Module Four: Gluten Free Pastry

Gluten Free Pastry School Heading with images of pie crust, tart dough and pate a chop buns

Theory

I have been eagerly awaiting the launch of this module! Why you ask? Because pies and tarts are my ALL-TIME FAVOURITE! I’m a sucker for a classic apple pie or a chocolate tart and learning how to make gluten free pie and tart dough is easier than you might think.  Once you know the basic principles and recipes taught in this module, you will have everything needed to make a variety of classic desserts, but gluten free.

This module will give you a base understanding of the different types of gluten free pastry dough, the various preparation methods, which types of fillings are best used for each dough, why temperature matters, when and how to blind bake and dock pie and tart shells, and other tips for working with gluten free pastry dough.

Pastry

What is Traditional Pastry?

In the baking world, when the word ‘pastry’ is used, it generally relates to a specific type of dough which is used to make pies, tarts, croissants, and other sweet and savoury baked goods. The doughs generally include similar base ingredients such as flour, water, fat (butter, vegetable shortening, or lard), milk and eggs. Some recipes will include sugar for sweetness and vinegar or dairy (sour cream, cream cheese or yogurt) to help create a more tender texture. The same base ingredients are used when making gluten free pastry dough with the exclusion of flour. Instead, the combination of gluten free flours, starches and gums are added in its place. Often in the form of a 1 to 1 premade gluten free flour blend.

Gluten Free Pastry

When it comes to translating traditional wheat-based recipes to gluten free, pastry is one of the more difficult textures to replicate.  This is because gluten gives traditional pastry dough the elasticity and structure needed to create layers and a tender crust. Luckily there is an ingredient we can add to our gluten free pastry that will allow us to replicate these results. Xanthan Gum. 

Infographic showing use of Xanthan Gum and added hydration in gluten free pastry

The Role of Xanthan Gum in Gluten Free Pastry

Xanthan gum is going to be the workhorse for these pastry recipes because it’s going to increase the viscosity of the dough. This added elasticity will make the dough easier to handle and also create the texture we’re after. 

Keeping in mind, recipes that require the dough to be extra flaky, like pie dough, will require more xanthan gum, whereas recipes that are ‘mealy’ such as Pâte Sucrée don’t require as much help from xanthan gum because the texture is more cookie-like and less flaky.

Hydration in Gluten Free Pastry

In addition to xanthan gum, the other main hurdle to get over when making gluten free pastry is that gluten free flours and starches absorb more moisture compared to wheat flours. This is why if you were to take a traditional wheat-based pie dough recipe and convert it to gluten free without making any other changes, the dough will be dry and tough. Adding additional moisture is one of the ways we can offset the difference in hydration retention. 

Types of Pastry

The type of pastry you can make from these base ingredients all comes down to the preparation and techniques used. 

Notable Types of Pastry Include:

  • Pie Crust (Rubbed Dough/Flaky)
  • Pâte Brisée (Rubbed Dough/Mealy)
  • Pâte Sucrée and Pâte Sablée (Short Dough/Mealy)
  • Puff Pastry (Laminated Dough/Extra Flaky)
  • Pâte à Choux, (Precooked Batter)

In this module, we will be learning how to make gluten free versions of Flaky All-Butter Pie Crust, Pâte Brisée, Pâte Sucrée and Pâte à Choux with Craqueline Crust.

Gluten Free Pastry Methods and Preparations

After working as a pastry chef and years of developing gluten free recipes I have found that the traditional methods taught in culinary schools and the preparations used in professional kitchens can be directly transferred when making gluten free pastry dough. The main factors that differentiate traditional pastry dough from gluten free pastry dough comes down to the recipe itself, handling the dough, and baking temperatures. 

Types of Pastry Mixing Methods

The following methods we are going to cover are the same methods taught and used in the professional pastry world and can be used for both traditional and gluten free preparations. 

Infographic showing different types of gluten free mixing methods, includes biscuit and creaming method

Biscuit Method

The biscuit method is the preparation of rubbing or cutting in the cold fat to the gluten free flour, leaving visible pieces of fat in the dough.

The two types of dough made using this method are Pie Crust and Pâte Brisée.

  • Pie Crust is considered to be ‘Flaky’ as the dough contains larger pieces of cold fat, about the size of a pea, which creates a flakier crisper crust when baked.
    • Pie Crust can be made using butter or a combination of butter, vegetable shortening and/or lard.
  • Pâte Brisée is considered ‘Mealy’. Cold butter is worked into the gluten free flour until it resembles course meal much like the appearance of cornmeal. The texture is slightly flaky with a shorter crust.
    • Pâte Brisée is made using only butter. Vegetable shortening or lard are not used.

