It’s good to be flaky, especially if you’re a gluten-free pie

photo credit Wendy Yurgosky

by guest blogger Wendy Yurgosky, Holistic Health Counselor,

Is there anything better on a blustery fall day than a warm pie with a flaky crust that crumbles as it yields to your fork? My mouth is watering just thinking about it. The only disturbing thought that muddies this idyllic image is the stomach discomfort I will experience if I indulge in any food that contains gluten.

As a young child I was always in the kitchen trying to recreate my grandmother’s pie crust recipe that she learned from a French chef in Manhattan in the 1930’s. In my teens I finally perfected the recipe to my satisfaction and began selling pies at a few local stores. All was well until mass production of pies made it impossible to yield a decent profit. So pies became a labor of love to be shared with friends and family. I still had people approach me years later who remembered those pies and asked me to bake them as gifts.

As an adult, however, I found myself more and more subject to gastrointestinal discomfort. I eventually narrowed this down to the consumption of gluten-laden products.

And so a new challenge lay before me—to take my grandmother’s recipe and transform it to accommodate those of us who are reactive to gluten. So began the testing to achieve that difficult, flaky, melt-in-your-mouth crust, while eliminating the wheat flour.

From my perspective as a Holistic Health Counselor, eliminating gluten, which can cause bloating, nutrition loss, and cilia damage in the gut for some people, is good. But should we replace it with a product that will spike insulin levels in the body?

Bear with me as I share a little nutritional science. The glycemic index of a food tells us how much glucose it contains. The glycemic load tells us how much this glucose level will affect the body’s blood sugar levels. We need sugar in forms such as glucose for energy, but high glycemic loads have been shown to cause metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, and weight gain.

The good news is that the glycemic load of a food can be decreased by pairing it with foods that will stabilize sugar levels. The foods that are most dangerous are those that break down very quickly like sugar, potatoes, and dates.

There are many pre-made gluten free flours on the market that will make a wonderful crust. But in order to make a delicious dessert that is also healthy, choose grains that have fiber, such as quinoa, to prevent blood sugar spikes. Remember to consider the flavors for complementary pairing.

Here’s a few pie crust tips and a recipe with a flavor profile that pairs well with anything and will spice up these blustery fall days.

A few critical points to remember no matter what flours you use when making pie crust:

  1. Use a low protein flour for a tender dough, such as brown rice.
  2. Gluten-free flours require more water than wheat flour.
  3. Adjustments may be needed depending on the season, room humidity, and type of flour.
  4. Keep your preferred saturated fat such as vegetable shortening, ice cold.
  5. Keep the pieces of fat at about the size of a lentil or 3mm. This way flour will encapsulate the fat and as it melts it will form air pockets that creates the flaky crust.
  6. Don’t over work the dough. Toss, don’t mix.
  7. Use parchment paper, not excess flour. If you use excess flour it will absorb the liquid which will make for a harder crust.
  8. Fold and fold again. When rolling your dough the edges will crack in the beginning, fold these over and it will create a smooth edge as well as flaky layers.

Bourbon Apple Pie


Traditional Pastry Crust

1 ¼ cups brown rice flour
½ cup quinoa flour
¼ cup tapioca starch
½ tsp salt
²/3 cup organic vegetable shortening
½ cup of water

Bourbon Apple Pie Filling  

6 cups of apples (MacIntosh, Granny, or Braeburn) cut into ½ inch pieces
12 dates, pitted (soaked in hot water and blended to create a paste)
¾ cup of raisins
½ cup bourbon or spiced rum
½ cup crushed walnuts
½ lemon, juiced
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
Pinch of cloves
1 Tbsp of tapioca


  1. Preheat the oven to 385°F.
  2. Soak the raisins in the bourbon and set aside while mixing the rest of the ingredients.
  3. Mix the flours, tapioca, and salt in a large bowl. Using a pastry knife cut vegetable shortening into the flour and blend until small crumbles appear.
  4. Add water and then toss the mixture until large crumbles form. By tossing instead of mixing you will ensure a light tender crust.
  5. Cut a piece of parchment paper approximately 30 inches long. Fold paper lengthwise so it is 15 inches long. Open the paper and place ½ the dough in the center of one side of the paper and fold the other half of paper over the dough so it’s protected.
  6. Using your hands flatten the dough, until it starts to stick together. Using a rolling pin roll the dough out 2 inches wider than your pie plate. As the dough starts to form, the edges will crack. Fold those over and roll again. This will create more flaky layers in your dough.
  7. Gently unfold the parchment paper releasing the dough, flip and release other side. Now place your pie plate over the dough and flip it into the pie plate. Lift the edges so it touches the plate without any gaps. Pinch off any excess that falls over the edge of the plate.
  8. Bake for about 15 minutes or until it’s golden. Make the second crust and set it aside. While the bottom crust is baking, mix the filling ingredients in a bowl including any excess alcohol that was used in soaking the raisins. [lattice top photo]
  9. When the crust is golden, place it on the stove top and quickly fill, being sure to pack the filling so it doesn’t sink while cooking. Cover with top crust and bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown. Twenty-five minutes into the baking process you may want to cover the crust edges with aluminum foil to prevent excess browning.
  10. Remove from the oven and let cool for an hour… I find this to be the most difficult part as the house is filled with the wonderful aromas of sweet spiced apples and cinnamon.

latice_apple gluten free pie_Wendy Yurgosky_lattice top

Have fun by playing with your food! Some of the best creations come from play; add different spices, create a lattice crust, use cookie cutters to create a unique crust that will impress your friends and family. The crust can be made savory too for a summer tomato pie. Just add dried herbs like basil, oregano, and garlic.

Next month, Wendy will discuss grain combinations to get the proper texture for different styles of baking: bread, cookie or pastry by looking at protein and fat contents of common gluten free grains and flours.

Wendy YurgoskyWendy Yurgosky is a Holistic Health Counselor who looks to the root of the client’s health concerns and educates them about the tools needed to aid in the bodies healing process. Just a few of the benefits reported by Wendy’s clients include weight loss, decreased  inflammation, change in cholesterol levels, increased energy, and a marked change in behavioral issues in children. Wendy offers one on one and group programs, food foraging hikes, and cooking demonstrations.

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