A pie crust recipe that is so buttery and flaky that it’s hard to believe it’s gluten free.
If y’all know anything about me it should be that I bake with my whole heart for my loved ones, and I’m not one to shy away from a challenge in the kitchen. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again–I’m not a regular gluten free baker–unless someone I love is in need of a gluten free treat. When someone I love in in need of a gluten free pie, then it’s On like Donkey Kong! I’m going to figure out how to make the gluten free pie a reality! I’m no stranger to traditional pie dough. I firmly believe everyone should be able to enjoy a buttery, flaky crust under a favorite pie filling because pie is happy food!
Ha! That was easier said than done! I quickly discovered that pie crust made without wheat gluten binding it together was challenging, to say the least. Throughout the recipe trial process I found that most of the gluten free pie crust recipes were a little lacking. Don’t get me wrong! Some of the recipes were palatable, but none of them were what I would consider to be a good pie crust. This gluten free pie game was proving to be more difficult than I had expected. I tried all sorts of replacement binders to take the place of the gluten, but proper texture of the finished product eluded me. Much of the dough was wet and sticky, yet completely fell apart when I tried to manipulate it. Others were so hard and stiff that I would’ve needed a steamroller to flatten them before even thinking of sliding them into pie plates. When I thought I had mastered the gluten free crust a few different times, the crust turned to mush after being filled and baked.
Just when I was about ready to shelve this project for awhile out of frustration, I had the Aha! moment that was a total game changer in my quest for a “real” gluten free pie crust. I knew that I needed to try yet another binder. This time I tried a binder that wasn’t a commercially dehydrated and pulverized powdered thickener with chemical properties that I didn’t fully understand. I’d had enough failure at the hands of those pricey substitutes! This time I went for a binder with which I was well acquainted–the egg!
I realize how obvious it all sounds now that I’m typing it, but I was so caught up with the idea of substituting gums and starches for the gluten that I completely overlooked the most common binder available. For generations, many of our grandma’s pie crust recipes contained an egg because it made the crust “nicer” to roll out. Those crafty grandmas were on to to something!
Adding a beaten egg was the keystone to the success of my gluten free pie crust. Since I’m not a full-time gluten free baker, I used King Arthur Flour’s Gluten Free All Purpose Flour mix as a base. Many of my gluten free friends mix their own flour blends, but I am not yet confident enough with the medium to rely on my own blends. King Arthur Flour does it well, and I trust them. I whisked a pinch of salt into the KAF mix, grated the butter into the bowl, tossed the butter to coat, and then worked a beaten egg into the mixture by hand. The mixture should still contain visible pieces of butter, as it’s that visible butter that will equate to flakiness later.
Comfortably Domestic Tip: I highly recommend using clean hands to make a gluten free crust. I found that using a mixer or food processor resulted in weirdly textured doughs that were not akin to pie crust. Gluten free pie pastry is very loosely bound together. As such, gluten free dough is much more fragile than a dough containing wheat gluten. A careful hand is required.
After incorporating the egg, work in one tablespoon of iced water at a time until the dough clumps into large pieces that hold shape when squeezed. The dough should feel moist but appear a little dry to the eye.
At this point, dump the dough pieces onto a large sheet of parchment paper. Parchment paper is essential because it is contains silicone, which will give much needed slip when it comes time to roll out the crusts. Divide the crumbles in half on the parchment. Gently work the dough into two disks, ensuring that it is mostly smooth. (A few small cracks around the perimeter are okay.)
Working with one disk at a time, place a barely dampened paper towel over the disk that is not in use. Place another large sheet of parchment over the other disk. Roll the dough between the sheets of parchment to about 12-inches in diameter to line a 9-inch pie plate. Carefully remove the top sheet of parchment paper. If some of the dough sticks to the top sheet, just pick it off and press it back into place.
Due to the absence of gluten in the dough, this pie dough is more loosely held together than a traditional pie dough. As such, it is more fragile. I note this here because it is nearly impossible to lift a rolled gluten free crust to transfer it to the pie plate. SO…to get the crust into the pie plate with minimal damage: lift the bottom sheet of parchment up off of the counter, center it over top of the pie plate, and quickly flip the the parchment over the plate to get the dough into the plate in the same manner as a traditional wheat crust. The bottom sheet of parchment is now on top of the dough in the pie plate. Carefully peel away that bottom (now top) sheet of parchment.
See all of the cracks in the pie dough? Don’t freak out! The gluten free dough is very crumbly but it is also quite forgiving. Simply press the cracks in the pastry together until they merge with the rest of the dough as if it were modelling clay.
