A Gluten-Free Thanksgiving

When I interviewed cookbook author Jules Shepard earlier this year for my Food section story on her gluten-free journey, I gained an appreciation for the constant dietary vigilance of someone living with celiac disease.

Jules Shepard's apple pie with a gluten-free lattice crust. (Kevin Clark)

Shepard, who refused to give up a life of enjoying baked goods, developed an all-purpose gluten-free flour mixture, a blend of five grains (plus xanthan gum as a binder) that makes carb-heavy faves such as pizza, cookies and scones not only possible but culinarily respectable. (I tested three recipes this summer using her flour mix and was duly impressed by the results.)

I tried to imagine what life would be like without gluten -- as 1 in 100 Americans do -- but sure enough, as soon as the story was published, I moved on to the next topic on my to-do list.

Flash forward three months, with Thanksgiving just around the corner. Suddenly, it occurs to me: What does someone with celiac do on such a carb-heavy holiday? Nearly everything on the typical Thanksgiving menu is loaded with gluten -- the gravy, the stuffing, the pie, the rolls -- even those fried onions-in-a-can for the green bean casserole.

So I give Shepard a call, asking her how she copes with all the dietary adjustments for the holidays. In keeping with her mission to enjoy life at the table, Shepard has developed recipes for gluten-free pie dough and stuffing.

Getting the pie dough to resemble her grandmother's recipe was a high priority, says Shepard. "It was the single most frustrating recipe that I could ever make gluten free," she tells me over the phone this week. "Every time I would make a gluten-free pie crust using a mix on the market, the crust would completely crumble and fall apart, and I couldn't transfer it into the pie plate. I had about given up. I really wanted it to be as close to the flaky, savory pie crust that my grandmother taught me. Nothing, until I created my flour mixture, would come even close."

Shepard has fond memories learning to bake from her grandmother, Joan (pronounced Jo-ann) Dawson, who lived in Vienna, W. Va. until her death in 2004. "I especially think of her at this time of year because that's where we always spent Christmas," she relates.

After the jump, Shepard's recipes for pie dough and stuffing. If you're interested in a hands-on tutorial, Shepard is teaching a "Gluten-Free Thanksgiving" class on Monday, Nov. 12, 7-9 p.m., at Great Sage restaurant in Clarksville, Md. (5809 Clarksville Square Drive; 443-535-9321). You must call to reserve a space. On Dec. 10, she's leading a class on gluten-free holiday goodies.

Nearly Normal Gluten-Free Flour Mix


1 cup white rice flour

1 cup potato starch (not potato flour)

1 cup cornstarch

1/2 cup corn flour

1/2 cup tapioca flour or tapioca starch

4 teaspoons xanthan gum

Mix all ingredients together and store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place.

Grandma's Pie Crust
From "Nearly Normal Cooking for Gluten-Free Eating" by Jules Shepard

(Makes one 8 or 9 -inch pie crust; double amounts for a two-crust pie)

1 cup Nearly Normal Gluten-Free Flour Mix
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup shortening (Shepard uses Earth Balance shortening)
2-3 tablespoons cold water

Cut the mixture together using two knives or a pastry cutter. Add the water to make the consistency you need to form a ball. Wrap in plastic and chill in refrigerator for at least one hour. The dough must be cold in your hand in order to roll out.

Roll the pastry out onto a surface dusted with Nearly Normal Gluten-Free Flour Mix -- Shepard recommends a flexible pastry sheet (i.e. Silpat) for that purpose. Turn the pie plate upside down on top of the rolled out crust and flip the crust and plate over. Pat into shape and fill with desired filling. For a two-crust pie, fold the crust in half and lift gently onto the top of the pie. Put small pats of butter on top of the crust and sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar if you desire.

(Shepard suggests covering crust edges with foil or pie cover while baking to minimize burning.)

