Why This Recipe Works

Perfect pie dough has just the right balance of tenderness and structure. The former comes from fat, the latter from the long protein chains, called gluten, that form when flour mixes with water. Too little gluten and the dough won’t stick together; too much and the crust turns tough. So presumably we would face mostly a structural issue with a gluten-free dough, since gluten-free flours are naturally low in protein. As our first step, we swapped in our gluten-free flour blend for the wheat flour in all the pie dough recipes the test kitchen has developed over the years. We produced workable doughs in every case, but an all-butter dough (which includes sour cream for tenderness) had the necessary richness to stand up to the starchiness of the gluten-free flour blend and was clearly the best starting point. Although we weren’t surprised to find that the dough was still too soft and lacked structure, we were taken aback by how tough it was; on its own, the sour cream was not sufficient to tenderize a gluten-free dough. We solved the structural problem easily with the addition of a modest amount of xanthan gum, but flakiness and tenderness were still elusive. In an effort to further tenderize our dough, we tested ingredients that are known to tenderize: baking soda, lemon juice, and vinegar. Vinegar was the clear winner, producing a pie crust that was not only tender, but also light and flaky.


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3 tablespoons ice water
1 ½ tablespoons sour cream
1 ½ teaspoons rice vinegar
6 ½ ounces (3/4 cup plus 2/3 cup) ATK Gluten-Free Flour Blend (see related content)
1 ½ teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon xanthan gum
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces and frozen for 10 to 15 minutes

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Makes enough for one 9-inch pie

Like conventional recipes, this pie dough can be prepared in advance and refrigerated for 2 days; however, it is not sturdy enough to withstand freezing. Do not omit the xanthan gum; it is crucial to the structure of the pie dough. If not using the test kitchen's flour blend, you can substitute either 2/3 cup plus 1/2 cup King Arthur Gluten-Free Multi-Purpose Flour, or 1 1/3 cups of Betty Crocker All-Purpose Gluten Free Rice Blend. Note that pie dough made with King Arthur will be less sturdy.

1. Combine ice water, sour cream, and vinegar together in bowl. Process flour blend, sugar, salt, and xanthan gum together in food processor until combined, about 5 seconds. Scatter butter over top and pulse until crumbs look uniform and distinct pieces of butter are no longer visible, 20 to 30 pulses.

2. Pour sour cream mixture over flour mixture and pulse until dough comes together in large pieces around blade, about 20 pulses.

3. Turn dough onto sheet of plastic wrap and flatten into 5-inch disk. Wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 2 days. Before rolling out dough, let it sit on counter to soften slightly, about 30 minutes. (Dough cannot be frozen.)

4. Roll dough into 12-inch circle between 2 large sheets of plastic wrap. Remove top plastic, gently invert dough over 9-inch pie plate, and ease dough into plate. Remove remaining plastic and trim dough 1/2 inch beyond lip of pie plate. Tuck overhanging dough under itself to be flush with edge of pie plate. Crimp dough evenly around edge using your fingers. Cover loosely with plastic and freeze until chilled, about 15 minutes.

5. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Bake crust until crisp and golden, 25 to 35 minutes, rotating pie plate halfway through baking. Remove crust from oven and let cool slightly. (Crust can be held at room temperature for up to 1 day before filling.)