Gluten-Free Sweet Tea Pie: A New Thanksgiving Tradition

Earlier this week, the first week of December, we had temperatures in the upper eighties. Temperatures this high around Thanksgiving sweet tea pie 3and Christmas are not that unusual in South Texas; in fact, one reason so many few people seem to be choosing to run the half, rather than the full, San Antonio Rock and Roll Half Marathon / Marathon seems to be the consistently high temperature we have on race day every year (next year the race has been moved from November to December, but we consistently have high temperatures throughout December, too, so the move may not do much to improve race conditions). At any rate, considering the number of extremely warm and down-right Hellishly hot days we experience all year long, we have a legitimate reason to down gallons of sweet iced tea all year long. Sweet tea goes down so smoothly; it’s so cold and tastes so clean and sweet – so pure. As a beverage, it complements just about any food at any meal, served at any time of day. It can even complement dessert, as a part of the dessert, as served in the form of sweet tea pie at Lucy’s Fried Chicken in Austin.

I’ve never eaten at Lucy’s Fried Chicken. I’m sure such sides as the collard greens, black-eyed peas, and the grilled corn on the cob may be gluten-free, and probably some of the oyster dishes are too. I just can’t see myself sitting at a table at Lucy’s Fried Chicken, watching my dining companions enjoy such delicious but glutinous fare as deep fried deviled eggs, fried chicken spaghetti, or a fried chicken salad sandwich. Sometimes, I confess, I lean a little toward bitterness when I have to manipulate and twist menu items in a restaurant to form a gluten-free meal for myself while Phillip and others order with ease – totally without angst – whatever they want from the menu. As I watch others at the table bite into juicy, plump pieces of fried whatever (because just about anything fried is delectable in taste and texture!), I take on the characteristic of Aesop’s fox who, finding the grapes on the tree beyond his reach, assured himself that the grapes were probably sour, anyway. But I know I just lie to myself at those times. Sigh.

Michael, my son-in-law, has eaten at Lucy’s Fried Chicken, and the tale he told of Lucy’s sweet tea pie was just too irresistible. He made the pie sound so rich, so Heavenly, that I had to find a way to recreate this pie in a form that Elizabeth, Jacob, and I could also enjoy. I also wanted to surprise Michael with a sweet tea pie for Thanksgiving. Thankfully, I found an article in which Chef Taff Mayberry (former pastry chef at Lucy’s Fried Chicken) shares the recipe for this amazing pie. The recipe is easy to make gluten-free; I made only a couple of adjustments. Instead of trying to deglutenize the pie crust in the recipe, I used my tried and true gluten-free pie crust. I worked a long time to get my gluten-free pie crust recipe just right, and I really don’t like to mess with what works for me now. As far as the pie filling is concerned, the only adjustment necessary I had to make was to substitute rice flour for the all purpose flour.

If I may be a tad bit immodest, I have to admit that the pie turned out excellently, in every way (many of my attempts at making gluten-free imitations of foods do not!). I had to depend upon Michael to tell me if my gluten-free version of Lucy’s Fried Chicken sweet tea pie measured up to the original, glutinous version. He assured me that my pie had the look, texture, and flavor of the gluten-containing version. I believe this pie will now join pumpkin and chocolate Kahlua pecan pie as part of our Thanksgiving meal tradition.

The recipe for double pie crust that I use is a recipe I developed by taking parts of the Better Homes and Gardens classic double pie crust recipe I used before my Celiac diagnosis, parts of Annalise  Robert’s recipe for gluten-free pie crust, and a Whole Foods recipe for gluten-free pie crust. After much experimentation, I arrived at this particular recipe and it’s fool-proof. It works every time.

*A note that accompanies the recipe in the article from which I copied it stresses that the pie recipe is for a ten inch pie, so one must use a 10 inch pie plate. Since a gluten-free pie crust dough isn’t as elastic as a gluten-containing pie crust, I worried about rolling out the dough with enough circumference to fill a 10 inch pie plate. I decided to make a recipe for a double pie crust, and it worked well. I rolled the dough in a circle large enough to fill the pie plate, with enough left over the edges to perfectly crimp the edges.

