10 Tips for Gluten Free Pie Baking (and a Recipe for Gluten Free Pumpkin Meringue Pie)

Bake a gluten free pumpkin meringue pie this holiday that all of your guests are sure to love!
Bake a gluten free pumpkin meringue pie this holiday that all of your guests are sure to love!
Marisa Lown

With the Chow Bella Pie Social returning for its fifth year on Saturday, November 15th, you will certainly be inspired to bake up some of your very own slightly sweet treats this holiday season. For those with food allergies or who follow particular diets, the last course is generally one we tend to avoid (or we bring along a container filled with our own private stash of goodies) at a family meal. Whether you are baking for yourself or a beloved friend or family member -- or simply wondering how to include allergy friendly desserts into your repertoire -- incorporating a gluten free pie into your holiday spread will certainly be appreciated. Follow these simple tips and then try your hand at the gluten free pumpkin meringue pie recipe below. All of your guests -- not just those who eschew gluten -- will devour every last bite and you'll give them one more thing to be thankful for.

See also: Julie Moreno of Jewel's Bakery & Cafe: Pie Social Celebrity Bakers 2014

Tips for Successful Gluten Free Pie Baking

1. Read any new recipe the entire way through before beginning. Make sure you have all the ingredients on hand, as well as any specialized kitchen tools required, before jumping in.

2. Invest in a kitchen scale. Baking by weight, and not volume, allows for increased precision and standardized quality each and every time you bake the same recipe. Added bonus? You won't dirty, and then have to clean, all those different measuring cups. (The following recipe is given in both volumetric and weight quantities.)

3. Most gluten free recipes call for a mixture of at least several different flours. From nut and grain flours to tapioca and potato starches, most recipes are tailored to the specific flours included in the recipe, and for good reason. In general, you need a minimum of three flours or starches to replace regular all-purpose flour: one for body, one for texture, and one for taste.

4. An all-purpose gluten free flour blend may sometimes be substituted for the sum of individual flours, but be cautioned that the final result may result in a different flavor or texture (especially if your all-purpose blend contains gums or leveners). If you do choose to buy a pre-packaged gluten free flour blend for pastry purposes, avoid any blend containing bean flours. These are best used in savory applications.

5. Oat flour is a great high fiber whole grain gluten free flour alternative but be careful as not all oat flours are certified gluten free. If baking for someone with a severe gluten allergy or who has Celiac disease, a certified gluten free oat flour is recommended.   6. Gluten free baking is an investment; the flours can be pricey but they will last you awhile (depending on how often you enjoy baking!). To make your flours last longer, seal in air-tight containers and store them in the refrigerator.

7. A general note on substitutions - if you are a seasoned baker and comfortable with substitutions, go for it. When working with a new recipe, make it according to the recipe first (or start with a half batch), then make adjustments or substitutions at your whimsy on the next round.

8. Not all pie plates and cooking ware are created equal. From metal and anti-stick to porcelain and glass, each of these different materials may impact the baking time and temperature. As a general rule of thumb, reduce your oven temperature by 25 degrees for porcelain or glass. If your pie crust is baking too quickly, use a crust guard or place a tented piece of aluminum foil over your pie to allow the filling to bake while not further darkening the crust.

9. Some pies can be made ahead and some are best baked the day they will be enjoyed. Since holiday meal preparation can tend to get a bit hectic, selecting a pie recipe that can be made a day or two ahead will cut down on the time you spend in the kitchen on the actual holiday. Just make your toppings (meringue, whipped cream) right before serving.

10. Aside from following the "rules", remember to always have fun! And don't be worried about making mistakes; even the most seasoned baker and pastry chef makes them!

Meringue is a great dairy free alternative for topping your holiday pies.
Meringue is a great dairy free alternative for topping your holiday pies.
Marisa Lown

Recipe: Gluten Free Pumpkin Meringue Pie with Graham Cookie Crust

There are multiple components to this fall inspired pie - the graham cookie crust, pumpkin filling, brown sugar meringue, and roasted maple spice pumpkin seeds. The cookie crust can be made several days in advance, yet the filling should be made right before baking. The pie can be made a day in advance (or at least 8 hours before you plan to serve so the pie can chill). The meringue and roasted pumpkin seeds should be made right before serving. I do recommend serving with all the components, you and your guests will not be disappointed! (Note - a kitchen torch is recommended to toast the meringue, however it is not required. A food processor is also recommended.)

Yield: one 9-inch pie (8-10 servings)

Gluten Free Graham Cookie Crust

¾ cup almond flour (3 oz) ¾ cup tapioca starch (3 oz) ½ cup coconut flour (2 oz) 2 tablespoons flax meal* (.5 oz) 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon curry powder* 2 pinches kosher salt ⅓ cup dark brown sugar, packed* (3 oz) 5 tablespoons cold butter, cut into quarter inch cubes (2.5 oz) 1 large egg 1 tablespoon molasses (.5 oz) 2 tablespoons honey (.75 oz)

*see notes, next page  

Use extra crust dough to make a fun and creative border around your pie.
Use extra crust dough to make a fun and creative border around your pie.
Marisa Lown

