[pinit] What is a proper gluten free Thanksgiving without some lovely gluten free pie? And what is that pie without just the right gluten free pie crust? Making pie means asking Very Important Questions this time of year. Should you blind bake the crust before filling it, or shouldn’t you? Which crust recipe is best? I’m here for you, with my version of The Right Answers. We have made quite a bit of gluten free pie on this blog, and there is even more in my books, but I have been getting lots of pie questions lately. So let’s take some time out for a simple pie: gluten free custard pie. The filling is a simple but delicious custard, and it gives us a chance to talk about pie crust.
The recipe below is for a single pie crust. If you’re making a double crust pie, like this sour cherry pie, just double the recipe. Whatever you do, most of all I recommend NOT processing your butter until it’s the size of the proverbial “small peas.” That almost always leads bakers to overprocess the butter. And that means your pie crust will not be light and flaky. Light and flaky pastry, gluten free or not, comes from cold chunks of butter surrounded by flour. When the cold butter hits the heat of the oven, it expands and puffs out the flour around it, creating a light and flaky pastry or crust. It’s a little bit of chemistry, and it depends most of all upon architecture. So don’t overprocess that butter!
You’ll see that, for this pie, a do blind bake the crust. All that means is that I bake the crust at a higher temperature (375°F) for 10 minutes before filling it and completing the baking. The reason for that is that this is a custard pie. For that custard filling to set up properly, it needs to be baked at a much lower temperature (325°F), and for quite a while (about 45 minutes). And 325°F just isn’t the right temperature for a pie crust if you want it to be light and flaky. So, we blind bake. But for a double crust fruit pie, like apple pie, I generally don’t blind bake the bottom crust.
If you have other Thanksgiving pie questions (or just other Thanksgiving questions in general), ask them in the comments below. I know many of you have emailed me with your burning questions and as much as I want to answer them all individually, I’m (as always) woefully behind on answering blog emails as they do tend to pile up and Thanksgiving is less than a week away. I do my level best to respond to everyone, but since time is of the essence, for now ask below!
Coarse sugar (like Sugar in the Raw), for sprinkling
Freshly grated nutmeg, for sprinkling
Make the Pie Dough. First, make the pie crust. In a large bowl, place the flour, xanthan gum, baking powder and salt, and whisk to combine well. Add the chopped and chilled butter, and toss to coat it in the dry ingredients. Flatten each chunk of butter between your thumb and forefinger. Add 1/4 cup of water and mix until the dough begins to come together. Add the remaining water by the teaspoon until no part of the dough is crumbly. Gather the dough together and press into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to chill for at least 30 minutes, and up to a week.
Prepare the Crust. When you are ready to make the pie, preheat your oven to 375°F. Grease well a 9-inch pie plate and set it aside. Remove the pie crust dough from the refrigerator, and place it on a lightly floured piece of unbleached parchment paper. Dust the dough lightly with flour, cover it with another piece of unbleached parchment paper and roll into a 12-inch round, about 3/8-inch thick. If the crust seems at all difficult to roll out, roll it out into a rough rectangle, then fold it over on itself like a business letter and roll it out again, dusting with flour as necessary. Remove the top sheet of parchment paper and carefully lift the rolled-out pie crust into the greased pie plate (I like to roll the crust gently onto the rolling pin, and then unroll it onto the pie plate). Press the pie crust gently into the bottom and up the sides of the pie plate and trim the excess that overhangs the edge of the pie plate by more than 1 inch all around. Tuck the overhung edges of the crust underneath, all around the pie plate, to create a thicker edge that is flush with the edge of the pie plate. Crimp the edge by pinching it with the thumb and forefinger of one hand from the inside of the crust, and poking the forefinger of your other hand into the crimp from the outside of the crust. Pierce the bottom of the pie crust randomly with the tines of a fork. This will prevent the crust from bubbling up during baking. Place the pie plate in the freezer until firm (about 5 minutes).
Blind bake the crust. Cover the bottom of the chilled crust with unbleached parchment paper, fill with pie weights (dried beans work well) and place in the center of the preheated oven to bake for 10 minutes. Take the pie out of the oven and remove the parchment and pie weights. Allow the blind baked crust to cool briefly while you make the filling.
Make the custard filling. In a medium-size heavy-bottom saucepan, place the milk, sugar, flour blend and salt, and whisk to combine well. Have the egg yolks set beside the stove in a deep, medium-size bowl. Bring the milk mixture to a simmer over medium heat, whisking occasionally. Slowly drip the hot milk mixture down the side of the bowl with the egg yolks, whisking constantly. This tempers the eggs (brings them up to a higher temperature gradually) so they do not scramble. Return the entire mixture to the saucepan, and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the custard thickens (about 2 minutes). Stir in the vanilla. If there are any lumps at all in the custard, smooth it out in a blender (I always have lumps – and I’ve tried it every which way – so I always blend the custard).
Assemble and bake the pie. Pour the smooth custard filling into the blind-baked pie crust. Tap the pie flat on the counter to burst any air bubbles in the custard. Sprinkle the top of the custard filling evenly with coarse sugar and freshly grated nutmeg. Place the pie on a baking sheet and in the center of the preheated oven. Lower the heat to 325°F, and bake, undisturbed, for about 45 minutes or until the pie jiggles slightly when shaken from side to side and/or a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. The jiggle should be a structured one (like Jello), not a loose one. The filling will bubble and puff as it bakes, but settle as it cools. Remove the pie from the oven and allow it to cool to room temperature before placing in the refrigerator to chill until firm (at least 2 hours and up to overnight). Slice and serve chilled.