Creaming Method

The creaming method creates a short dough similar to a short crust cookie. The cold fat and gluten free flours are finely mixed together until it resembles a sandy texture. Eggs and depending on the recipe, sugar, are then added and worked until everything comes together into a smooth soft dough. This preparation of creaming results in a crust that is tender and slightly crumbly.  

The two types of dough made using this method are Pâte Sucrée and Pâte Sablée.

  • Pâte Sucrée is a sweet pastry dough that has a high fat content. This tart dough bakes into a crisp cookie-like crust. 
  • Pâte Sablée is similar to Pâte Sucrée in the preparation method but it contains no sugar. The savoury tart dough is sturdy and great for liquid or extra sweet fillings.

Other Types of Mixing Methods

When discussing pastry doughs there are two other methods that need to be mentioned and both have a unique preparation. These include laminated doughs and Pâte à Choux.

  • Laminated dough is a method of alternating even layers of dough and cold fat so as the butter melts in the oven, it creates steam pockets from the moisture causing the dough to expand and puff up (leaven). As the layers begin to rise, the fat begins to fry the dough which results in a flaky, layerd pastry. Pastries made using this method include Croissants, Mille-Feuille, Puff Pastries, Galette des Rois, Danish pastries, and many more.
  • Pâte à Choux is a pastry made using a pre-cooked batter.  The combination of water or milk, butter and flour is cooked in a saucepan until it forms a thick paste. Once cooled the addition of eggs creates a batter that can be piped into various shapes. When baked, the batter expands, creating a hollow centre with a crisp outer crust. Pasties made using Pâte à Choux include Profiteroles, Éclair Paris-brest and Churros.

Handling Gluten Free Pastry Dough

Working with gluten free pastry dough can be tricky because it is often softer and more delicate compared to traditional pastry dough. I have a few tips and tricks that are going to make handling gluten free pastry dough so much easier and less stressful.

Rolling

Below is a step-by-step guide for rolling and lining your tart and pie pans with gluten free pastry dough. 

Tips for Rolling Gluten Free Pastry Dough

  1. Remove the chilled gluten free pastry dough from the fridge. Allow it to rest at room temperature for 30-45 minutes. If you try to roll out the dough straight from the fridge it will be too firm and crack.
  2. Line your worksurface with two sheets of plastic wrap. Alternatively, you can use a sheet of parchment paper but I find that it has a tendency to slide around and is more difficult when you go to line the tart and pie pans.
  3. Lightly dust the plastic wrap with gluten free flour.  I use sorghum flour or tapioca starch to dust my worksurface but feel free to use whatever gluten free flour blend you have.
  4. Place your gluten free pastry dough in the centre of the plastic wrap. Begin rolling the dough into a circle using a light rolling motion.
  5. If the dough becomes sticky, dust it lightly with gluten free flour but try not to add too much as we don’t want to dry out the dough. Place a sheet of parchment on top. Finish rolling the dough between the plastic wrap and the parchment paper. 

NOTE: If you think the dough is becoming too warm, slide it onto a baking sheet and place it back in the fridge for a few minutes to cool.

  • Continue to roll the gluten free pastry dough until you’ve reached the desired thickness.
    • Pie and tart dough is best rolled to a thickness of 1/8 inch or 0.3cm

Lining

Tips for Lining Tart Pans with Gluten Free Pastry Dough

  1. Gently remove the top layer of parchment paper from the rolled gluten free pastry dough (if using). 
  2. Lift the dough from underneath the plastic wrap and place it dough-side down inside the pie or tart pan. The plastic wrap makes it much easier to lift up and centre the dough. 
  3. With the plastic wrap still in place, gently press the dough against the bottom and the sides on the pan.
  4. Slowly peel off the plastic wrap.
  5. For tarts, trim the edges (the skirt) with a paring knife or offset spatula. For pies, follow the recipe for crimping instructions.
  6. Place the tart or pie back into the fridge or freezer to set before baking.

Fillings

When it comes to filling pies and tarts the possibilities are endless.  The tricky part can be knowing what pastry dough works with which types of fillings. Using the wrong combination can lead to a wet, soggy pie crust or a tart that’s overbaked with raw fruit.  There are a few things to keep in mind so you can confidently choose the best filling and pastry combination. 

Choosing the Right Filling

The easiest way to determine the ideal dough and filling combination is to remember that ‘Flakey’ dough is best suited to a filling that is baked along with the crust. Whereas ‘Mealy’ dough although very versatile, works especially well as a blind baked crust where the filling is precooked and then refrigerated. 

Here is a breakdown of which fillings work best for the following gluten free pastry doughs:

Pâte Brisée (most versatile)

  • Best suited for raw or cooked fruit, custards and other liquid fillings.
  • Sweet and savoury fillings.
  • Baked as a single crust.
  • Can be baked with fillings from raw or blind baked for pre-cooked and no bake fillings.

