Thursday, May 14, 2009

Homemade gluten free puff pastry (take 1)

I have had it in my head that gluten free croissants will be mine. After seeing this recipe, its obvious that I am not alone in my quest. The more I got to thinking about it, the more I wondering about butter turns - the folding and layering of butter between layers of dough - and began pondering if a gluten free puff pastry could be a better jumping off point. Pouring through cookbooks and websites, I have yet to come across a single recipe for gluten free puff pastry. AH HA! I instantly wanted to see if I could create one.

Working off of Rebecca Reilly's recipe for Filo Dough - from her book Gluten Free Baking - I decided that if filo could be achieved, then so too should puff pastry. I made a lot of changes and substitutions including: argar argar instead of gelatin, potato starch instead of all rice flour and sugar instead of honey.

Warning - I am purposefully not tagging this as a recipe because this was my first attempt and scroll down to the bottom to see my comments about how I would change MANY ingredients and techniques for next time.

Gluten Free Puff Pastry (take 1)
1 1/2 cups sweet rice flour
1/2 cup potato starch
4 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp argar argar
1 tsp sugar
1 egg
1/4-1/2 cup water
1 stick of unsalted butter, melted

1. Mix dry ingredients together, for a well.

2. Mix the wet ingredients together - make sure to break up the egg.

3. Add additional water if needed to form a soft dough that is cohesive. (more wet than pie crust, more like a dough)

4. Wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Day 2
In preparation for rolling the dough and layering in the butter, I found this video extremely helpful.

Take 2 sticks of unsalted butter and knead them together into a rectangle.

The butter needs to be at the same temperature and consistency as the dough, so its important that the butter in thickness as possible. To do this, I borrowed a friend's technique of kneading the butter under cold water (in a bowl). This made the butter pliable without it melting. It is very important to dry the butter thoroughly before trying to add it to the dough.

After working it under the cold water and patting it dry, I placed it between two sheets of plastic wrap to help even out the shape and to be able to easily transfer it onto the dough.

Set the butter aside.

Working between two sheets of plastic wrap*, roll out the dough to about 1/4" thick. It needs to be large enough to completely wrap the butter.

*I am a huge fan of parchment paper, but for this plastic wrap is best. This dough will stick to parchment and you will spend too much time fiddling with it trying to pry it off the dough and time is your enemy right now. You need to keep everything cold.

Place the butter near the center of the dough.

Fold the dough over the butter, overlap is not a bad thing, you need to completely envelope the butter.

Fold the other side of the dough over the butter.

Fold the bottom of the dough upwards.

Fold the top of the dough down. Now its really important for you to check your seams and make sure that there is dough everywhere and no butter poking out. The dough is not what a gluten-based one would be like; its similar to a slightly gummy pie dough. It will break and crack but you can patch it together.

Place another sheet of plastic wrap atop the dough and with a rolling pin, push downward making and X-shape across the dough. Then use the pin and push down on the dough horizontally and vertically - you are trying to smoosh the layers together - before you start rolling.

Then begin rolling the dough out. You want to keep the rectangle shape.

Notice here that the butter started breaking through. THIS IS BAD. Puff pastry only puffs when there are layers of dough-butter-dough throughout the mixture. If the butter layers start touching you are running into pie dough territory, not puff pastry.

Next time, I would refrigerate the butter and dough package before attempting to roll it out. Giving it time to ensure that the butter and dough were at the same temperature.

In trying to keep the butter layers from touching, I generously sprinkled the dough with sweet rice flour. And continued rolling.

So right now there is one mass with three layers: dough-butter-dough. The process of adding more layers is called "putting in turns" and its all about taking those three layers and layering them atop one another and making more layers - the more layers, the more flaky the dough.

You are going to make two folds, cutting the dough in thirds and stacking each atop the other - like folding a business letter.

Fold the top third down.

Fold the bottom third up, covering the top third.

Turn the folded dough 90 degrees, so it faces you so it looks like the opening of a book.

Then proceed to roll out the dough again into a rectangle.

This is the completion of 1 turn.

You can see that there is still some butter poking through - again, this is NOT a good thing.

Follow the same steps of folding the dough in thirds and then turning it 90 degrees and roll it out again.

*It is really important to keep an eye on your plastic wrap and lift it up from the dough pretty often. As the dough is rolled and stretched, so too is the plastic wrap and it will break and tear. For this whole process I went through 2 sets of plastic wrap.

Second turn complete.

Then refrigerate for at least an hour.

Putting in the third turn.

I then put it in the fridge to rest.

After removing it from the fridge and putting in the 4th turn, I then rolled it out and cut off an edge piece and baked it off. (At this point I thought that too much butter and made its way through the dough and I had ruined the batch and was not ready to put in more time rolling if it was going to be a blob and not flake.)

But it did puff and flake!

