Are you afraid of trying gluten free pastry? Have you made pie with a gluten free crust? I’m here to tell you it’s easier than you think. In this post I share my best Tips For Making Gluten Free Pastry. If you are worried it will be hard remember this quote.
“Everything is hard before it’s easy.”J. W. Goethe
One of the reasons making pastry is intimidating for home cooks is because they never make it. You can’t expect to be good at something you only do once a year. But once you’ve made pastry, even just a few times, you’ll be comfortable with the technique and you can make pie every week or once a year. It’s like riding a bike, you never forget.
Learn By Doing
You can look at pictures and watch videos but there is nothing like just getting in the kitchen and doing it. I’m starting to post technique videos on YouTube and Facebook but my best advice is to get in the kitchen and try.
In my cooking class, Learn To Bake Gluten Free, we make Cherry Hand Pies. I chose these because it’s easier to master the technique using a small piece of pastry. The best part is we can complete the whole process in under two hours and taste the pies before everyone goes home. You could try this with a friend.
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Tip #1 – Precise Measuring
Wheat flour is more forgiving than all the gluten free flours but the most common error I see is sloppy measuring. If you struggle to make delicious baked goods give a little more attention to your measuring. Here are a few tips.
- Use wet and dry measuring cups for wet and dry ingredients.
- Dry cups should have flour scooped into them and then be levelled off with a straight edge. Use a ruler, a spreader of some kind or a long knife.
- Liquid cups should be read at eye level. Bend down to fill the cup and measure the amount called for.
- Use proper measuring spoons, not just kitchen spoons. Some ingredients, like salt, can simply be measured by filling the measuring spoon then gently shaking it back and forth. Ingredients like cornstarch and potato starch are clumpy so are best measured by levelling off the spoon with a straight edge.
Tip #2 – Handle with Care
- Pastry is delicate. The pastry needs to be kept cool and not over worked. Follow the recipe directions and keep the recipes that work best for you.
- Start small. Divide the dough into smaller pieces so you have a workable size. Flatten the dough into a disk with your hands then wrap it. Start by making smaller things like hand pies or individual quiches to increase your confidence.
- Keep it covered. Use a generous sized piece of waxed paper or plastic wrap to cover the dough. This will prevent it from drying out and will act as a surface to work on when you’re rolling it out.
- Keep it cool. Pastry is mostly butter so will soften as you work with it. Keep any pastry you are not working with wrapped in the fridge. At any point if your dough is too soft put it back in the fridge for 10-15 minutes. (Another reason to work on a flexible cutting mat.)
Tip #3 – Learn The Technique
- Use a rolling pin. A straight edged drinking glass or a wine bottle will work but a rolling pin is the tool if you want to make pastry more than once.
- Start in the center. Gently roll dough from the center toward the outer edge. Lift and come back to center, roll in another direction and repeat.
- Lift at the edges. As you roll toward the edge LIFT being careful not to roll right off the dough and flatten the edges.
Tip #4 – Flip and Turn with Confidence
- Just like rolling; flipping and turning pastry is a technique. The more you do it the better you’ll be at it.
- Use the wrap. Leave the pastry on the waxed paper as you roll it out making it easier to move. I also slip a flexible cutting mat underneath the waxed paper to give more support and make it easy to flip.
- Prevent sticking. As you roll out pastry the flour is absorbed and the dough becomes sticky. Sprinkling the dough with flour makes it easy to turn, cut and transfer to a baking sheet yet still keep its’ shape. Sweet rice flour is perfect for sprinkling; keep a jar or bowl of it on the counter as you work.
- Sprinkle lightly. Sprinkle your rolling pin and both sides of the pastry as you work. Each time you flip the pastry peel off the waxed paper and sprinkle. This is so your cut out pastry shape will easily come off the paper to transfer to a baking sheet.
Tip #5 – Know Your Oven
Pastry typically cooks at a high temperature but every oven is different. Here are a few tips to help during the baking process.
- Hot spots. Rotate your pans half way through the cooking time if needed.
- Extra insulation. If the bottom of your pastry is too brown set it on a second baking pan to provide extra insulation.
- Cover with foil. Sometimes you just need to cover the edges of your pastry and let the filling cook through.
- Oven Thermometer. Use an oven thermometer if you consistently have trouble and can’t seem to figure it out.
The Science of Gluten Free Baking
America’s Test Kitchen has two cookbooks that cover the science of gluten free baking. They have tested and tasted more times than any everyday cook could do in a lifetime. What makes pastry flakey? Do you need to use xanthan gum? How do I prevent pastry from becoming soggy? They have figured it all out and share that with the reader.
- xanthan gum adds structure
- sour cream makes pastry easier to work with
- vinegar makes a flaky, tender pastry
- adding warm filling to a partially baked crust helps cook pastry and filling evenly
If you are interested in the science they have information that goes beyond my basic Tips For Making Gluten Free Pastry. I highly recommend both cookbooks as a resource for anyone who cooks gluten free.
Let me know in the comments below how your pastry turned out.