Examples using Pâte Brisée: Quiche Lorraine, Vegetable Tart, Pecan Tart, Fresh Fruit Tart, Summer Berry Galette.

Infographic best filling for pate brisee and mealy pastry doughs

Pâte Sucrée and Pâte Sablée (moderately versatile)

  • Best suited to pre-cooked or no bake fillings. 
  • Sweet fillings.
  • Baked as a single crust.
  • Can be baked with fillings from raw or blind baked for pre-cooked and no bake fillings.

Examples using Pâte Sucrée and Pâte Sablée: Chocolate Caramel Tart, French Lemon Tart, Fresh Strawberry Fruit Tart, Custard Tart.

Pie Crust (least versatile)

  • Best suited to raw fruit fillings that are baked together with the raw pastry dough.
  • Sweet or savoury fillings
  • Pie dough can be baked as a single crust but is often baked as a double crust.
  • Precooked or no bake fillings can be used if the pie crust is fully blind baked.
  • Not suitable for liquid fillings such as custard. The flaky crust will absorb the moisture, creating a soggy crust.

Examples using Pie Dough: Apple Pie, Pumpkin Pie, Cherry Pie, Cheese and Onion Galette, Baked Chocolate (brownie) Pie, Chicken Pot Pie, Lemon Meringue Pie.

Infographic explaining best fillings for gluten free flaky pie crust

Temperature

The working and baking temperature of your gluten free pastry dough will make or break your crust. Managing the temperature of the dough will determine if the crust is tender and flakey or chewy and tough.

Why Temperature Matters with Gluten Free Pastry Dough

Infographic of best working temperature for gluten free pastry dough

I’m going to sound like a broken record throughout this module, but cold dough is going to be your best friend when working with pastry.

The ideal working temperature for gluten free pastry dough is 35-45°F /2-7°C. This is because the dough needs to be soft enough that you can work with it, but we don’t want the butter to become so soft that it begins to absorb into the dough, ruining the layers and overall texture. 

Chilling the dough before rolling it out allows the fat to set, helping ensure the separation of baked dough into layers. 

Bake at a High Temperature

When baking gluten free pastry dough, I always start with a very high temperature and then drop it down during the baking process. This allows the butter to melt quickly. The moisture from the butter then begins to evaporate creating steam which lifts the dough. Leaving a light and flaky texture.  If the oven temperature is too low, the butter will melt slowly, seeping into the dough creating a greasy, tough crust.

Pie Dishes

Gluten Free Tart dough is much more forgiving when it comes to choosing a baking dish. Nearly any tart pan will work just fine. That’s why I’m going to focus on helping you choose the best dish for specifically for gluten free pie crust. 

Choosing the Right Baking Dish

What Baking Dish is Best for Gluten Free Pie Dough? 

When it comes to choosing the best dish for baking your gluten free pie, you want to make sure it effectively conducts heat. This will guarantee you end up with an evenly baked, golden crust.

Infographic of best material for pie dish

First Place goes to: Metal Pie Dish

Metal dishes aren’t the prettiest choice but they are the best choice. This is because metal is a much better thermal conductor when compared to glass or ceramic materials.

Why is this important? Well, if we go back to the foundations for achieving a super flaky gluten free pastry. Temperature is the most important factor. Because a metal pan is quicker to heat up, the butter will begin to melt immediately, releasing steam which creates all the flaky layers we’re after. 

To simplify things just remember that metal conducts heat while glass and ceramic retain heat.

Second Place goes to: Glass Pie Dish

Using a glass dish is my second choice and often what I recommend for new bakers or people who are nervous about underbaking their crust. This is because you can see the bottom of the pie crust as its baking, making it easier to see when it’s golden and ready.

Because glass retains heat, unlike metal that conducts heat, it can go from baked to burnt rather quickly. So, keep an eye on your pie during the final 5-10 minutes of baking.

A word of caution with glass baking dishes. Glass can shatter and crack when exposed to sudden changes in temperature. An example of this would be moving the glass dish from the freezer to the hot oven. Make sure that your glassware’s are oven safe. I have used Pyrex for years and never had any issues. 

Third Place goes to: Stoneware/Ceramic Pie Dish

Stoneware and ceramic pie dishes are by far the prettiest option. The issue with stoneware and ceramic is that they are style over substance. Similar to glassware, this material will retain heat instead of conducting it. Making it slower to heat up and more prone to burning quickly during the final stages of baking. And unlike a glass dish, you can’t see the bottom to double check that it’s baked fully.