**The original recipe simply lists one cup of “insanely strong orange pekoe tea” as an ingredient. Insanely strong is a subjective term. I used five teabags in one cup of boiling water, figuring that the tea would five times as strong as a normal cup of tea. My son-in-law said that my version of this pie tasted just like the Lucy’s Fried Chicken version, and it was the same color, so he thinks I made the tea strong enough. Others may want to tinker with the strength of the tea, however.

***Chef Mayberry adds the following note to the end of the recipe: “I use a convection oven here at the restaurant, and the temperatures when transferring to conventional heat are always tricky at best. Plus, I never bake just one pie at a time — always in batches of 8 to 12— so that’ll have a bearing on cooking time and temp as well. So many variables! The pie may need to be moved into the lower third of the oven and the cooking time increased. That being said, the filling will really jiggle when done and won’t look set. It just won’t ripple. When done, it’ll shake like a bowl of Jell-O and not look like a small pond with a stone cast in. ‘Bout as good an analogy as I can make.”

****Sweet rice flour is flour made from sweet, or sticky, rice. It helps the dough bind better. A little of this flour goes a long way, though.

Lucy’s Fried Chicken Sweet Tea Pie

Crust (for 10 inch pie):

125 g Authentic Foods superfine sorghum flour
30 g Authentic Foods superfine brown rice flour
50 g Tapioca flour
25 g Potato starch (NOT potato flour)
25 g Sweet rice (glutinous) flour
1 ½ tbls organic sugar
½ tsp guar gum
½ tsp salt
2/3 cups cold butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
1 tbls orange or lemon juice

Place a steel blade in a food processor. Add dry ingredients and the small pieces of butter. Using the pulse button, pulse the mixture until it resembles coarse corn meal. Add the egg and juice. Process until the dough holds together in a ball. If the dough is too dry, add water ½ tablespoon of water.

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Wrap the pie dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least thirty minutes.

When you are ready to use the pie crust, place the pie crust on a piece of wax paper, then roll the pie crust to the desired size, starting from the middle and rolling outward to form a circle. Place the pie plate upside down on the rolled out pie dough to make sure the dough is rolled out enough to fit easily into the pie plate, with some overlap to use for crimping around the edge of the crust.

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Place the pie crust over the pie plate. Carefully peel the wax paper away from the crust. Fit the pie crust into the plate, building up the dough along the edge of the pie plate. To crimp the edge of the pie crust, shape the dough around the bowl of the spoon as you press down on the edge with the spoon with your fingers.

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Be sure to get the pie crust completely ready before you prepare the filling for the pie.

Filling (for 10 inch pie):

5 Lipton tea bags
1 Cup boiling water
11 egg yolks
1 1/4 lbs. (about 2 3/4 cups) organic granulated sugar
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 oz Authentic Foods superfine brown rice flour
2 tsp. medium grind cornmeal
2/3 tsp. Himalayan pink salt
10 2/3 oz. (about 2 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter

Place the five tea bags in one cup of boiling water. Set aside to cool completely. When cool, squeeze the tea bags into the tea as you remove them from the tea.

Place yolks in a mixing bowl. Slowly stream the sugar into the yolks while constantly whisking until thoroughly combined. Combine lemon juice and tea and whisk into mixture. Combine flour, cornmeal, and salt and whisk in.

Place bowl over a barely simmering saucepan of water. Dice butter into 1/2 inch cubes. Add butter in 4 batches, whisking until each batch is melted. When the last batch has melted, pour filling into cold pie shell and place in a 450-degree conventional oven (400 degrees convection) on the center rack. Turn oven down to 350 degrees (275 degrees convection).

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Start to check pie after 30 minutes. Pie should jiggle but not ripple when done, anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on oven and usage. Pie top should take on some color, anywhere from light brown to deep brown.

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Let rest at room temperature till cool, then refrigerate for easy slicing. Serve cold or at room temperature, with whipped cream if desired.

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