But the dough lacked salt. This was something I was worried about from the get-go, but thought maybe it was unnecessary. I was very wrong.

So I ground up some table salt and sprinkled it on the dough and put in a 5th turn.

You can see the dough is looking a lot more homogenious now. No visible butter breaking through. Working with very cold dough takes a lot longer - it is very hard and takes a while to roll out - but I think it might be the trick to preventing the butter from escaping.

I left it here, about 1/2" thick and wrapped it and put it in the fridge to rest overnight.

The dough was very cold and equally difficult to roll out. (Hence less photos because I spent that time mumbling under my breath that I should be more patient and let the dough warm up and I would struggle less. But I digress.)

I decided on an apple tart and I rolled the dough out to between 1/4" and 3/8" thick. I cut a rectangle and then strips to run around the edges. I glued the edges together with egg wash, placed sliced apples in the center, brushed the top of the edges with more egg wash and sprinkled sugar over everything.

I constructed everything on an upside down cookie sheet lined with parchment.

I placed it in a 400F oven for 40 minutes total.

(I started with just 20 minutes and checked on it every 5 minutes until the edges were golden brown.)

You can see that the sides should have been a little wider but they puffed and browned!

While not the most beautiful thing I have ever made, I have never been prouder of something I baked. I served it up with a quick homemade caramel sauce, not pictured here.

Ideas for next time
-The pastry has a very distinct rice flour taste - a different blend of flours might help. Perhaps tapioca starch, more potato starch and some corn starch and much less rice flour.
-Maybe a full tablespoon of sugar in the initial dough.
-Definitely salt is needed in the dough, maybe 1/2 a tsp?
-Work the dough and butter together when they are cold, don't put more than 2 turns in at a time; refrigerate between each time.
-Maybe up the argar argar to prevent the dough from cracking when rolling it out when its so cold. (I am not sure if this would work) Or roll the dough out thinner and do two additions of butter in stead of one.
-The bottom dough was chewy and a little flaky, but the outer crust was much better. This recipe might work best for shells that are filled after they are baked rather than for tarts or turnovers.


  1. Dude. You are a triumph.

  2. Thanks for doing this! I think it's awesome, too, that you shared all the 'bumps' along the road while you experimented... and I agree, rice flour is never good when it can be tasted - especially in sweet recipes. There's nothing horrible, really, about the taste of rice flour - it's really subtle - but it's just WRONG for some reason! I don't know how many gf creations I've thrown out just because of a hint of 'fried rice' taste..... ;)

  3. DougMania - so much of this is trial and error and hopefully we can learn from each other. (I will post my recent attempt at croissants soon. So much learning can be had from them, oh so much.)

    Too much rice flour = off flavor. I agree its not spit-it-out bad, but it is weird. I have recently been using a lot more corn starch to my flour mixes and I have noticed a serious improvement.

  4. I am so excited to find your GF puff pastry recipe! I have also recently gotten it in my head that I want to attempt a GF version of puff pastry, and I think I will use your initial attempt and excellent tutorial as a starting point. It sounds like you had an awesome first attempt! The pics looked delicious! I have been studying a regular "gluten cookbook" for ideas on technique, but I haven't been able to attempt anything yet. Don't know if this would help you or anyone else, but the book is called "Baking with Julia," (as in Julia Child) by Dorie Greenspan. It has some great tips on technique (on puff pastry, as well as many other gourmet pastries). It is a great book for me, because many of the GF recipes I would like to attempt, I had never even made the gluten version of myself. So I don't know exactly how they should work or act with gluten, let alone without it. Good luck with your continued efforts! I hope those GF croissants will soon be yours!

  5. Michelle,

    Thank you so much for your encouragement! I think that with cooler weather croissants may prevail. I think my biggest problem was not listening to my gut (ha) and stopping with the two additions of butter when things started to get too dry and the butter was sticking out.

    If you do attempt the puff pastry - I would strongly urge you to use a different mix of flours, less rice and maybe add more tapioca, potato, arrowroot, etc. to help avoid the weird ricey taste.

    I agree, that starting with a gluten-based recipe works and I will have to check out Baking, since its yet to be in my collection.

  6. Thank you! This is my first year trying Christmas with gluten free recipes, and one of our traditions is croissants and fruit for brunch while we open presents... I had no idea where to start but this gives me a great place to begin the quest!

    I did find a gluten free specialist bakery that makes croissants, but $6/pack of two I'd really like to work on making my own!

  7. WHERE IS THIS PLACE?! I would love to taste a successful gf croissant!

  8. my goodness, i have been looking for a gf puff pastry recipe for ages!! i refuse to be defeated and have to buy it, i have pretty much perfected shortcrust pastry now but miss puff pastry oh so much :) i would give my left arm for a gf and df croissant! do you think it would work as a dairy free recipe? or does the butter have to be thick like normal butter..unlike soya or sunflower butter that are quite soft?

