Gluten Free Substitutions Part IX: Getting Lucky with Pie Crust

by Jenn on September 6, 2010

in GF Substitutions,Gluten Free

Mini Apple Pies

Welcome to the next installment of Gluten Free Substitutions!  Wow, I can’t believe we are at part IX already.  Since we’ve spent the past few weeks investigating the ins and outs of various gluten free ingredients, let’s look at making some actual gluten free yumminess!

Sometimes, when baking gluten free and coming up with my own gluten free version of something, I just get lucky.  Or, at least that’s what I think when something works.  The first time I ever made a gluten free pie crust, it was a total success.  It held together, didn’t crumble, and tasted and felt like “real” pie crust.  I say “real” in quotes because back then I did not have high hopes when I put it in the oven.  But it was very real.  It just didn’t have any gluten in it.  I could hardly believe it myself when it came out, especially because I was so new to gluten free anything at that time.  Heck, I was new to cooking anything at that time.

My husband and I had just gotten engaged, and we were traveling down to his parents for a visit.  I wanted to put together a goodie basket of treats that his gluten free dad could enjoy, including some buckwheat sandwich bread and a peach pie.  Having never made a gluten free pie before (or for that matter, any pie), I just decided to go for it using my dad’s recipe and adapting a quiche crust that I’d found in one of my cooking magazines.  I was so ecstatic when I pulled it out of the oven and realized that it actually came out well.  Speechless, really.  Ok, not speechless.  Jumping up and down screaming with excitement is more like it.  Any of you who’ve made a gluten free thing for the first time know exactly what I’m talking about :)

omg and look at this terrible picture! ha.  But I was so proud of myself!
My now father-in-law still talks about that pie to this day – it makes me so happy to know that I can bring joy to a man who has to live with half a dozen different food allergies, and no, I’m not exaggerating – if anything I’m missing a few.  How did it happen that my first try ever at pie crust worked so well?   My first thought? I got really lucky!!


Now I can look back at my recipe and see a bit more as to why it works.  I didn’t just get lucky.  Since then, I’ve tasted a few gluten free pies, some great and some not.  So I know that not every pie crust recipe is awesome.  But in general, pie crust is not so picky.  My recipe works because most recipes should work – pie crust doesn’t really care about gluten.  It doesn’t need to rise, it doesn’t really need to stretch, it just needs to be buttery goodness and to hold together.  Also, the recipe I adapted it from included cream cheese (it was a originally quiche crust).  I think the cream cheese helps to stabilize the structure a bit.  Where I think I did get lucky was in the starch:flour ratio.  I rather arbitrarily decided to do 1/3 tapioca starch, 1/3 brown rice flour and 1/3 bean flour.  Add in a little xanthan gum and I had a winner.

This pie crust a recipe I haven’t really tweaked much.  After all, as the saying goes, why fix something that isn’t broken?  The biggest change I’ve made to it over the past few years is to use chickpea flour instead of soy, because I can get it really cheap where I live.  That’s about it besides adding in a bit of herbs depending on what i’m making.  I’ve used this recipe for both savory and sweet things – from actual pies to quiche to chicken pot pie.

If you are looking for a place to start testing out gluten free substitutions, I suggest pie crust as an easier baked good to attempt compared to say, breads, or puff pastry.  When working with gluten free dough, be careful and gentle with it, because even though pie dough doesn’t really need gluten to do its thing, as a gluten free dough it will be more fragile – that’s just a fact of gluten free baking.  This dough is also a bit sticker than its glutenicious counterpart.  I like to roll mine out between two sheets of plastic wrap, and then peel one side off and transfer to my greased pan, then press it in and shape to the pan and peel the other side off. Another perk? Less mess this way :)


In general, I’ve also found that gluten free dough also likes to rest a bit.  This is true for pasta, cookies, pie dough (which will rest when you do the chilling process anyways), and obviously proofing when letting the yeast critters grow in things like breads (yes, I say critters, because I don’t do biology.  I realize this is as sacrilegious to biologists as it is for someone to tell me that stuff on the ground is “dirt” instead of “soil”).  Not really sure why, but I’m guessing (and please correct me if I am wrong!) that the purpose of resting the dough is to give the flour a bit of time to soak up some of the moisture from the wetter ingredients, allowing for better overall cohesiveness.


