Empty and Imperfect, and Easy AIP Pie Crust

This crust.

I know calling pie crust life-changing is dramatic, but the rigmarole of finally arriving at a place where grain free, pie crust and good can coexist in the same sentence warrants it.

Those of you who gave up grain like I did (and still feel the sting of foregoing the classic comfort food) can attest that finding a good alternative to mainstream foods is life-changing, both in our kitchens and in our overall quality of life. Good food makes us feel good again, doesn’t it?

And this crust really is good–easy, even. It’s certainly not perfect, but its imperfection lends indelible charm. Classic and unconventional; adaptable and finicky; empty and waiting to be filled, this crust gets the job done.

And yet, it falls apart on me every time. The craggy mess of a dough smooths out easily when rolled, but transferring it to the pie plate is another story. It’s sticky and messy and just plain not the same to work with as “normal” pie dough. It falls apart, which frustrated me until I realized how easily it mends together again. The dough is finicky, perhaps, but not futile. It’s forgiving when it yields itself to a tender hand that wants to see it succeed. Against all odds, making it work well is pretty easy after all.

Making this crust reminds me think of what David said in Psalm 103:5: “He fills my life with good things.” (NLT). Sin, disease and death plagued David, but he nevertheless showed up and opened himself to the possibility that God would make things right again. He celebrated when God filled his life with good things after hardship made it seem impossible.

David was like pie crust: fragile, imperfect, and desperately in need of something good to fill the empty space. I am like pie crust too: flaky and fragile and completely forgettable on my own. Created for something good, I remain broken or empty or both unless I am flexible enough to trust the hand of the one who is transforming me into something beautiful. Maybe we’re all a little bit like pie crust. When we sit ready to receive the good things God pours out, we end up better than we could have been on our own.

I may not be happy I ended up in a kitchen where grain free baking is the norm now, but I opened myself up to the possibility that something really good will come out of it anyway. God promises to give us good things, and his faithfulness does not depend on my feelings.

I’m so thankful for that.

And I’m thankful for this pie crust too. It may not be perfect, but it sure is good.


On Transitioning to a Gluten Free Kitchen and My Favorite Gluten Free Flour Blend

Dear Joey,

It’s a new year, and I am inspired to make life a little easier on myself. I felt frayed and scraggly by the time we said goodbye to 2016, and I don’t want to continue to live that way in 2017. I’m ready to usher in a little peace around here.

One way I plan to do that is to get honest about what works for me and what just makes things harder–you know: that whole work smarter, not harder sort of thing. I wish I could say I did a major overhaul of our household and got totally organized and efficient in the course of a few days, but that’s not even remotely true. What I have done, though, is make a decision to make things easier on myself in the kitchen, to start with. Since I spend such a large portion of my day there, it makes sense to start there I think.

Up until a few months ago, we had a mostly gluten free kitchen, but a not completely gluten free kitchen. Let’s face facts here: this is a drag. Using two knives to make almond butter sandwiches at lunchtime–one for the wheat bread and another for my gluten free bread–got tiresome. Also, I noticed the kids started requesting the gluten free crackers I bought for myself–and stopped eating those golden little circle crackers they used to love so much. They didn’t notice when I switched everyone over to gluten free pasta, nor did they care when corn tortillas started showing up on their plates on taco night.

So I made a big decision: for the most part, I kicked gluten to the curb for everyone else a few months ago, and I didn’t breathe a word of it to you until now. Wouldn’t you know it? No one even noticed or cared. (Do you think the same would be true if I switched to only buying Emery’s beloved vegan cheese? If only. ) I admit when the end of the month comes and the cupboards are bare, I have been known to grab a loaf of regular old wheat bread so I can still send Addie to school with a sandwich. But overall, switching everyone over to a gluten free diet is working for me. For us. And so, it is going to continue well into 2017 and beyond.

So today, in celebration of setting myself up for a less-harried new year, I’m sharing the recipe for my favorite gluten free flour blend. I used to buy pre-mixed bags of overpriced, not-super-great combinations that didn’t yield reliable results, but now, I only ever use this mix. It works great for everything: muffins, cookies, pizza dough, biscuits–the list goes on. Maybe it’ll help another family discover going gluten free isn’t quite as difficult as they thought it might be. And making life easier? I’m all about that this year.

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My Go-To Gluten Free Flour Blendsimg_3257

Here it is: the recipe I use to make my own gluten free flour blend at home. This blend originates from Kelli and Peter Bronski’s Artisinal Gluten Free Cooking, the book that educated me and empowered me when I first hobbled my way around a gluten free kitchen. Their original flour blend calls for corn starch, potato starch and potato flour, but offers arrowroot starch and tapioca starch as substitutes, options I always use when blending my flour. I use Bob’s Red Mill Brand for all the flours–they’re easy to find and aren’t terribly expensive, though they are more pricey that wheat flour. The original recipe didn’t give weight measurements for arrowroot flour or tapioca starch, but I’ve provided those measurements below because it makes whipping this blend together faster and more efficient for me, and I need a lot of faster and more efficient in my life right now.

Equipment:
  • Flour keeper (like this one, which I have and love) OR a large airtight container in which to store the flour blend
  • Large mixing bowl (unless you have a flour keeper like the one above)
  • Balloon whisk
  • Digital kitchen scale with metric function (like this one, which I have and love)

Gluten Free All Purpose Flour

Ingredients:
  • 625 grams / 5 cups brown rice flour
  • 350 grams / 3 cups sorghum flour
  • 220 grams / 1 3/4 cups arrowroot starch
  • 160 grams / 1 1/3 cups tapioca starch
  • 14 grams / 1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon xanthan gum
Before You Begin:

Make sure you have the right equipment to make and store the flour blend before you get down to the business of measuring and mixing. None of the equipment I’ve listed above is particularly fancy–but all of it helps make quick work of an otherwise messy, tiresome process.

I mix the flour blend right inside of my flour keeper, but you can mix up a batch in a big bowl and then scoop it into another large, air tight container too. Also, I use a digital kitchen scale to make sure my measurements are accurate. If you don’t have one, use regular measuring cups and measuring spoons (and ask for one for your next birthday).

Method:

Place your flour container on top of a digital kitchen scale and switch to the metric measurement setting. Pour the flours into the container one by one, stopping when you reach the correct measurement for that particular ingredient. Press the “zero” button on your scale before adding each subsequent ingredient so that the weight shown is only for the ingredient being added. Once all ingredients are in the container, whisk well. Tightly close the lid and shake well too, so as to evenly distribute all ingredients. Store in a cool, dry place.

Gluten Free Cake Flour

Ingredients:
  • 975 grams / 8 cups white rice flour
  • 220 grams / 1 3/4 cups arrowroot starch
  • 160 grams / 1 1/3 cups tapioca starch
  • 14 grams / 1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon xanthan gum
Follow the same method as gluten free all purpose flour above.