This Pie's For Mimi

gluten free pie crust fluted

This started out as any other blog post idea. I was in charge of pies for Thanksgiving and I decided to take the opportunity to make (almost) all gluten free pies and write a long overdue post. As I’ve mentioned before, my family loves dessert and we love to go overboard - especially at holidays. I was excited to test out various gluten free pie crusts to see which one reigned supreme. I was ready to have voter’s cards out and grill people on which crust was the best. This was going to the “big” post that would inspire me to start posting weekly as soon as I posted this the week after Thanksgiving. Then things took an unexpected turn. 

 Mimi, Mom, my cousin Kristian and I baking cookies together

Mimi, Mom, my cousin Kristian and I baking cookies together

My grandmother, Mimi, taught me how to make pies ages ago before one Thanksgiving. She taught me all the tips and tricks every good baker should know when it comes to pie crusts, such as using pie weights when you’re pre-baking a shell, venting the top crust, and so on. Mimi said that I had a gift for pie crusts and I held that compliment with high regard. My mom and I both inherited her tendency to go a little overboard when it comes to entertaining. So in true Cowden woman form, I decided to make 6 pies for 12 people. The days leading up to Thanksgiving were filled with lots of dough, lots of rolling and lots of cursing at the crusts that kept falling apart.

The night before Thanksgiving, Mimi passed away. I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to learn pie-making from her. Whenever I have rolled out a crust in the past, I think of her, and I know that will not change. 

Since I had done so much preparation ahead of time, the original plan of having all 6 pies actually came to fruition. Here was the all-star line-up:

  1. Candy Bar Pie with a regular/gluten-filled pastry crust (read: it contained peanut butter, which I loathe, so why not give the peanut butter lovers some gluten while I’m at it)
  2. Salty Honey Pie with a gluten-free pastry crust
  3. Black Bottom Oatmeal Pie with a gluten-free pastry crust
  4. Salted Caramel Chocolate Pecan Pie with a gluten-free pastry crust
  5. Chocolate Chess Pie with a gluten-free pastry crust
  6. Mocha Espresso Cream Pie with a gluten-free chocolate crumb crust

Now this analysis was supposed to be more about the crust than the pie itself, however I will give an analysis of both the filling and the crust, just to make sure you run out and make a pie this weekend. There's no reason to wait until next November.

I’m skipping over the Candy Bar Pie mainly because it’s not gluten-free and I didn’t change anything on the recipe. I also didn’t get a great shot of it because it was made day-of and in the midst of the chaos I completely forgot. My sweet cousin Brooke took over for me. I essentially gave her the crust and the recipe and said “If this gets made, great. If it doesn’t, I honestly don’t care.” Everyone that ate it, said it was fantastic (if you like peanut butter that is) so you should definitely check it out (Momofuku Milk Bar Cookbook)

Salty Honey Pie

gluten free salty honey pie four and twenty blackbirds
  • Pie Source: Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book
  • Crust Source: Gluten-free Baking with The Culinary Institute of America
  • Verdict: The crust was extremely difficult to move to put in the pie plate because the dough was so soft and malleable. It took so long to make the different flour mixes that I expected this crust to be incredible. Unfortunately, I overbaked it (as you can see) because I stupidly was looking at the instructions for the wrong pie. All of that to say, I cannot give it a fair grade because it was hard, grainy and difficult to cut because of the fact that it was overbaked. The pie itself was much sweeter than I anticipated, I needed a little more sea salt to counterbalance the sweetness.

Black Bottom Oatmeal Pie

gluten free black bottom oatmeal pie four and twenty blackbirds
  • Pie Source: Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book
  • Crust Source: The How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook
  • Gluten-free notes: I substituted gluten-free oats in the pie recipe
  • Verdict: This crust was one of the two favorites. It had a good flavor and it was easier to roll out than the CIA crust. This recipe suggested rolling the crust out in between two sheets of plastic wrap which seemed to work well. The recipe calls for sour cream and vinegar which causes the glutenous pastry texture. The pie itself was delicious - if you like chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, you will love this pie!

Salted Caramel Chocolate Pecan Pie

Salted Caramel Chocolate Pecan Pie southern living
  • Pie Source: Southern Living Magazine
  • Crust source: Joy the Baker
  • Gluten-free notes: I substituted cup4cup gluten-free all purpose flour in the pie recipe
  • Verdict: The crust baked beautifully, however it was a little tough. In fairness, I had to re-roll  the pastry in order to cut out the leaves, so that may have added to the textural issue I had. The pie itself is a favorite: the combination of salted caramel, chocolate and pecans have made this a Thanksgiving family favorite for two years running. I have a feeling it will be requested on the list for next year.