Have you tried making a gluten free pie crust? What have been your challenges? Any other goods that you find relatively easy to adapt to be gluten free?  I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences!


Rosa September 6, 2010 at 7:03 pm

Those pie crusts look terrific! The quiche is splendid.



Jenn September 7, 2010 at 3:51 am

Thanks Rosa!!

InTolerantChef September 6, 2010 at 8:44 pm

I know how you feel, I still do the happy dance when something works out well. I have been caught doing it at work and I’m a chef! My best piecrust is a cream cheese pastry too, and it’s fantastic.

Jenn September 7, 2010 at 3:52 am

yep, I still do the happy dance too! glad to know chefs can also do a happy dance when things work :)

Kim - Cook It Allergy Free September 6, 2010 at 9:08 pm

Another great installment, Jenn!
My problem is that it seems that some of my most perfect replicas of gluten-containing baked goods, are from kitchen escapades that have not involved me actually writing down how much of this versus how much of that! I love playing in the kitchen, but do not always love taking the time to slow down and document my ingredient amounts. Have gotten better at it over the years, but still takes a little forcing on my part! 😉
My kids are now used to my hoots and hollers, though, when things turn out great for me in the kitchen!! 😉

Jenn September 7, 2010 at 3:54 am

Thanks Kim! Ha yes, that is always a dilemma! I too have had to train myself to keep better track of what I used when making something, because my “natural” style of cooking is very much “a little of this, a little of that….” – a lot of taste & test, which doesn’t translate well to recipes. It does take some effort for sure.

Anna Johnston September 7, 2010 at 8:01 am

Yep. Cream Cheese pastry is a winner, tried many pie crusts of the g/f variety, but that’s the best for me. Tastes awesome as well…, nothing worse than when it looks good, smells good and tastes so, so. Gee., I’m pretty much always excited to see my baked creations work….. it never gets old :)

Jenn September 7, 2010 at 10:55 am

Thanks! And no, it definitely never gets old :)

Sophie September 7, 2010 at 3:14 pm

Hello Jen!!

Thanks for the Gf culinary lesson. I am just in the beginning of experimenting with all of these Gf flours. There are so many,..

First, I just follow the recipe & then I experiment with it. But GF flours are a bit expensive here in Belgium.

Jenn September 7, 2010 at 3:31 pm

Your welcome! Yeah, GF flours are a bit expensive everywhere (which means you want your recipes to work the first time!)…if you can find some more ethnic markets (like an Asian food store to buy tapioca or rice flour, or an Indian store to buy chickpea flour), that can usually help with the cost. However you also have to be careful going that route because package ingredients are often written in the language of the country the ingredient came from making it hard for you to tell if it is really gluten free if you cannot read it. And, the package may or may not be subject to the same labeling criteria, so you have to be careful that you don’t accidentally get glutened from unmentioned cross contamination risks. Here en Suisse we have found the labeling to be rather strict when it comes to gluten/wheat and so far have not had any issues, but I’m not really sure how those things work en Belgium. Good luck!

Jenn/CinnamonQuill September 9, 2010 at 4:03 pm

Perfect timing…I read through some of the comments on your other pie recipe pages and I’m going to try a combination of almond and soy flour…assuming my order of almond flour arrives today 😉 I’ve learned a great deal from your GF Substitutions articles…keep them coming!

Jenn September 9, 2010 at 4:45 pm

Oh awesome! Good luck and I hope it works out!

Aubree Cherie September 12, 2010 at 1:18 am

Hehe, ‘critters’. It’s ALIVE! Love it :)

I’ve really been enjoying this series. I have SO MUCH to learn about gluten free baking.

~Aubree Cherie

Lauren September 12, 2010 at 1:31 am

It’s funny, because pie crust was one that took a few to get right (when using other’s recipes), but when I looked through it on my own, I figured out one that I adore pretty quickly. It’s a really wonderful thing to find not just one that works, but one that’s great. Definitely happy dances when that happens :).

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