Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Maple Walnut Pie

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe" said the late Carl Sagan

Well, inventing the universe seems a bit much for the Crispy Cook to tackle, so I took a different approach and decided to try my hand at making a custardy type pie in a pre-baked shell. Gluten-free of course, and so that required inventing or at least improving on the universe of my baking skills. These skills being perhaps more like a small galaxy, or an orbiting moon. Or realistically, an asteroid, but I digress.

I've made a few fruit pies in my time, but I wanted to tackle a different species of pie, so I reached for my shoebox full of index cards and picked out a recipe for Maple Walnut Pie of uncertain provenance (it has my teenaged handwriting, so it is probably from a cookbook borrowed from the library). If you are like me, you are one of those folks who likes to eat trees. I mean that toothsome combination of maple and walnut flavors that just tastes so perfect together, especially during the cooler days of autumn.

The Gluten Free Ratio Rally bunch picked pie making for our October project and this month we are led by  Lisa of Gluten Free Canteen in tackling gluten-free pie pastry and fashioning it into various pie permutations.

The Gluten Free Ratio Rally is a group of bloggers who believe in tackling baking projects by using basic ratios of flour, fat, liquids and eggs as a starting point and by measuring ingredients by weight rather than volume, to ensure more scientific results. I joined this amazing group of bakers several months ago, when we all shared our results using Pate a Choux (I made Cream Puffs with Coffee Cream), then Pasta (I made Smoked Paprika Noodles), then Cake (I made a Czech Cherry Bublanina), and then Doughnuts (mine were pretty darn fancy Chocolate Donuts with Chocolate Glaze). I had to skip the last round, when this group made pizza (I made one but it was soggy and sorry), but I was determined not to miss a chance to hone my pie making skills, in readiness for the upcoming holiday season.

Gluten Free Ratio Rally Pie Bakers at Work
Pie crust is a tricky sort of baker's art. It requires ingredients to be at the correct temperature and a pair of deft hands for rolling out and shaping the pie crust. The good news for Gluten Free bakers is that you don't have to worry about overworking the dough and having it become tough, because guess what? That's what happens to gluten-RICH dough. With gluten-FREE dough there are no evil glutenous fibers to overstretch, so you can patch your broken crusts time after time and your crust will not get tough. It may not stick together perfectly (VOICE of EXPERIENCE), but it will not get tough as leather.

I've made a couple of gluten-free pie crusts in the past with some success, like Baked Brie wrapped in a bean pastry crust (not bad) and Apple Sour Cream Pie with flaky pastry crust (maybe a bit too flaky), and was determined to use the Ratio Rally methods to strengthen my pie baking skills. So back to eating trees.

The unbaked pie crust ready for the oven

I decided to make two crusts instead of one since it is so much work and so floury to put together one crust anyway. The starting ratio for the Gluten Free Pie crust is 3:2:1, 3 parts flour, 2 parts fat and 1 part liquid. For two crusts then, I would need 12 oz. flour, 8 oz. shortening (my pie-master is my late maternal grandmother, who always used shortening), and 4 oz. (or less, depending on how things stuck together with my dough) of ice water.

I used equal parts of cornstarch (for lightness), tapioca starch (for flexibility in the pastry) and sorghum flour (for a nutty, hearty taste) for my flour blend.  I buy these items in bulk at any one of Albany's Asian markets to keep my gluten-free flour costs down.

My Gluten Free Pie Crust Recipe (adapted from Michael Ruhlman's 3-2-1 Pie Dough recipe)

4 oz. cornstarch
4 oz. tapioca starch
4 oz. sorghum flour (sometimes labeled as jowar flour)
1/2 tsp. xanthan gum (keeps gf baked goods from crumbling)
1/2 tsp. salt
8 oz. vegetable shortening
4 oz. ice water
Rice flour for dusting

Mix together dry ingredients. Cut in shortening until texture resembles coarse sand and shortening lumps are gone. Add half of the ice water and stir together until dough clumps together into a ball. You may need to add bits more of ice water until it all holds together. 
Divide dough into two balls, wrap in plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator at least 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Unwrap one ball of dough and set on floured surface. Roll out to a large circle and then gently fold in half to transfer to nine inch glass pie plate. My dough cracked and tore in several places, but this GF pie pastry is forgiving, so I just kept patching and filling in and the warmth of my hands secured the dough. (It wasn't a flawless pie crust, rather more like a Frankencrust, but it held together for my filling.)
Prick dough several times with a fork.  Line crust with a piece of aluminum foil and then weight down with some dried beans or pie weights to keep the crust from buckling during baking. Repeat with second ball of dough. 