Once the cracks are pressed back together, lift the overhanging edges and press them into a decorative edge. In my experience, the edge pieces want to fall apart unless I use a heavier hand to squeeze them into
The plain edge can either be left as is or coaxed into a more decorative edge. The crust is now ready to be filled and baked!
I’ve included many more helpful tips and tricks for using this gluten free pie dough in various styles of pie in the recipe portion of this post. No matter how you choose to bake it, just know that you’ll end up with The Best Gluten Free Pie Crust that I could offer, with a buttery, almost shortbread like texture that holds up beautifully to most any filling.
Be sure to come back later to see what I made with The Best Gluten Free Pie Crust!
Gluten Free Pie Crust
Yield: Two 9-inch Pie Crusts
A pie crust recipe that is so flaky that it’s hard to believe it’s gluten free.
Prep Time: 30 minutes, Cook Time: varies with recipe, Total Time: 30 minutes
2 C. King Arthur Flour (KAF) brand Gluten Free All Purpose Flour Mix*
½ tsp. salt
8 Tbs. unsalted butter, well chilled
1 large egg, lightly beaten
8 to 10 Tbs. iced water
Measure the KAF brand Gluten Free All Purpose Flour Mix into a large bowl. Whisk the salt into the gluten free flour. Make a well in the center of the mix. Using a box grater positioned over the well in the center, run the chilled butter through it to shred the butter into the well. Use a clean hand to gently toss the shredded butter into the flour mix until it is evenly distributed throughout. Add the beaten egg to the center, gently working it in with your fingers until the mixture is crumbly. Use a gentle hand but work quickly so as to keep the dough as flaky as possible.
Add the iced water to the center, one tablespoon at a time, working it in by hand until a moist, crumbly dough forms. The crumbles should compress in shape and stick when squeezed together. In my experience, a gluten free crust should be made with more water than a traditional pie crust, or else it will become very dry and difficult to manipulate.
Shape the dough into a large ball. Cut the ball in half, placing each half onto a sheet of parchment paper that has been sprinkled with additional gluten free all purpose flour mix. Form each half of dough into a smooth disk. Sprinkle a small amount of gluten free flour mix over each disk before covering them with another sheet of parchment paper.
Roll each disk between the parchment paper until it is 2-inches larger that the pie plate. Carefully peel off the top layer of parchment. Pick up the rolled pie crust by the under layer or parchment, center it over the pie plate, and quickly flip it over into the plate. Carefully pull the bottom layer of parchment off of the pie crust. If the crust breaks apart in a few spots, and it likely will, just pinch the dough back together in those spots.
For a Double Crust Pie – fill the bottom crust with the desired filling. Flip the second crust over the filling, and crimp the edges of the two crusts together. Vent the top crust and bake as directed by the pie recipe.
For a Single Crust Pie – Crimp the edges of the gluten free crust, as desired. Fill the crust and bake as directed by the pie recipe.
To Blind Bake a Single Crust – Crimp the edges of the gluten free crust, as desired. Freeze the crust in the pie plate for at least 30 minutes, preferably overnight. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line the frozen crust with a double thickness of aluminum foil. Fill the foil with 2 cups of dried beans or ceramic pie weights. Bake the crust for 12 minutes. Remove the foil and pie weights. Continue baking for another 2 to 3 minutes or until crust begins to brown. Allow the crust to cool completely before filling.
To Par-Bake a Single Crust – Crimp the edges of the gluten free crust, as desired. Freeze the crust in the pie plate for at least 30 minutes, preferably overnight. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line the frozen crust with a double thickness of aluminum foil. Fill the foil with 2 cups of dried beans or ceramic pie weights. Bake the crust for 5 or 6 minutes or until crust begins to set but is not brown. Remove the foil and pie weights. Fill the pie and continue baking as directed by the recipe.
*ADDITIONAL NOTES: Gluten free pie crusts are not as flaky as a traditional pie crust made with wheat flour, nor will it behave in exactly the same way. Gluten free pie dough is fragile, so a little cracking when transferring the crust to a pie plate is normal. The dough also tends to dry out quickly, so if the dough will be sitting out while the filling is prepared, keep it covered with a lightly dampened paper towel. With all that said, this recipe is the closest approximation to a traditional wheat flour crust that I’ve been able to come up with, in that it is still flaky with a shortbread-like texture. This recipe was developed using King Arthur Flour’s Gluten Free All Purpose Flour Mix. I cannot guarantee success of this recipe using a different gluten free flour blend.*