Monday, October 10, 2011

Gluten-Free Key Lime Pie

More Pie Practice

If you've been reading, you know that I'm in the midst of practicing The Art of the Pie. Gluten-free pies, to be precise. It was pretty easy to come up with a list of pies to try. Of course, the family helped with ideas.

And since this is the season of a gazillion activities every weekend, what better way to practice The Art of the Pie than to make one for sharing at the neighborhood picnic? I get to practice. The family gets to taste. The neighbors get fat.

Okay, not fat, but they help us to keep from gaining weight by helping us eat the Pie Practice. That makes this a WIN-WIN-WIN (practice WIN, family tasting WIN, minimal gaining weight WIN)!

The neighbors are going to be sampling Gluten-Free Key Lime Pie. Why Key Lime? Why not? It was on our list of pies to try.

Then autumn arrived. And it got cold. And it kept raining. And the Sun ran away with the Moon. And I just wanted to make hot apple cider and sit by the fire.

I toyed with changing the plans to some other, more fall-like pie. I considered jumping ahead and practicing a pecan pie.

But I didn't. Key Lime is what we planned for, and Key Lime is what we were going to get, regardless of the weather.

No matter that it was raining. Again.

Gluten-Free Key Lime Pie

This recipe came from a cookbook that I was given in the past year. I haven't baked out of it yet, so this was an opportunity to get in some pie practice and try a new cookbook at the same time.

I got some grief over this from my family. We are already very happy with a pie crust. They didn't want to risk it trying some other pie crust recipe. But I felt differently. I needed to explore options. I needed to know if there was something even better out there waiting to be found.

This recipe comes from Gluten-Free Baking with the Culinary Institute of America Cookbook. It has a good sampling of baking, but is not a comprehensive baking book. But it did have a Key Lime Pie recipe, so we used this cookbook for both the Key Lime Pie recipe and the pie crust recipe.

Right away, I got annoyed with this cookbook. All (or probably all) of the recipes use their predefined "flour blends." There are five of them. The pie crust uses three of them. Each flour blend consists of three or four or five different flours. They expect you to mix up these five blends of flours and keep them in your pantry or refrigerator.

I don't have the space for that. I need to measure and mix my flours each time I bake. That means that I need to calculate how much of each ingredient I need for each of the flour blends each time I bake. I haven't even gotten started with my recipe and I'm already annoyed! Not good. Not good.

I figured that I would probably want to bake out of this cookbook again, but I don't want to have to do the ingredient calculations again. So, I decided to make a spreadsheet to do it for me. It took an evening to get it all included, but I got it so that I could enter the amount of each flour blend needed for a recipe, and the spreadsheet calculated how much of each ingredient I need.

Here's the pie crust:

1/3 cup Flour Blend #2
3/8 cup Flour Blend #4
1/3 cup Flour Blend #5

which requires:

3/4 cup white rice flour
1 1/2 Tbsp brown rice flour
2 1/2 tsp potato starch
1/3 cup tapioca starch
1/4 cup soy flour (defatted)
1 1/2 tsp whey powder

according to my spreadsheet and with a small amount of reasonable rounding. White rice flour and tapioca starch are in all three flour blends, but in different proportions. Soy flour is in two of the flour blends used in this recipe.

See how annoying this is?

Yes, I can see why they recommend creating the five flour blends ahead of time and keeping them in containers, ready for use. It's just not going to happen in my kitchen. Space limitations dictate otherwise.

Armed with my spreadsheet results, it was time to get started.

I used the food processor to make the crust dough. But I forgot to take pictures. This technique is not part of the given recipe, but I decided to do it anyways and it worked fine. I also put the cut butter into the freezer for 15 minutes before adding it to the food processor. I'm liking this method of making pie crust. It is fast and efficient.

The recipe did tell me to roll the crust out between parchment paper, so I trusted and did as it said. I was ignoring my own experience and knowledge, which was telling me to flour the parchment paper. Maybe their crust dough wouldn't stick to the paper the way the other pie crust doughs have for me.

It stuck.

It stuck horribly.

I was able to get one piece of paper off, flip the crust into the pie plate, but then I could not get the second paper off the dough without destroying the rolled crust.

This made me mad.

I finally gave up, pulled the crust out of the pie plate, scraped it all off the paper, heavily floured the papers and rerolled the crust.

