Friday, December 26, 2014

Nonallergenic Pie Crust

     There are now excellent gluten-free pie crusts on the market.  If your only food issue is gluten, I highly recommend them. If you are allergic to the soy, corn or other additives that are used to give these crusts a good texture, you can try the following recipe. 

     This dough, while somewhat more fragile than a wheat dough, is cooperative enough that you can actually roll it out and get it into a pie plate, especially if you follow the suggestions given below. The flaxseed meal and sorghum flour, besides giving the dough a more workable texture than most gluten-free pie dough, give the crust a good texture and a mild grainy flavor, reminiscent of partially whole wheat crust. The recipe makes enough for two layers for a 9-inch pie plate.

      6 Tb. ground flaxseed meal
     ½ c. + 1 Tb. cold water
     2 c. sorghum flour
     1 tsp. salt (See Salt in the Glossary)
     2/3 c. palm oil shortening or lard 

     Mix the flaxseed meal with the water in a small pot. Stirring constantly, bring to a full boil. The mixture should now be thick and gluey.  Refrigerate it until it is cold. In a medium-size mixing bowl, stir the salt into the flour and cut the shortening into it until it resembles coarse crumbs.  Add the flaxseed mixture and knead it in until the dough forms a ball that mostly holds together. You can add a small amount of cold water if necessary to hold the dough together. Divide into two halves and roll each half out into one layer of pie crust following the suggestions given below, sprinkling it as needed with sorghum flour to keep it from sticking.

Bottom Crust

     Preheat the oven (following the instructions for the pie filling) and grease the inside of your pie plate. (Unlike regular pie dough, this dough will stick if the pie plate is not greased.) Roll the crust out on the outside bottom of a large, flat skillet (or tray), making sure that the skillet is well-floured and the pie crust is not sticking to it anywhere.  If necessary, slide a spatula between the tray or skillet and the dough to unstick it all the way around. If you are not allergic to the corn, soy, or dairy products in the wax on waxed paper, you can use that instead.

     Do not try to pick your pie crust up by hand and pop it into a pie plate! Not being held together by gluten, it doesn’t have as firm an opinion about what shape it is. The downside to this is that it is more inclined to break when you try to move it.  The upside is that repairs are actually easier. 

     Center the pie plate upside down on top of the pie crust. Keeping one hand on the pie plate and holding the skillet with the other hand, flip them over together and lift off the skillet. 
     If your bottom crust breaks, you can reassemble the pieces inside the pie plate and just press them firmly together.  If you need to, collect all the pieces and roll the dough out again. “Overworking” a regular pie crust can cause it to become stiff and tough. This is because of the gluten bonding to itself. With a gluten-free crust, this is not a problem, so don’t worry about rolling your dough out or otherwise fiddling with it as much you need to.

     If you find this method intimidating, your only allergen is gluten, and you’re making a sweet pie (not chicken pot pie or something), get one package of Pamela’s Shortbread cookies, grind them all up in a food-processor, and press the result onto the bottom and sides of a pie plate. This is also an excellent crust for cheesecake (again, assuming your only food issue is gluten).

Top Crust

     With a top crust you don’t have the luxury of playing with the dough until you get it right.  Once it touches  the pie filling, you’re committed to proceeding forward. Your options are as follows.

1.  Roll the top crust out on the outside bottom of a large skillet or tray, as described above for the bottom crust. Put the filling on top of the bottom crust. With a wet finger, dampen the edge of the bottom crust all the way around. Make sure the dough is nowhere stuck to the skillet. Pick the skillet up by the handle, hold it next to the pie plate containing the bottom crust and the pie filling, and turn the skillet over so as to plop the top crust into place.  Use leftover dough to patch as needed. Use a knife to cut off the excess dough hanging over the rim of the pie plate. Use a fork to press the top crust against the bottom crust all the way around on the rim.  Prick the top crust in a few places with a fork so air can escape while the pie is cooking.

2. If your pie dough seems a bit crumbly or you just feel leery of trying to flip the top crust into place, make a lattice top:  slice the rolled out top crust into strips and use a spatula to pick them up one by one and put them in place. If a strip breaks, you can always patch it with another small bit of pie dough.

3. If you are making a fruit pie, you can skip the top crust altogether and put one recipe of Crumble Topping on top of it.

Baking and Refrigerating

     Bake the pie at 450 F for 15 minutes, then turn the heat down to 350 and bake for another 45 minutes or until the crust is golden brown (or follow the instructions for the filling). Note that the bottom crust (and, most likely, the filling) will be firmer if the pie is thoroughly chilled before it is served.

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