Gluten free diets are becoming increasingly popular, with more and more people opting to avoid gluten for health or dietary reasons. For those following a gluten free diet, being able to find suitable alternatives to regular wheat-based foods like breads, pastas and baked goods is important.
One gluten free substitute that can be harder to find is shortcrust pastry. Shortcrust pastry is used to make all kinds of sweet and savory pies, tarts and quiches. It has a crumbly, flaky texture that works well for holding fillings. So can you buy gluten free shortcrust pastry, and how does it compare to regular shortcrust pastry?
What is Shortcrust Pastry?
Shortcrust pastry is a type of pastry that has a crumbly, flaky texture. It is made by rubbing fat (usually butter) into flour to coat the flour particles, then binding the dough with a small amount of cold water. This technique results in a pastry that is tender and crumbly.
The reason it is called “shortcrust” pastry is because it contains a relatively high fat content compared to other types of pastry. The fat “shortens” the strands of gluten that form when flour and water are mixed, resulting in the characteristic crumbly texture.
Shortcrust is used to make:
- Sweet pies like apple pie, lemon meringue pie, key lime pie
- Savory pies like chicken pot pie, shepherd’s pie, quiche
- Tarts – fruit tarts, custard tarts, nut tarts
- Some types of cookies like shortbread
The flaky, delicate texture makes shortcrust a perfect match for fillings with a good amount of moisture like fruits, custards and meats. It provides a structurally sound base that crumbles nicely when bitten into.
What Makes Shortcrust Pastry Gluten Free?
Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley and rye. It provides structure and elasticity to dough, allowing breads and baked goods to rise nicely and have a chewy texture.
Gluten free shortcrust pastry is made without any gluten-containing flours. Instead, it relies on a blend of naturally gluten free flours and starches like:
- Rice flour
- Tapioca flour/starch
- Potato starch
- Almond flour
- Coconut flour
Using a combination of these flours helps mimic some of the properties of gluten to create a tender, flaky crust. However, gluten free shortcrust pastry crusts are more delicate and crumbly than regular wheat shortcrust.
Where Can I Buy Gluten Free Shortcrust Pastry?
Pre-made gluten free shortcrust pastry can be purchased from several places:
- Grocery stores – Many large supermarket chains now have dedicated “gluten free” sections where you can find gluten free baking mixes, doughs and pre-made crusts.
- Specialty health food stores – Stores focusing on gluten free, organic and natural products often have refrigerated or frozen gluten free doughs and crusts.
- Online – There are a number of online retailers that sell pre-made gluten free shortcrust pastry and ship nationwide. You can have it conveniently delivered to your door.
- Gluten free bakeries – Many cities now have dedicated gluten free and allergy-friendly bakeries that sell fresh baked goods and raw doughs/crusts.
- Direct from manufacturers – Large companies that make gluten free baking products will often sell pre-made crusts, doughs or mixes directly through their websites.
Some specific brands to look for include:
- Pillsbury Gluten Free Pie Crust
- Krusteaz Gluten Free Pie Crust
- Namaste Foods Perfect Flaky Pie Crust Mix
- Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Pie Crust
- King Arthur Gluten Free Pie Crust Mix
- Glutino Gluten Free Pie Crust Dough
- Schar Gluten Free Shortcrust Pastry Dough
Be sure to check labels carefully to ensure the crust or mix is 100% gluten free. Some brands may have advisory warnings about trace amounts of gluten due to shared facilities.
How Does Gluten Free Shortcrust Pastry Compare to Regular Shortcrust?
There are a few key differences between regular wheat-based shortcrust pastry and gluten free shortcrust pastry:
- Texture – Gluten free shortcrust has a more delicate, crumbly texture compared to standard shortcrust. It does not achieve the same flaky layers.
- Flavor – Gluten free shortcrust often uses neutral tasting flours like tapioca and rice flour. It generally has a more mild flavor than wheat-based crusts.
- Nutrition – Gluten free crusts can be lower in B vitamins like thiamin, riboflavin and niacin which are added to wheat flour products.
- Performance – The lack of gluten means GF shortcrust can be trickier to work with. It is more prone to cracking and falling apart. Extra care must be taken when rolling and transferring.
- Cost – Gluten free specialty products tend to be priced significantly higher than traditional wheat-based foods. Expect to pay a premium.
That said, those who follow gluten free diets have become accustomed to some differences in texture and flavor. With care, gluten free shortcrust can still produce delicious pies, tarts and other baked goods.
Tips for Working with Gluten Free Shortcrust
Here are some helpful tips for handling and baking gluten free shortcrust pastry:
- Work quickly and gently when rolling out dough to prevent cracking
- Use extra rice flour or tapioca starch for dusting work surfaces
- Freeze dough briefly before rolling if it is too soft
- Let crusts rest/relax 5-10 mins after rolling out before transferring
- Use pie weights or parchment when pre-baking empty crusts to prevent slumping
- Avoid overloading fillings as GF crusts are more delicate
- Bake at slightly lower temp (350F instead of 375F) to prevent over-browning
What Can I Make With Gluten Free Shortcrust?