Mocha Espresso Cream Pie

gluten free mocha espresso cream pie southern living
  • Pie & Crust source: Southern Living Magazine
  • Gluten-free notes: I used glutino chocolate sandwich cookies (with the filling scraped out) to substitute the regular chocolate wafers.
  • Verdict: A chocolate crumb crust is an easy gluten-free crust and most people could not tell the difference between the two. Glutino's are my favorite brand of chocolate sandwich cookie. The pie filling was quick and easy and a must-try for chocolate lovers. Not pictured: a perfect layer of whipped cream sat atop the rich mocha espresso layer.

Mimi's Chocolate Chess Pie

gluten free chocolate chess pie
  • Pie source: Mimi’s recipe below
  • Crust source: Bob's Red Mill's Gluten Free Pie Crust Mix
  • Verdict: I was pleasantly surprised that this crust was the ultimate favorite. Both the pleasantly and surprising aspects are due to the fact that this crust was both the easiest and least time consuming since it came from a mix. The one downside of this crust was that it did not stand up to fluting very nicely - it was very delicate and difficult to even attempt any type of crust design. So it wasn't pretty, but it sure tasted good! Next time I would want to try a thicker crust to see if I can get any fluting to work. 

Mimi's Chocolate Chess Pie

This pie is a family favorite. There have been family functions in the past where we've actually made two of these to make sure there's enough to go around.


  • 1.5 C sugar
  • 1 stick butter (melted)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 can evaporated milk (5 oz or 2/3 cup)
  • 1/4 C cocoa (sifted)
  • 1 t. vanilla


  1. Make crust, and partially bake approximately 10 minutes.
  2. Cream together sugar, melted butter and eggs. Be sure butter is melted before adding to the sugar and eggs, or the filling will separate while baking giving you a two-tone pie.
  3. Add, in this order, and cream thoroughly with each additional ingredient: milk, cocoa and vanilla.
  4. Be sure partially baked pie shell is completely cooled before adding the filling. 
  5. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or less. Try not to overtake as the pie can get crusty on top.

Mimi's pie-making tips:

  • Make sure your dough is extremely chilled before rolling it out.
  • Rolling your dough out on a chilled surface helps it from falling apart. I iced down my marble slab before rolling.
  • When using a double crust, be sure to create holes or slits in the top crust in order for the steam to be able to escape.
  • When pre-baking a pie shell: prick the crust with a fork, put a piece of foil along the bottom and place pie weights or dried beans on the foil. This will prevent the crust from puffing up while baking. The foil helps you remove the weights or beans easily.
  • Lock sides of crust to prevent the crust from shrinking.
  • Fold the rolled out crust in half and then fold that half into a quarter in order to easily transfer the crust onto the pie plate. 

and so it begins...

"The more you know, the more you can create. There's no end to imagination in the kitchen."  ~Julia Child, Particular Passions: Talks With Women Who Have Shaped Our Times

When I was in middle school, and my mom and I baked together, I would pretend that we were on a cooking show. I named the camera guy Ted and would ask him to zoom in on certain steps so the audience could get a good look. Whenever I needed to ask Mom a question about what to do next or how to execute a certain step, I would cut to commercial break. Thankfully none of this is on actual film. 

 Just a few options for my Grandfather's 80th birthday party

Just a few options for my Grandfather's 80th birthday party

I've always loved to bake; I never had an easy bake oven though. I started baking with my mom and my grandmother, Mimi, in the big oven since the beginning. Cooking and baking was the center of all family functions. The biggest question at each holiday and birthday celebration was what we were fixing for the meal and most importantly, what we were serving for dessert(s). And no, we could not have just one dessert. Blasphemy! Not in this family. There HAD to be options.

When I found out in January that I am gluten intolerant, I was so upset. All of a sudden those potential options seemed to be so much more limited and in some areas disappear completely. Baked goods were my life. I've now come to accept it and I've even started baking gluten-free. Over the past 8 months I've learned that while places are becoming more gluten conscious, there is a serious lack of gluten-free baked goods out there! Part of my mission on this blog is to test out both gluten-free recipes as well as GLUTENous recipes (see what I did there?). 

 The Gingerbread Houses of 2005

The Gingerbread Houses of 2005

Baking has been one of the true and constant joys in my life. Sharing my baked goods with others has always made me happy. Whether it's baking for someone's birthday, renting an NYC apartment based on kitchen-size, making six kinds of homemade truffles as Christmas gifts for friends in high school, or staying up until 3 AM to make five different themed gingerbread houses for family members I absolutely love it. I am using this blog as a new medium to share baking (and other passions of mine) with a bigger audience.

I want other people to see that baking (and especially gluten-free baking) does not have to be intimidating or scary.  It should be fun to do and even more fun to eat something you've made yourself. Building up your baking arsenal to have gluten-free options can help you out down the road. You never know when you may need a gluten-free dessert for a friend or relative. You will become their new favorite person when you give them cake they can actually eat on their birthday and five different kinds of treats they can enjoy during the holidays.

I am so excited for the posts ahead...

[Ted - you can cut to break now ;)]