Directions 1. Place all the dry ingredients (including brown sugar) into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse several times to combine. 2. Place cubed cold butter into bowl of food processor with dry ingredients and pulse several times until only small pea-sized pieces of butter remain. 3. In a small bowl, whisk together egg, molasses, and honey. With food processor running on low speed, drizzle in the wet mixture. Stop the processor as soon as dough comes together (you don't want to melt the butter). Dough may be slightly crumbly. 4. Turn dough out onto a piece of parchment paper or plastic wrap. Working quickly and gently, pat dough into a 4" disk. Cover with wrap, refrigerate 30 minutes (or more, if making ahead of time). 5. After dough has chilled, place disc onto a large square of parchment paper (paper should be slightly larger than the pie plate). Place a square of plastic wrap on top of dough disc. 6. With a rolling pin, roll dough into 1/16-inch thickness periodically readjusting top plastic wrap as needed. Invert parchment paper with crust into pie plate and press down gently, especially into corners. Remove parchment paper. 7. Cut off excess dough around edges and either crimp crust using your favorite method or use the leftover dough scrap to cut out shapes and affix to top edge of dough. 8. Once crust is prepared, place in freezer for at least 20 minutes before filling.

*Graham Cookie Notes: 1. If you have whole flax seeds and not meal, place desired amount of seeds into a clean coffee or spice grinder and pulse until ground into a coarse flour consistency. 2. The curry powder is optional but provides a very unique flavor to the pie. If you choose to omit this, add an additional ½ teaspoon cinnamon. 3. You can also use palm, maple, or granulated sugar in this recipe. 4. This dough can also be used to make graham cookies; simply roll into ¼ inch thickness, cut with your favorite cookie cutter, and bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes.

Pumpkin Pie Filling

1 ½ cups pumpkin puree (12 oz) ¾ cup half and half, cream, or canned coconut milk (6 oz) ½ cup maple syrup, Grade B (5.5 oz) 4 large egg yolks (reserve the whites for meringue)* 1 whole large egg 2 teaspoons tapioca starch 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract or bourbon 2 pinches kosher salt 1 ½ teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (or ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, ½ teaspoon ground ginger, ¼ teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg, ¼ teaspoon ground allspice, and a pinch of ground cloves)

Directions 1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees (350 if using a metal pie plate). Place rack in center of oven. 2. Place all ingredients into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until combined. (You can also do this step with a large bowl and a whisk, I just make my filling in the same food processor bowl after making the crust.) 3. Pour filling into frozen pie crust. Bake for 60-70 minutes, rotating every 20 minutes, until center of pie is set and does not jiggle. If crust begins to brown, place a piece of tented aluminum foil over pie. 4. Let pie cool on a cooling rack at room temperature for several hours until bottom of pie plate is no longer warm. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled (at least 2 hours) or until ready to serve.

*If you opt to not make the meringue for this pie, use 3 whole eggs (instead of the 4 egg yolks and 1 whole large egg) and reduce cream/milk by 2 tablespoons.

The crunchy and slightly salty roasted maple pumpkin seeds offset the sweet and creamy pumpkin filling.
The crunchy and slightly salty roasted maple pumpkin seeds offset the sweet and creamy pumpkin filling.
Marisa Lown

  Roasted Maple Spice Pumpkin Seeds

½ cup raw unsalted pumpkin seeds (3 oz) 1 ½ tablespoons maple syrup (1 oz) ¼ teaspoon smoked salt (I use Go Lb. Salt's Applewood Smoked Salt) ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions 1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. 2. Place all ingredients into a small bowl and stir until combined and pumpkin seeds are evenly coated. 3. Spread out onto a parchment lined baking sheet, slightly separating the seeds from each other. Bake for 15 minutes. Let cool until ready to use.

Beat the brown sugar meringue until it holds a firm peak.
Beat the brown sugar meringue until it holds a firm peak.
Marisa Lown

Brown Sugar Meringue

4 large egg whites ⅓ cup dark brown sugar, packed (3 oz) ⅓ cup granulated sugar (2.5 oz) pinch Kosher salt

Directions 1. Prepare a bain marie or double boiler - place a medium saucepan filled halfway with water over medium high heat. Select a metal or glass bowl that will sit just above water level while resting on edge of saucepan. Bring water to a boil, then reduce to medium heat. 2. Place egg whites, sugars, and salt into metal or glass bowl (or bowl of double boiler) and whisk until just combined. 3. Place bowl containing egg whites mixture over boiling water and gently continuously whisk until sugar has dissolved and egg whites are warm to the touch, about 2-5 minutes. (Be very careful to not overcook the whites or else they will scramble!) 4. Place egg white and sugar mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer. Fit mixer with whisk attachment and beat egg mixture on medium speed until firm but not dry stiff peaks, about 3-5 minutes. Meringue is ready when it holds its shape on the beater.

Pie Assembly

1. Remove chilled pie from refrigerator. Spoon meringue onto pie; using the back of the spoon, make dips and peaks in the meringue. 2. Using a kitchen torch, carefully toast meringue gently until lightly browned. If you don't have a kitchen torch, you can toast the meringue under the broiler in your oven. (Place the shelf second from the top. Set your oven to "Broil" and place your pie in the oven with the door open. Keep an eye on the pie and remove when desired browning is reached.) 3. Cut pie into desired number of slices and top with toasted candied pumpkin seeds. Serve immediately. Any leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Marisa Lown is a pastry chef specializing in whole food recipes for consumers with food allergies or restrictive diets. Her nutritional focus includes gluten-, grain-, dairy-, and refined sugar-free treats. You can follow her tips, resources, and recipes at www.theradicalcupcake.com.

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