Place pie crusts in preheated oven and bake 20 minutes. Remove foil and beans/pie weights. Bake another
15-20 minutes until pie crust is golden brown and baked through. Let cool.
Makes 2 pie crusts

The baked gluten free pie crust (a few cracks, but really flaky and tender)

Maple Walnut Pie Filling

3 Tbsp. softened butter
4 Tbsp. white rice flour
4 egg yolks
1 cup PURE maple syrup
1 cup white corn syrup
1 cup water
2 cups walnuts, coarsely chopped

Cream butter and rice flour together. Add egg yolks, maple syrup, corn syrup and water and mix until completely blended. Cook in saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently, until thickened, about 25-30 minutes. You don't want this to overboil or scorch, so you need to be doing something right next to the stove, like washing the mound of pie crust-making dishes, to keep a close eye on things.

Add in chopped nuts and continue to stir and cook until a little bit thicker, about another 5 minutes. This will also soften up the walnuts.

Pour into cooled baked pie crusts and refrigerate at least 1 hour to firm up. Serve topped with slightly sweetened whipped cream. Makes 2 pies.

This pie was really terrific. As an ardent arbophage (tree eater), I do love Maple Walnut flavor anything, but this was a nice dessert that is similar to a pecan pie, but not nearly as cloying sweet. I may try a little more xanthan gum in my next pie crust or perhaps switch in more sorghum flour and less cornstarch to get the crust to be less crumbly and more easy to roll out and bake without cracking, but I was really happy with the whole pie project. One pie is wrapped and nestled in the freezer for our Thanksgiving meal, and the other pie is nearly gone after two rounds of partaking.

Lisa of Gluten Free Canteen has all the links to the other gluten free pie experiments that my fellow GF Ratio Rally Bakers will have for you to see, including hand pies, galettes, savory pies, pot pies, quiches and other pie pastry goodness, so be sure to hop over there.


Caneel said...

Maple walnut is a delicious flavor combination I've always enjoyed. Great job on your pie and the crust!!

Foodycat said...

Mmmm eating trees! That maple walnut combination is so hard to beat. The pie crust looks great too! Plus I am totally impressed that you have already begun your holiday baking: so organised!

Anonymous said...

I love pecan pie, but you are right - - - they are overly sweet. I will have to try your version this Thanksgiving. My husband will be so surprised and pleased!!
~Mrs. R

Erin Swing said...

I love it! How did you get our picture?! ;) Best action kitten baking photo ever. I may have to borrow that... and the recipe.

Lisa @ GF Canteen said...

I totally agree - you cannot go wrong with maple walnut! That pie looks fantastic.

Rachel said...

Thanks guys for all your kind comments. My pie shaping skills still need some work, but man, did this taste good. And I have inspected the other Ratio Rally bakers' posts, bookmarking a whole bunch. Everyone did so well with this baking challenge!

Erin: The kitten action shot is from a 1930s kids book that I had in the shop. I made sure to photograph some of the impossibly cute baking photos to use on the old blog.

Jenn said...

Two of my favorite flavors, yum!! Great job on this month's challenge, the pie looks great!

Morri said...

What an awesome flavor combination. Wonderful job.

Tammy said...

Yum, this sounds great. I usually make pumpkin for Thanksgiving, but maybe I should try this one too.

food solutions said...

I agree with you

Sugar Mama Bakeshop said...

I'm so excited to try this!! My last attempt at gluten free pie crust failed pretty miserably :) Thanks for sharing!

Sugar Mama Bakeshop said...

I'm so excited to try this! My last attempt at gluten free pie crust failed pretty miserably :) Thanks for sharing!