So much for my nice, contained bits of butter in there.

The second rolling worked fine with the floured paper.  Here's the final crust before docking.

Not ships or boats. Docking the crust, people. Docking the crust.

I actually have no idea how to dock a crust. I couldn't find it anywhere in this cookbook.

Well, after a cursory browsing, I couldn't find it anywhere in this cookbook.

Here it is after baking.

Look how the crust stretched and broke. It also pulled away from the corner of the pan and sloped towards the middle. I don't know if it did this because I rolled it out twice or if because I didn't poke the corner and sides of the crust. Apparently, you are supposed to do those when docking a crust.

I doubt you do it when docking a boat.

Then I made the lime filling.

I cheated and added a bit of green food coloring (not in the recipe). It is pale yellow without it, and wanted to be sure the picnic-goers wouldn't think this was a lemon pie.

Because lemon and lime pies are so different.

Then I filled the baked crust.

I was surprised to see that the filling didn't fill the crust. Isn't that the job of a filling? Isn't that the sole purpose of existence for a filling?

Ah, maybe this is why the recipe calls for this pie to be topped with meringue.

But we didn't want meringue. We wanted whipped cream. So I whipped some heavy whipping cream. After all, that is what whipping cream exists for.

And then I got stupid. I'd like to think that it was a momentary lapse, but my family might disagree.

I was stupid to think that I could cut a hole in a plastic baggie, insert a piping tip and pipe the stiff whipped cream through the piping tip and onto the filling. Actually, none of that was stupid. What was stupid was that the largest tip I had was too small, I knew it was too small to be practical and I proceeded anyways, even though it was risky and I was under the pressure of the clock and under the pressure of presenting this pie to my neighbors at our neighborhood picnic.

How can you take a homemade pie to your neighborhood picnic and then claim that it isn't yours?

You can't.

I was stuck. This was going to be my pie whether I liked it or not. And I stupidly proceeded to pipe whipped cream onto the pie with a too-small tip.

And then the kids and I started naming the things that came to mind as I was piping whipped cream through a too-small piping tip onto the top of the pie. It wasn't pretty. The pie or the things we were imagining.

I finally got all of the whipped cream squeezed through the too small piping tip and then the stupidity really hit me.

I squeezed all that precious whipped air right out of the whipped cream. Well, not all the air.

Why did I think I could squeeze a piping bag full of whipped cream and end up with whipped cream coming out of the too-small tip?

Ah. Operative word: think. Clearly, I wasn't thinking. I was hurrying. I was rushing. I was trying to finish, so that we could get to the picnic.

In the end, I smoothed what had been whipped cream out across the top of the pie. We were out of time and needed to get to the picnic.

Doesn't look like much, but the lime filling is under the sort-of-still-barely-whipped cream.

We took it to the picnic. And then it started to rain.

The whipped cream started to get craters in it from the rain drops. In case you've never considered it before, pie crusts and rain don't make a great combination.

By the time we were leaving the picnic, only half of the pie was gone and it was somewhat soggy from the light rain. Not great.

But how about the crust? the filling?

I wasn't thrilled with either. My husband liked the texture of the crust and that it held together really well (before being introduced to rain). The taste of the crust was okay, but not fabulous. I like the taste of the other crust better.

I was a bit disappointed with the filling. It was too gelatinous. It had a "bite" to it. It was weird. It even held up to the rain. It's not good when a gelatinous filling doesn't get less gelatinous when introduced to rain.

But the taste of the filling was okay. It was definitely limey. My husband didn't like the taste of the evaporated milk (in the recipe), but I didn't notice it that much.

The sum total of this experience is:

this cookbook is annoying
this pie crust holds up well, after getting annoyed and rolling it out twice
this cookbook is annoying
this key lime pie filling is too gelatinous
this cookbook is annoying
this is not the pie to subject to the rain
this cookbook is annoying.

I don't think there is any pie that should be subjected to the rain.

This was not a grand success. It barely qualifies as any kind of success. But the pie was edible. Just not great. Or even good. Just passing. Barely.

Which actually leaves me to wonder:  Will I want to use this cookbook again?

Only time will tell.

So much for our WIN-WIN-WIN pie. I guess I need more practice. More Pie Practice!

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