  9. Oh yeah, any nut butter would NOT work because you need a fat that is solid at room temp. Perhaps margarine or earth balance *could* work, but you would need to fold in the turns with frozen margarine, and keep it very very cold throughout the process.

    I googled "dairy-free croissant" and found a bunch of recipes, so it looks doable, just without the gluten its going to be hard to work the dough because you don't have an elastic stretch/give/pull to the dough. If you try it, please report back!

  10. This post totally inspired me to try my hand at GF puff pastry. Making it today we'll see how it goes!

  11. That looks amazing!!!
    I have never dared to try making puff pastry myself, I've always bought it for an insane amount of money.
    You really got to me now and I think I might have to try this sometime soon!!!

  12. I'm so impressed! Thanks for the first round notes and commentary. Looks like I need to start this tonight though, since I'm hosting a party in 2 days. I love tricking people with tasty GF treats.

  13. Thanks for trying this out, I had the same idea when I came across the filo pastry. But haven't had time to experiment with this. I just found thid really soft bread (look at the gorgeous fluffy texture!) recipe using Betty Hagman's idea of mixing chickpea + fava bean flours + larger ration of cornstarch and sorghum flour. I wonder if your puff pastry idea would work with that recipe. I'll try it soon and post results!

  14. Would you believe it, I just found a gluten-free flaky pastry croissant experiment that doesn't even LOOK gluten free.

    It was discovered by the Daring Bakers Challenge here:

  15. Emily, those hot cross buns look fantastic! The croissants look similar to Gluten Free Gobsmacked's:

  16. That looks wonderful! Have you tried it with dairy free margarine?

  17. Dairy free, no. I had a discussion with yaya - basically you would need a product that had some water content because the steam from the butter is part of the PUFF and creation of layers. I also don't really handle soy very well so I tend to avoid it. But it might work.

  18. How about using actual melted butter and "painting" it on the dough, then refrigerating to cool it into a solid layer between rolling each turn? That should result in a nice even, THIN layer of butter and, as you have already suggested, doing that more than just once, perhaps 3 or 4 times. The instructions for the Orgrans pre-made GF puff-pastry mix suggests at least 6 turns to create the distinctive puff effect, but starts, as with non-GF pastry, with just one layer of butter. Painting a butter layer after each turn sounds good to me.

  19. Anon - puff pastry "puffs" because of the water content in butter steaming when its baked. If you melt butter and brush it on the dough 2 things are going to happen. 1. the dough is going to absorb the butter - rather than creating a separate layer; 2. the water separates from the fat when the butter melts and you would just be brushing on the fat part, and no puff would happen because no steam would be there.

    I like the idea, I just think that the melting of the butter would not create the desired layers.

  20. Thank you for that observation, Kristina. I might change tack a little, now. I have friends who eat at my place on a regular basis, and one of them is a Celiac, so making puff pastry is a sort of Holy Grail. I want to make Beef Wellingtons, and puff pastry is essential. I might use a cheese grater on cold butter to be able to make very THIN layers of butter, then, and repeat that after every turn to get a fairly even spread... I'll see how it goes. Thanks – Lindsay.

  21. Lindsay - grated butter is a classic! There was one gf croissant recipe that called for grated butter, but it had cottage cheese in it, which seemed weird, so I never tried it. Frozen butter works really well for grating the butter without it melting in your hands, or on the counter.

    Let me know how it goes!

  22. So far, so good... up to the 3rd turn on a fairly cool day (that helps, I suspect) using a serated-edge knife to "peel" cold butter and spread it in a very thin layer on the pastry. I will do one more turn adding grated butter then a couple more turns just rolling and folding. It occurs to me that, even when my coating of butter peel is not perfectly even, that doesn't really matter. There'll be another thin layer of butter on the next turn. It also helps to keep the dough homogeneous, I think, because it hasn't started to crumble or break up in any way yet. I am using a marble rolling pin, refrigerated between each turn along with the pastry for about an hour... I intended it to be 2 hours but I'm too impatient for that. ;-)

  23. You most certainly do not need to be perfect because there are so many layers and turns! (You don't want giant gaps of butter, because the dough will stick to itself and not create thin layers and puff, but rolling things out will take care of small spaces.)
    I am a bit jealous of the marble rolling pin :)
    Keep it up!!!

  24. Quote: I am a bit jealous of the marble rolling pin :)
    Pfft! $5 at a charity op-shop a few days back, an impulse buy. I have finished all the turns, now, the thickness is right down to about 4mm, and the pastry feels right. Roll on Friday for the Beef Wellingtons. The trick seems to be just taking your time, refrigerating between turns, using a serated-edge knife to "scrape" butter and spread it. Very slow process but quite simple. Lacking gluten, of course, the pastry won't stretch like normal, but it should wrap ok. Yes, well, ok, the cold marble pin probably helped a bit, too.
    – Lindsay, in Australia.

