Excuse me if I toot my own horn a little bit here, because I am pretty excited about this one. After much experimenting, I have managed to create a low carb, gluten-free pastry crust that holds together and yet still manages to be tender and flaky. With no eggs. Not one single egg, not even half an egg. Not even a few drops of egg white. While I have nothing against eggs in general, this is actually a huge breakthrough for me. If you have ever worked with low carb, gluten-free ingredients, I think you will agree that this is no mean feat. Because when it comes to pastry crust, the lack of gluten presents an enormous challenge. Gluten may not be good for us, but it has some amazing properties that are really hard to simulate in its absence. It provides the glue that holds conventional pastry crust together while still allowing it to be tender. My beloved almond flour isn’t nearly so cooperative in that regard. It doesn’t have all these magical little protein strands that bind to each other while the butter melts, so most almond flour pastry recipes call for eggs to hold the crust together. Until now…
Again, I have nothing against eggs in general. In fact, I love them and eat them almost daily in some form or another. But eggs don’t belong in a true pastry crust. Sorry, eggs, you are delicious, but you have a tendency to make the crust very heavy and decidedly un-flaky. Eggs or egg whites may help hold the crust together, but it will be much more leaden in texture. It definitely won’t have that melt-in-your-mouth tenderness.
In the absence of gluten and eggs, I knew I needed some help getting the almond flour to hold together. I would love to have an all almond flour crust, but I tried that a few times and the results weren’t pretty. So I went with a little teeny weeny bit of starch, in the form of some gluten-free all purpose flour. I used as little as I could get away with, so as not to raise the carb count too much.
I was very pleased with the results. The dough is still quite fragile and has to be handled with care. But one great thing about the absence of gluten is that the dough patches back together really easily and can be re-rolled without the loss of too much tenderness. It worked so well for these hand pies, because the circles of pastry were small and easy to work with. I also made a few of them into tarts and was impressed with how well the dough baked up, without getting too soggy on the bottom. And I have also tried it out as one large pre-baked crust (for a coconut cream pie, and I will post that recipe in a few days). Because it’s so fragile, it’s tricky getting it into the pie pan without a lot of cracks and tears, but again, it patches back together so nicely.
I have a few ideas of how to strengthen it without losing the tenderness, so I think there may still be some tweaking to be done. And I haven’t yet tried it as a top crust for a large pie, so I can’t quite say how it will perform there. But for now, I am extremely pleased to have a delicious low carb almond flour pastry crust. I have so many recipe ideas for this crust, I hardly know where to begin!
Strawberry Hand Pies – Low Carb and Gluten-Free
Fresh strawberries in a tender almond flour crust. Low carb, gluten-free strawberry hand pies.
- 1 cup strawberries, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp Swerve Sweetener or granulated erythritol
- Preheat oven to 350F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
- For the filling, combine chopped berries and erythritol in a small bowl and let sit.
- For the crust, combine almond flour, all purpose, erythritol, guar gum and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine.
- Sprinkle butter over and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
- With processor running on low, add ice water 1 tbsp at a time until dough begins to clump together.
- Cover work surface with a large sheet of parchment paper and sprinkle with almond flour. Turn out dough and form into a disk.
- Sprinkle with additional almond flour and top with another piece of parchment, then carefully roll out in all directions to form a 10 inch circle.
- Remove top parchment and use a large circular cookie cutter, about 2 3/4 inches in diameter, to cut out as many circles as possible. Gently lift circles with a knife or offset spatula and transfer to prepared baking sheet.
- Re-roll scraps to get as many pastry circles as possible. You should be able to get 9 or 10.
- Avoiding any juices collected at the bottom, spoon a small amount of berries onto one half of each circle, leaving 1/2 inch edge for sealing.
- Gently fold the other half of the pastry over and seal edges. Use a fork to crimp.
- Use a sharp knife to cut small slices into the top of each hand pie to release steam.
- Bake 16 to 18 minutes or until pastry is light golden brown. Let cool completely on pan before serving.
Serves 9. Each serving has 6.7 g of carbs and 2 g of fiber. Total NET CARBS = 4.7 g.