Gluten free shortcrust pastry can be used to make both sweet and savory pies and pastries. Here are some ideas of recipes you can create with pre-made gluten free shortcrust:
Sweet Pies and Tarts
- Fruit pies – apple, peach, blueberry, strawberry rhubarb
- Nut pies – pecan, chocolate pecan, walnut
- Custard and cream pies – pumpkin, coconut cream, banana cream, chocolate cream
- Fruit tarts – lemon, lime, mixed berry, peach
- Cheesecakes – New York style with graham cracker crust, mixed berry swirl
Savory Pies and Tarts
- Pot pies – chicken, turkey, beef and vegetable
- Quiches – broccoli and cheddar, ham and gruyere, bacon and spinach
- Tarts – onion and goat cheese, roasted vegetable, Caprese, Eggplant Parmesan
- Hand pies – steak and ale, apple chicken sausage rolls, empanadas
- Pasties – traditional beef and vegetable, Thai chicken, chickpea curry
With the popularity of gluten free diets, many classic pie and tart recipes have been adapted to use gluten free crusts. Get creative with sweet and savory fillings!
Should I Make My Own Gluten Free Shortcrust?
While pre-made gluten free crusts are convenient, you can also find lots of recipes online for making your own gluten free shortcrust from scratch.
Some benefits of homemade GF shortcrust include:
- Control over ingredients – Use your preferred gluten free flour blend
- Avoid preservatives and additives
- Adjust texture and flavor – Add herbs, spices, nuts
- Better cost efficiency
- Freshness – Make only what you need
However, there are also some challenges to be aware of when making homemade GF shortcrust:
- More time consuming, especially with resting/chilling time
- Messy – Gluten free flours can be trickier to work with
- Higher risk of issues like cracking or poor texture
- Must pay close attention to recipe ratios and technique
- Moisture content affects texture so dough must be handled carefully
Overall, homemade gluten free pie crusts take more effort to perfect but can taste fantastic when done right. It’s smart to start with a trusted recipe developed for gluten free baking.
Example Gluten Free Shortcrust Recipe
Here is a simple recipe example for making your own gluten free shortcrust pastry at home:
- 1 1⁄2 cups gluten free flour blend (see notes)
- 1⁄4 teaspoon xanthan gum
- 1⁄4 teaspoon salt
- 1⁄3 cup cold butter, diced
- 3-5 tablespoons ice cold water
- In a food processor, combine the flour blend, xanthan gum and salt. Pulse to mix.
- Add cubed butter and pulse until mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Do not overmix.
- Add water 1 tablespoon at a time and pulse just until dough starts to come together. Do not overmix.
- Turn out dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap. Form into a disk, wrap tightly and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
- On a well floured surface, roll out dough to about 1⁄8 inch thick. Use extra flour as needed to prevent sticking.
- Gently transfer rolled crust to pie dish. Proceed as recipe directs, trimming and fluting edges.
Use a gluten free flour blend like:
- 1 cup brown rice flour + 1⁄2 cup tapioca starch
- 3⁄4 cup brown rice flour + 3⁄4 cup almond flour
- 1 cup sorghum flour + 1⁄2 cup potato starch
Adjust water as needed based on flour moisture levels. Chill dough thoroughly before rolling.
This basic recipe can be used to make 9 inch single crust pies, 5 inch mini pies or tartlets, or double batch for a top and bottom crust.
Is gluten free shortcrust pastry healthy?
Gluten free shortcrust can be a healthier option for those with gluten sensitivities or celiac disease. However, it is still pastry which means it contains carbs, fat, and calories so portions should be enjoyed in moderation.
How long does gluten free shortcrust last?
Storebought gluten free crusts will last 1-2 weeks beyond the sell by date if refrigerated properly. Homemade crusts are best used within 3 days. Crusts can also be well wrapped and frozen for 2-3 months.
Why is my gluten free shortcrust dry and crumbling?
Gluten free doughs are naturally more delicate and prone to drying out. Make sure to handle the dough gently and keep it well chilled before baking to prevent crumbling. Brush finished crusts with milk or egg wash to help seal in moisture.
Can I use all purpose flour for gluten free shortcrust?
No, do not use all purpose flour which contains gluten. You must use a gluten free flour blend designed to substitute for wheat flour in recipes.
Do I need xanthan gum in gluten free shortcrust?
A small amount of xanthan gum helps replicate the properties of gluten and gives structure to the crust. However, you can try omitting it, keeping in mind the crust may be more fragile and prone to crumbling.
The Bottom Line
Going gluten free doesn’t mean giving up your favorite pies and pastries. Pre-made gluten free shortcrust makes it easy to enjoy tasty gluten free baked goods. With some adjustments to handling and baking, you can still achieve tender, flaky results. Experiment with sweet and savory fillings so you can continue enjoying shortcrust in all kinds of recipes.