  25. Lindsay how did it go. My daughter is Celiac and when the family get together she always has to have Scone topping or cold water pastry on her steak pie, I would love to make a proper steak pie for her. Hope it worked out well. Beth

  26. I found your comments and suggestions on GF puff pastry quite interesting. I work as a product developer for a GF and vegan food producer in the UK and thought that I might share a few ideas about giving 'stretch' to gf pastry. If you mix 1/4 tsp of xanthan gum with 2 tsp sunflower oil and then add 100ml of cold water whilst constantly stirring you will get a thick gloopy substance which you can add to pastry and dough to help its 'strechyness' Another way of making a similar gloop is to boil 100ml linseeds in 600ml water for 15 minutes and then seperate the seeds from the gloop.

  27. Thank you so much for your generous sharing! Its been too hot on the east coast to attempt pastry work, but I am more excited about this prospect - though I wonder about the lack of water in vegan faux butters. Maybe the extra water in this slurry would do the trick!

  28. G'day Kristina

    How good it is to find like minded people out there that enjoy sharing their knowledge.

    My GLW, Chrissie, after so many years of medical problems & IBS has been diagnosed with intollerances to Gluten, Dairy & Eggs...:(

    It has cost a small fortune to convert our pantry & fridge to that of a Celiac's.

    That said..! I, like many others am so over Rice Flour, great for shortbread bisuits and pastry shells, terrible for pie crusts/bases and flaky pastry tops.

    I had no idea it was this involved to get a good pastry dough but I'm gunna have crack at it.

    I am in the process of making a Hybrid pastry dough of everything I have been reading up on.

    As I am making 2 Apple & Rhubarb Pies, I have made a larger than normal mix, this is what I have so far:

    This 1st step is a recipe for "Foam Pastry" and it comments on how flaky and light it turns out. so I thought to myself, yep..! why

    I used:

    1/2 Cup Lactose Free Milk (I use Pauls Zymil Lo-Fat).
    1/2 Cup Caster or Ground white Sugar
    1/2 tsp Bi-Carb Soda

    Put Milk & Sugar in pot and bring to boil, remove from heat, add Bi-Carb and let cool, stir prior to adding to dough mixture.

    Dough Mixture:

    2 Cups Orgrans Self Raising Flour
    3/4 Cup Tapioca (Arrowroot) Flour
    200g Nuttlex Dairy Free spread. (I used Pulse, any variety should do)

    Combined in the traditional manner, keep 1/2 cup of the mixture seperate for late binding.

    Reason for this is I incorporated the Gloop Mixture (Guar Gum instead of Xantham) alhough, I used Rice Bran Oil and 1/2 tsp Guar Gum and folded it into dough, this of course made the dough quite sticky, hence the reason for adding more doug mixture to held dry and bind it.

    It has a better textural feel and on first appearances has a good elasticity about it, so it's chillin in the fridge for a spell, so I will report back tomorrow after I do my 1st roll out...Fingers X'd


    Keep up the good work guy's...


  29. Whoahhh that sounds awesome. Please keep us all posted!

  30. Hi All

    Apologies as I was away interstate...

    OK, had to rush the whole process due to going away, that said, I still made 1 pie, although I didn't get to eat it as the daughter and grandkids skoffed the lot by the time I got

    Daughter stated the pastry was good, not puffy, but a far better result than it's cardboard predecessors I had made in the past.

    The pastry was far from perfect, but a definite improvement so I will cut way back on the rice flour and tapioca now.

    The mix was so easier roll out, the elasticity was heaps better meaning it didn't crumble when spread thin although you still need to take care when using the rolling pin to position the pastry over your dish and the top.

    BTW: I used Lactose free milk to coat (3 times)the crust top and on the final brushing I sprinkled sugar all over and came out with a golden glaze.

    I am going to experiment with the mix again, although this time I will cut back on the Tapioca.

    I am going to run with the "Foam Pastry" recipe again, only this time I am going to mix the Guar Gum directly as opposed to making a seperate mix of Gloop as the two seperate elements made the mix very oily and I had to add more self raising flour to dry it up a tad.

    I am not a very good follower of recipes as I tend to grab a handful of what ever seems to feel right and run with it, which means the result can have a 180 degree joy factor for outcomes. I will record the size of each of the elements and when I have it just about there I will drop in here again and let everyone know so that you can try it for yourselves


  31. Thanks for the updates and here's hoping for more success!

  32. Thank you everybody for your views and comments. I am able to consume gluten yet my brother and sister are unable to. Having read your comments i feel the need to put my expertise to the test and help us all create a recipe for puff pastry and croissant dough. My background was a chef in fine dining, followed by 8 years in boulangerie and patisserie. I will post how it turns out.