Blind Baking and Par Baking

The purpose of blind baking or par-baking is to give the crust a head start on baking and to prevent any shrinkage or bubbles forming. Depending on the pie filling, blind baking and par-baking will also save the pie from an underbaked or soggy bottom.

What’s the Difference Between Par Baking and Blind Baking?

When it comes to blind baking or par baking crust it comes down to the type of filling you will be using.

Par-baking (partially or half baking). For fillings that are very liquid or have a custard base, such as a pumpkin pie or quiche, you will need to partially bake the crust otherwise the moisture from the custard filling would soak into the pie dough, creating a soft and soggy crust.

Blind baking (fully baking). This is used when the filling doesn’t require any baking. Fillings such as mousse, pudding, ganache or curd. Think lemon meringue pie, custard tarts or fresh fruit tarts.

Baking Weights

Baking weights are needed when its necessary to par bake or blind bake a pie crust as it will keep the crust from bubbling up and shrinking.

Infographic for types of baking weights for gluten free pastry pies and tarts

Types of Baking Weights

There are plenty of options when it comes to baking weights and it really comes down to personal preference. I personally like to use dried beans or rice but don’t let that sway you. Use whatever is convenient.

  • Ceramic Pie Beads. Ceramic baking weights are great because they conduct heat evenly. This is a nice options because you can reuse these beads again and again. Simply wash the beads in warm soapy water and set them aside to dry. Note that if the pie dough is very delicate or soft, then the beads might leave little intents in the crust.
  • Dried Beans or Lentils. You can use any kind of dried beans (kidney, chickpea, black beans, etc) or lentils as pie weights. After you’ve used them you can store them in a clean airtight container and use them again and again. Note that after baking the dried beans and lentils they are no longer edible, contrary to what a few other sources might stat.
  • Uncooked Rice (any type will work).
  • Granulated Sugar. 

How to Use Baking Weights

To use baking weights, first you need to line the pie or tart pan with parchment paper. Cut a square of parchment paper that is slightly bigger that the pan you are using. Scrunch it up into a ball, then smooth it back out. This process makes the paper more pliable. Alternatively, you can use a sheet of aluminum foil. Place the parchment paper (or foil) over the dough and pour in your baking weights. 

Docking

Docking gluten free pie crust with a silver form

What is Docking?

Docking gluten free pastry is the process of pricking the base of the dough with a fork. This allows steam to escape preventing the crust from bubbling up. Pastry chefs tend to only use baking weights with flakier doughs and for tart doughs they find that docking is enough to prevent the tart crust from bubbling. I personally use a combination of both docking and baking weights to ensure I have a perfectly flat bottom crust with no shrinkage for both flaky and tart doughs. 

Additional Gluten Free Pastry Tips and Tricks  

Here are a few additional tips for ensuring your gluten free pastry dough doesn’t have a soggy, underbaked crust.

  1. Bake the pie or tart on a preheated baking stone or sheet pan. The instant heat against the bottom of the dough creates a seal which will help ensure a crisp crust.
  2. Bake the pie or tart on a lower rack. You can move the pie to a higher rack for the last 15-20 minutes if you feel the bottom may be browning too quickly. 

If you notice that your tart shell has a few cracks or holes after par baking or blind baking, there are three things you can do to fix this.

  1. Brush the inside of the tart shell with lightly beaten egg whites. Then return the tart shell back to the oven for a few minutes until set and shiny.
  2. Once the tart shell has cooled completely. Brush the inside with melted white chocolate or dark chocolate and place in the fridge to set.

Below you will find links to the gluten free pastry recipes that use several of the discussed baking principals and methods.  The best way to learn is by getting yourself in the kitchen and to start getting hands-on experience. 

Gluten Free Pastry recipes:

  1. Gluten Free Pie Crust 
  2. Gluten Free Pâte Brisée (COMING SOON)
  3. Gluten Free Pâte Sucrée (COMING SOON)
  4. Gluten Free Pâte à Choux (COMING SOON)
    1. Choux buns with Craqueline Crust     


2 thoughts on “Module Four: Gluten Free Pastry”

  • I need all these pastry/crust info in a handy chart 😅. I hope I eventually have a weekend where I can test all of these different crusts out to learn the difference. I still always get confused about whether to par-bake or not. That’s something I’ve struggled with when testing recipes. Any tips on knowing when/if a crust should be par baked for different types of recipes?

    Also, I looked on your site and saw you have Pâte Brisée and Pâte Sucrée recipes up now. Just a comment reminder for linking purposes!

    • Thanks Victoria! That’s a really great idea. I love getting feedback on what would be helpful for learning these pastry techniques. I’m happy to create a little cheat sheet that tells you what types of fillings work best for blind baked and par baked crusts 🙂

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