By Jove, I think I’ve got it! Gluten-free pie crust and a knock off of Panera’s Baked Egg Souffle

You can’t imagine the will-power it took not to let my car veer in the direction of Panera Bread Sunday morning after Mountain Man and I worked out at the gym. I could smell the bagels and hazelnut coffee from the road.

I was starving, and so was MM, who reluctantly agreed to work out with me since he isn’t currently splitting firewood or hitting the trails in his Vasque Summit GTX hiking boots.

Instead of caving in to gluten, we came home. But I still wanted a “Baked Egg Souffle.”  And I wanted one bad.

Positively bereft, I knew what I had to do.

I disappeared into the closet and seconds later emerged in my “Gluten-Free Goddess” outfit: a white tee with the initials GG centered beneath angel wings, and on the back, one of those red circles x-ing out a shaft of wheat. After some serious messing around in the kitchen it became clear that Panera will soon have nothing on the Gluten-Free Goddess.

While MM fixed the coffee – half hazelnut, half breakfast blend –  I carefully considered my next move. Now, ya’ll, this recipe is not yet perfected; but I am very, very close.

My goal was to duplicate that scrumptious morsel they sell at Panera with a thin, flakey crust. But how to do it with brown rice flour and the other gluten-free ingredients in my pantry?

Everything I know about making pie crust I learned from the Tassajara Bread Book – that gold-mine of wondrous stuff that a mysterious girl dropped in my lap one day as she came through town on her way to Texas, riding on the back of her boyfriend’s motorcycle after her family’s house burned to the ground. (Sadly, they had decorated their Chrismas tree with real candles.) The book’s cover was singed and its pages smelled of smoke for a good many years.

So what did I learn from author Ed Brown that I could apply to making gluten-free pie crust?

The first thing is that baking is not an absolute. Things can change. Of course, the outcome will vary, but we are allowed to experiment if we are willing to accept the results.

Ice water. Tassajara Cosmic Pie Crust calls for ice water. The biggest challenge is finding a substitute for unbleached flour. A blend that will result in a proper crust. I measured out about 1/2 cup of brown rice flour and 1/4 cup of white rice flour and poured it into a bowl.

Ground flax. What will that do? Absorb water.  Did I want moist? Yes, a bit. And when combined with water, flax becomes gelatinous and may be substituted for an egg. That would make it a binder. Plus, I like the golden specks, so I added a couple of tablespoons.

And sorghum flour. It’s bland. But would it help the mass come out in ball?  A ball that I could actually roll out? Only one way to find out, so I put in about 1/4 cup. For additional binder, I added 1/8 cup of tapioca starch. Now I had about 1 1/4 cup of dry mix.

By accident I dropped an egg yolk intended for the filling into the crust mix. Ewww. But wait. The egg yolk might work as a binder.  I didn’t get rid of all of it. I just schlepped it to the side and cut in about 1/4 cup of butter. Maybe a little more. It had to be butter. Oil would not do if I wanted the Panera effect.

(I promise I will do this again and make the measurements exact. And I will have a splendid picture to go with it.)

I blended it all very well because I remembered that I would not be able to knead the dough. Then, ever so slowly, I added some of the ice water. By then it was super chilled, as I had let an ice cube melt in the measuring cup.

All at once, nervous as hell,  I gathered the mass in a ball. It reminded me of Bob’s Red Mill Pizza Crust Mix. All right, I thought. I’m on the right track.

I didn’t work the dough it all; only to bring it together. Then I pulled out a length of waxed paper and set the ball in the center. My pie pan was all ready. Metal, not Pyrex, because the dough needed to bake quickly for a nice brown crust crust.

I dusted the rolling pin with rice flour and gently applied pressure, pushing the dough outward. Push, shape, oops, a tear. I patched it up and kept going. More tears. Oh well. Patched them, too.

I worried that I wouldn’t be able to peel the whole thing up. Oh, Lordy. When it was as thin as I dared make it, I put the pan over the dough, which resembled a fairly round circle, albeit a loppy one; and flipped it.

Some of the dough stuck to the waxed paper and I peeled ever so carefully, pulling it away. Next time should I spray cooking oil on it? Maybe.

It was coming out great. I pinched the dough around the edges into a rough scallop. Very rough. Where there were pieces missing from the edges, I patched it up with dough that had fallen onto the counter when I flipped the crust.

Pre-bake. Those are the instructions on Bob’s Red Mill Pizza Crust Mix. And a very good idea. I put the crust into a preheated 425 degree oven and set the timer for 10 minutes.

Now it was time for the filling. Five egg yolks, about 1/2 cup milk (next time I want to use cream to make it richer). Salt, pepper,  fresh garlic, sauteed chopped onions, diced cooked turkey sausage, and about a cup of Gruyere cheese. And then, about 1/2 cup of Bueno brand hot green chile. I forgot to add any herbs.

I whipped the egg whites and folded them in. Nice and easy.

The crust came out in about 10 minutes, just starting to brown. I poured the filling right in and returned the pan to the oven. Oh, and I reduced the heat to 325.

In 2o minutes I heard the buzzer. My goodness it was nerve-wracking. I turned the oven off and let it sit. Ten minutes went by as MM and I sat in the living room sipping our cafe au lait.

Then I bit the bullet, took it out and served it up. It was amazing. Totally unreal. Flakey? Yes. Tender and light. I think so. The egg whites had toasted to a golden brown, creating a delicately crisp top. We each had another cup of coffee and smiled with pleasure. It was downright delicious.

Next weekend, when I make it again, I plan to use all-natural bacon and spinach. And that, my friends, will be a  coup de gras for the Goddess of Gluten-Free . FFG

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