As you know I’m a big sucker for rhubarb season, and although I had made a rhubarb pie (with plums) in the past, I wanted to make another rhubarb pie this year. I went for small pies this time, and instead of adding more fruit, I went for a custard filling. Problem was.. I hadn’t actually ever tried to make gluten-free shortcrust pastry dough or dairy-free custard so I knew it was going to be a bit of a challenge.
The pastry part turned out to be quite easy, the dough did break a bit when putting it in the pie tins but it didn’t affect the flavour or structure of the pie base. The custard filling was a bit trickier. Dairy-free milk tends to be lighter and thinner than normal milk and has less fat so I had to adjust the normal custard ingredients to make sure it would actually firm up. Traditional recipes usually only use egg yolks, but to make it firm we’re going to use the egg whites as well and whip them up separately. I’ve also added butter and flour to make our custard filling complete.
I use vanilla sugar myself, which isn’t always easy to find in Ireland. The one place they are always guaranteed to have it though would be in the Polish shops, which is where I usually get mine.
I’m very happy with the result, although my first batch had far too thick pastry cases, but the second batch was perfect! For my next custard project I’m going to be making Portuguese custard tarts, also called Pastel de nata! I made them years ago along with my cousin, who had studied in Lisbon for a few months, but haven’t actually made them again since.
Makes: about 8 small pies
- 325g all purpose gluten-free flour
- 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 225g dairy-free butter (I use sunflower)
- 5 medium eggs (1 for the pastry, 4 for the custard)
- 125g caster sugar
- 10g vanilla sugar
- 475ml lukewarm milk (I used rice milk)
- 200g rhubarb chunks
- icing sugar to dust
Needed: small pie tins, mine are about 10cm
We’re starting with out shortcrust pastry. Put 225g of flour, salt and 100g of butter into a large bowl. Use a fork, stand mixer or food processor and keep mixing until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Beat 1 egg and add to your mixture. Add 1-2 tablespoons of cold water if needed and you’ll notice the dough will start to form. Make sure it’s a nice and soft mixture, because keep in mind that the xanthan gum will firm it up a good bit. If you notice it’s still crumbly, add a teaspoon of water at a time. Now use your hands to lightly knead the pastry on a lightly floured workspace.
Cover the pastry with parchment or cling film and rest it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat your oven to gas 4, 180°C, fan 160°C. Once the pastry is cold, roll it out between 2 sheets of clingfilm to a thickness of about 0,5cm at the most. As your pie tins won’t be very high, you don’t want to have dough that’s too thick or you won’t be able to get a lot of that delicious custard layer onto it on top. Avoid using more flour, unless it’s sticking to your clingfilm too much of course.
Get your little pie tins read and remove the top layer of clingfilm but leave the bottom one attached for now. Roll the pastry over your rolling pin. Now put the pastry on your tin with the clingfilm at the top, then remove it once your pastry is on the tin. Keep in mind that gluten free pastry is a lot more fragile than regular ones so it’s not unlikely for the pastry to rip when you’re transferring it onto your tin or rolling pin. You can of course just patch it up and push it into the tin with your hands, which is what I did as well.
Prick the base of the pastry with a fork and put parchment paper on top and add baking beans or uncooked rice grains on top of your paper to bake the pie blind. Pop in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove the beans/rice and paper and bake for another 5 minutes until the base is dry and biscuity. Allow to cool down a bit while we continue with the custard.
Remove the leaves (and a few cm under them) and bottom part of the rhubarb. Wash the leftovers carefully and slice up in long strips that will fit in your pie tins. You can of course slice the rhubarb in half lengthways if your rhubarb is very thick. It would look a bit silly to have one thick piece of rhubarb in your pie, rather than a few thin ones.
For the custard we’re going to separate 4 eggs. Be careful not to get any egg yolk into your egg whites, then transfer the egg whites to a clean, grease-free bowl and beat until you get soft peaks. Meanwhile melt 125g butter at low temperature.
Mix the egg yolks with 125g caster sugar and 10g vanilla sugar. Add melted butter and mix again. Now that the pot of butter is empty, you can add in milk, so it heats up to lukewarm; Now gradually add in 100g of flour, followed by the lukewarm milk. Fold in the egg whites carefully.
Poor custard mixture on your pie crust, then add some rhubarb on top and pop in the oven for 45 min – 1 hour at 180°C. The core doesn’t have to be fully baked yet, the heat from the outside part of the pie will help cook the middle.