the crust. You may need to line the crust with foil halfway through the baking process if it starts to get too brown.
Phew! That was a lot of details but since I can’t be in the kitchen with you, this is your cooking lesson. Enjoy the tips. I hope you love it!
Amy Fothergill is a blogger, consultant, cooking instructor and the author of The Warm Kitchen: Gluten-Free Recipes Anyone Can Make and Everyone Will Love. She lives in the San Francisco area with her husband and two children. Keep up with Amy at The Family Chef.