Tips for Allergy Friendly Pie Crusts:
1. It’s just a simple swap: Because pie crusts don’t need to rise the way breads and cakes do, you can simply substitute your favorite gluten free flour for the all purpose flour. No need to make up any special flour blends at all. If you want a flakier, crispier, closer to traditional pie crust, opt for flours like brown rice or sorghum. If you want a more substantive crust with flavor, protein and fiber, try garbanzo bean or gluten free oat flour. If you have a gluten free flour blend sitting around in your closet, you can by all means use, too.
2. Cold is best all the way around: All pie crust recipes call for cold butter or shortening, cold ice water, and to put the made crust in the fridge for a little while. Why? Because warm pie crust dough sticks and won’t roll very well. Warm pie crust dough makes for a denser, less flaky crust.
What I find works wonderfully is to stick your measured butter and/or shortening into the freezer for five 10 minutes or so before using, to put ice cubes into your water, and to put your prepared pie crust dough into the fridge for a minimum of thirty minutes, an hour at the most.
3. “Fat” substitutions work: I use soy free vegan butter and shortening in my pie crusts all the time without any difference. So you can simply use what works for you without worry. It’s a straight one to one substitution ratio. What you should know, though, is that the allergy friendly versions tend to be softer than regular butter and shortening so sometimes I freeze them a little longer more like 10 to 15 minutes.
4. Work around and with the rolling: When it comes to pie crusts, the rolling out of the dough is what usually causes issues for people. I’ve learned a couple of things:
One, you don’t have to roll the bottom crust. I shape my dough into a slightly flattened disk (about an inch high) which I cool in the fridge for my 30-60 minutes, and then I simply use my fingers to push the dough outward from the center to the edges. It takes less than five minutes and actually makes for a more even crust.
Two, when I do have to roll the crust for the top part of a pie, I’ve found that putting the dough between two pieces of wax paper which I’ve also lightly greased is the best approach. The dough rolls easily, doesn’t stick, and comes off when I go to put it on top of the pie.
5. Be creative with the flavoring: Salt is the go-to for pie crusts, but it doesn’t have to be. If you’re making an apple pie, add some cardamom to complement the cinnamon in the pie. If you’re making a pumpkin pie, add grated orange peel as a contrast to the pumpkin. If you’re making a sweet potato pie, add grated nutmeg to intensify the sweet potato taste. You simply add the spices to the dry ingredients of the pie dough before cutting in the fat.
6. Know the effects of the process: Another issue people often have problems with is making their dough too dry or too wet. It’s important to understand the dynamics of the different ways you process the dough:
If you use a food processor which is what many recipes say to do nowadays, the dynamics of the food processing blade means the water is incorporated quickly and efficiently. If you have cut the fat in yourself with a hand pastry blender of two knives and are adding the water by stirring the dough with a fork, the water will drain into different parts of your dough more quickly than you can stir it. As a result you will often need more water for hand processing than when using a food processor.
Also, a food processor will draw the dough naturally into a ball which makes it easy for you to see that you have enough water. When you stir the dough by hand, the dough will usually not form a ball unless you’ve added too much water.
So, a tip: If a recipe calls for a certain tbsp amount of ice water for use in a food processor, it will normally mean you’ll need about two tablespoons more for hand stirring, so if my dough looks dry after the amount specified, I will go ahead and add two more tablespoons, and then even if it looks dry still, I will push the dough together with my hands to form two disks. If the dough will stick together, it’s fine, if there are dry pieces falling off, I simply wet my hands with the ice water and incorporate those dry pieces into the disks.