Pear Tart and a Gluten Free Puff Pastry Attempt

by Jenn on December 18, 2009

in Desserts,Flops,Gluten Free


Puff pastry seems like it should be easy to adapt to be gluten free.  After all, the gluten isn’t involved in the “puffing”, all that work is done by the layers of butter within the dough and the steam pockets that arise because of it while baking.    However, searching online yields very limited results for gluten free puff pastry recipes (though I did find one attempt).  Never mind the fact that before this week I had never even made a regular puff pastry before.  But then, I seem to be all about learning how to do cooking techniques while totally changing a recipe up all at once.  And for the most part, I have had pretty good luck.  And yes, much of the time, it really is luck, haha.  But I did come across this manufactured gluten free puff pastry, which means that it CAN be done!  Now to just figure out how…

I have been trying to learn a bit more about the role of each ingredient in gluten free baking, hoping that the more I know about how each ingredient works the better I might be able to pick the right ones and in the right proportions when trying to create a recipe.  A lot of thought went into choosing the right ingredients for this, and in the end, I don’t think my ingredient choices were terribly far off.  I had some issues in the execution, but they were things that I can correct the next time that have nothing to do with being gluten free but have more to do with my ability to successfully add 2 sticks of butter into an already buttery dough.  I am sure the ingredients need tweaking, but I think I would see some significant improvement making this a second time.  I was not born a natural pastry chef, let alone a gluten free one, so I would expect some things needs some practice :)

As for the flours, I chose to do 1/3 starches and 2/3 flour (by volume).  I chose tapioca over potato starch, arrowroot or cornstarch since it seems to be fairly light.  For the flours, I did 1/3 sweet white rice flour, and 1/3 millet.  The other flours at my disposal were bean flours that I was sure would be too dense along with imparting a strong flavor, or quinoa which is quite grainy and I didn’t think it would lend itself to being worked this way.  For the “extras” I added in both xanthan and guar gum.  Guar gum is used to help things rise, and so I thought since this needed to puff it should get all the help it can get.  I also added a little baking soda for the same reason.  Now that I think about it, I think my next attempt I may do entirely without the xanthan, guar gum and soda – because really, it’s the butter that should be doing all the work, right??

Now for the tricky part, no matter what flour (gluten or GF) you use – making the puff pastry.  Ok, not hard, you just need to do it exactly right.  So I did this the old fashioned way – no electrics were involved in making this dough.  My recipe is below, and actually has a great detailed guide for making puff pastry.  Maybe you can use my experience, try it out, and improve upon it.  Search inside yourself, bring out your inner “gluten free chemist”, and please give me suggestions!

Gluten Free Puff Pastry Attempt

2/3 c. tapioca flour
2/3 c. sweet white rice flour
2/3 c. millet flour
3 tbs. sugar
2 tbs. xanthan gum
1/2 tsp. guar gum
1 tsp. baking soda
pinch salt
1 stick (4 oz.) cold unsalted butter, sliced
2 sticks (8 oz.) softened unsalted butter

1. Mix all of the ingredients (except for the butter) together in a bowl.  Use a pastry cutter to cut in the one stick of cold unsalted butter until you have fairly uniform crumbs:
2. Add just enough ice water until you can bring the dough together with your hands.  For me this was almost exactly 4 tbs.  Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge overnight.  This is your détrempe.
3. The next day, take two softened sticks of butter and roll together (in between plastic wrap works easiest here) into one uniform rectangular piece, about the size of a 5 x7 photo.  Take out your dough, and roll it out to a large rectangle on a floured surface.  Place the butter in the middle and fold over the dough around the butter so that none is showing:


It is very important that the butter be the same consistency as the dough.  Otherwise you will have a hard time making those nice layers.
4. Now carefully roll the dough into a long rectangle (about 3 x longer than it is wide).  Sometimes this is easier said than done, especially this first time.  I was doing great, until I flipped the dough over and saw that the butter had totally broken through the dough on the bottom:
As you can see by the large border of dough around it, I also did not wrap the dough tight enough around the butter.  The best one can do at this point is try to patch it with more flour. This is often a sign that the butter or the dough is too cold compared to the other.  I saw a post on How to Cook Like Your Grandmother that used an interesting technique for adding in the butter that might be of more use for avoiding this problem – soften the butter and whip it first and then just spread it evenly over the dough rather than the more traditional directions I gave in step 3.  I am going to try this next time, specifically to avoid my issues here.  Once you roll out the dough successfully into a long rectangle, fold it in thirds by bringing one side in and then the other.  Congrats you have just completed the first turn!  Wrap in plastic wrap and let the dough rest in the fridge for 30 min.
5.  Take dough out of the fridge, and roll into a rectangle again, this time stretching the dough the other way (90 degrees from how the rectangle looked before it was folded).
Fold into thirds again, back into the fridge to firm up again.  Repeat until you have done 5 total turns.  Put it back in the fridge, this time for a few hours to really firm up.  At this point, you should also be able to freeze your dough to use for a later time.


Good things about this dough – could easily roll it out on a floured surface, no plastic wrap required!  It did indeed puff, about 2x its height.  Oh, and it was flaky and delicious.
Bad things about this dough – breaks a lot when rolling it when it is still cold, when butter broke through had a hard time keeping it from sticking to surface.  But that last bit is more my fault.   It only puffed 2x its height.  Real puff pastry puffs more like 6x its height.

So what was my test?  Why a tart of course!  Tarts are super easy – roll out out dough, place fruit, fold up the sides, bake, then glaze.  That’s it, as long as you have some functioning puff pastry dough around.  I would totally love to just jump right in and try out some croissants, but I figured it was better to test my pastry dough with something a bit more forgiving in case it wasn’t awesome.