Beat the Wheat: Gluten-Free Apple Pie
My great-uncle Richard used to own acres and acres of orchards in Pennsylvania, and I fondly remember picking apples for him after school. I'd climb up the rickety, old ladder, an apple basket in hand, and shimmy out onto a branch to pull ripe fruit from the tree limbs. Uncle Rich taught me at an early age the differences among all the varieties — which ones were used for baking or for cider, and which could be eaten right off the tree, crisp and sweet. Oddly enough, despite having an unlimited supply of fruit, we didn't eat a lot of apple pie growing up. It wasn't until I was graduating college and moving in with my boyfriend that I figured I should learn to make pie. I failed at it many times back then — forgetting the sugar, using the wrong apples, forgetting to add the top crust — it's a wonder I didn't set our apartment on fire. That boyfriend became an ex-husband, and as I got better at relationships, I also got better at baking pies.
Now, having been diagnosed with celiac disease and mastering a gluten-free crust to die for, I also began tinkering with different ways to bring out great apple flavor without the end result being too sweet. I'm trying to cut back on sugar where I can; I've found that too much sugar in my pies was giving me a hangover and overpowering the natural fruit flavors I really enjoy tasting and smelling while they bake. Speaking of great smells, you certainly don't have to add Scotch whisky to your pie filling as I suggest in this recipe, but oh how it will make your house smell when you do.
This apple pie recipe will make you the hit of the bake sale, the favorite contributor to Thanksgiving dinner and the bestest of BFFs when someone special needs a little TLC. I like my apple pies less sweet and my crusts a little thicker because I like to top each slice with salted caramel ice cream, which adds the extra sweetness and melts into the crust so nicely. I also added a little black pepper to the fruit mixture for a bit of zing, which builds the flavor profile in a really delicious way.
3.5 pounds apples (Granny Smith, Mutsu or Gravenstein) cored, peeled and sliced
In the bowl of your food processor, combine all the dry ingredients for the crust and pulse three times to combine. Add the butter and pulse 10 to 12 times to combine. Then, add the water and turn the food processor on for 10 to 15 seconds. Dough will not come together in a ball like traditional pie crust dough. It will be more like wet sand you can hand-mold into shape.
Dump dough mixture onto your work surface and divide into 2 equal piles. Form both piles into balls, and wrap both balls in plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator for one hour (or up to 24 hours).
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F degrees.
Remove dough from refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.
In a large mixing bowl combine apples, sugar, white rice flour, apple cider vinegar, Scotch, vanilla extract, salt, pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir well to combine.
Roll out 1 pie dough ball between two sheets of wax paper or parchment to a 10- to 11-inch circle. Remove top layer of wax paper.
Lightly butter the bottom of a 9-inch pie pan before inverting it onto the rolled-out dough. Slide one hand under the bottom wax paper and place the other hand on the bottom of the pie pan and gently — but quickly! — flip them over so the dough rests on the bottom of the pie pan.
Brush a little bit of buttermilk on the bottom pie crust before pouring in the fruit.
Trim or pull away any extraneous edges and add that dough to your second ball of dough.
Pour fruit mixture into the crust in the pie pan and make sure it's evenly distributed.
Pinch small pieces of unsalted butter and place on top of fruit — evenly across the surface — before adding top crust.
Roll out the second ball of dough the same way as the first, and quickly flip the rolled-out dough on top of the fruit.
Gently press top and bottom crusts together around the edges. Brush the top crust and edges with the rest of the buttermilk. Use a paring knife to cut 4 to 5 small slits in the top crust to allow the internal heat to vent while baking.
Place pie pan on a baking sheet on the middle rack of your oven.
Bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees F degrees, then reduce heat to 375 degrees F degrees and bake for 50 more minutes, covering the edges with foil or a shield after 15 minutes to prevent burning. When the pie is golden brown on top, it's ready to come out of the oven.
Let pie rest at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes before serving.
Note: This pie keeps at room temperature (covered) for 2 to 3 days.