Gluten-Free Thanksgiving, Here I Come (Part 3)
November 17, 2013

Gluten-Free Thanksgiving, Here I Come (Part 3)

Right then. So far, I have written about some gluten-free options for snacks and appetizers and for the main course and sides For this next Thanksgiving blog, we now move into some people’s favorite part of the meal: d-e-s-s-e-r-t. I know for many of my family members that dessert is the whole reason they look forward to the entire Thanksgiving Day Feast. From pies to cakes to puddings to jello and everything in between, desserts abound for many families. The typical choices in my home are always Jello, pecan pie, and pumpkin pie. Now, save for the crusts, all of these are usually gluten-free. So let’s start by focusing on the pie crust.

A baker has several options when it comes to pie crusts. One can make a pie crust from scratch, buy a pie crust mix, or even buy ready-made pie crusts. Let’s start with making a pie crust from scratch. In searching for a solid pie crust recipe, I was, once again, taken back to Gluten-Free Girl. Here, not only does she give directions on how to make a gluten-free pie crust (with advice and tips to boot), but she also provides pictures so that users can see the crust in all its stages. Here’s the short version of the recipe:

Gluten-Free Pie Crust 
1 1/4 cup (5 ounces) almond flour (this is not the same as almond meal)
2/3 cup (2 ounces) gluten-free oat flour
2/3 cup (2 ounces) tapioca flour
1/2 cup (2 ounces) teff flour
1/2 cup (3 ounces) potato starch
1/4 cup (2 ounces) sweet rice flour
2 teaspoons xanthan gum
1/4 teaspoon guar gum
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
5 tablespoons butter, cold (or non-dairy butter sticks)
4 tablespoons leaf lard, cold (see note below)
1 large egg
6 to 8 tablespoons ice-cold water

Mixing the dry ingredients. In a large bowl, mix the almond flour, oat flour, tapioca flour, teff flour, and potato starch. I use a whisk here, and slow down as I mix them, repeatedly, until they have become one flour. Add the xanthan and guar gums and the salt. Mix well.

Adding the fats. Add small pieces of the ice-cold butter to the flour mixture, not much bigger than a pea. (Or, if you’d like to do as you see in the photos above, freeze your butter beforehand, then grate the frozen butter into the flours. Move quickly.) Afterward, add the leaf lard in small portions, of equal size.

Making the sandy dough. Use your hands to scoop up the flours and mix in the fats. Go slowly. Rub your hands together. Feel the fats work into the flours with your fingers. I like to lift and rub, scoop and let them all fall through my fingers. You’ll know when you are done. You’ll feel done. The flours will look sandy now.

Finishing the dough. Combine the egg with 3 tablespoons of the water and whisk them together. Here’s where you can go two ways. If you want to do everything by hand, then do so. Add the eggy water to the dough. Work the dough together with your hands, or a rubber spatula, or whatever feels right. When the dough feels coherent, stop.

Or, you can do what I have reluctantly realized makes gluten-free pie dough even better than making it by hand: finish it in the food processor. Move the sandy dough to the food processor and turn it on. As the dough is running around and around, drizzle in the eggy water. Stop to feel the dough. If it still feels dry and not quite there, then drizzle in a bit more water. If you go too far, and the dough begins to feel sticky or wet, sprinkle in a bit of potato starch to dry it out. Again, after you make pies for awhile, you’ll know this by feel alone.

Making the crust. Wrap the pie dough in plastic wrap (or in a bowl) and let it rest in the refrigerator for 15 minutes or so. Take it out and roll out the dough between two pieces of parchment paper. This means you won’t work any extra flour into the dough. Roll it out as thin as you can. Thinner. Thinner. Come on, you can do it — thinner still. Carefully, lift the top piece of parchment paper and turn the dough upside down on the top of a pie plate. Rearrange until it is flat.

If the dough breaks, don’t despair. Simply lift pieces of the dough off the counter and meld it with the rest of the dough. Remember, there’s no gluten, so you can’t overwork the dough. Play with it, like you’re a kid again. Place the pie dough in the pie plate and crimp. When you have a pie dough fully built, you are ready to make pie.

Put the pie pan in the refrigerator while you preheat the oven to 325° and make the filling.

You really should check out the entire post for more information and pictures. Another recipe I found that seems simpler yet just as effective comes from Bob’s Red Mills. I will definitely be trying both in the upcoming weeks, but for Thanksgiving I plan to embark on the one from Gluten-Free Girl

Now, if you happen to be one of those bakers who hates making pie crusts, then check out Bob’s Red Mills pie crust mix or even Pillsbury’s gluten-free pie crust ready-made. These simplify the process and make the crust quicker. A quick search on Amazon brought up several other options for pie crust mixes. For those of you in a real hurry or simply not interested in even these, then there are pre-made crusts available. I found one called Heaven Mills here.

Beyond these, a baker could make crusts out of nuts or crumbled gluten-free cookies.

Since both pumpkin pie and pecan pie fillings are gluten-free, the real focus zooms in on the pie crusts. All of these are great options that I look forward to trying out…may they also help you.

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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