Gluten-Free Bread Stuffing

1 loaf gluten-free bread (available in the frozen section of specialty grocers; Shepard recommends avoiding brands that include rice syrup, as it yields an overly sweet result)
1 apple, peeled and chopped
1/3 cup peeled, shredded carrots
1/8 cup celery, chopped
1/8 cup dried or 1/4 cup fresh onion, chopped
1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup flaxseed
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper
1/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups gluten-free vegetable broth

Thaw gluten-free bread and cut slices into small cubes -- enough to make approximately 2 cups of bread cubes. Spread in a single layer onto a cookie sheet and toast in a preheated 300F oven for 8-10 minutes. Set aside.

In a large skillet, melt the butter, then add the carrots, celery and onion. Saute until tender. Add the spices and set aside.

In a large bowl, mix the toasted bread crumbs, chopped apple, nuts, berries and flaxseed. Add the carrot-celery-onion mixture and stir well. Pour the entire mixture into a large baking dish with a lid. Pour the broth over the mixture gradually, stirring until the bread is moist. Do not add the full amount if the bread is moistened with less (each brand of frozen bread will likely vary a bit in how much broth is needed).

Cover and bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees for approximately 30 minutes. Leftovers keep nicely in the refrigerator, allowing many of the flavors to enhance with time.

By Kim ODonnel |  November 9, 2007; 9:05 AM ET Gluten Free , Thanksgiving
Previous: Giving Thanks to No Dairy, Eggs or Meat | Next: 10 Days, 10 Ways to Keep Thanksgiving Sane


Please email us to report offensive comments.

Wonderful! Many of us who can't eat gluten and wheat are thankful for this blog entry. Thanks Kim!

Posted by: Jennifer | November 9, 2007 10:45 AM

Thanks for your continuing interest in this topic Kim! We 1 in 100 appreciate it.
A personal note: I have yet to try any brand of packaged gluten-free bread that was not terrible. However, you can easily make a perfectly respectable gluten-free corn bread using either gluten-free baking mix or chickpea flour instead of the regular flour (the chickpea flour adds a nutty flavor but great texture). Then you just follow a regular recipe for corn bread, although I do add a bit more baking powder and reduce the baking time just a tad. Takes 3 minutes to mix and maybe 20 to bake. Corn bread stuffing will be at my Thanksgiving this year.
I haven't tackled pie yet, but look forward to trying it!

Posted by: Rosslyn | November 9, 2007 11:54 AM

Rosslyn: Jules would agree with you about the packaged GF bread, but reports that when it was mixed in with all the stuffing fixins, it transforms into something different. Thanks for your corn bread recipe!

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | November 9, 2007 12:29 PM

Thank you so much for posting this. This will be my first GF Thanksgiving. I'm trying to do as much as I can to preserve traditions - posts like this definitely help!

Posted by: Meg | November 9, 2007 1:16 PM

Thanks for helping all the gluten-free people at Thanksgiving! It's our family's first gluten-free thanksgiving and we are excited to try out these recipes!

Posted by: Chrissy | November 9, 2007 1:38 PM

Off topic.
How can we pay for your book tonight? Do you take credit card?
Thanks--KOD Fan

Posted by: gansie | November 9, 2007 2:08 PM

Gansie, All sales will be made at Tabletop's register, so plastic is just dandy. Looking forward to meeting you!

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | November 9, 2007 2:23 PM

My Organic Market in Alexandria has a whole gluten-free section as well as a bunch of gluten free breads, etc in the freezer case.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 9, 2007 3:58 PM

We found a very good gluten-, egg-, milk-, and yeast-free bread. It is made by Deland Bakery. We get it at Kennedy's natural foods on Rt. 7 in Falls Church. It makes really good toast, but we've used it for stuffing also. Give it a try. Not cheap, but for my wife to have toast and butter is a small slice of normalcy (pun intended).

Posted by: BobC | November 9, 2007 7:51 PM

Besides MOMS, Gluten-Free baked goods are sold at the Takoma Park-Silver Spring Coop and Whole Foods. I've also seen gluten free flours and mixing ingredients for breads in my local Safeway.
Also, there are now gluten-free beers, like New Grist from Milwaukee. Budweiser began selling a gluten-free beer last December under the Redbridge label. It is made from sourghum, rice, and other ingrediants. New Grist is sometimes available at MOMs and specialty liquor stores.

Posted by: John | November 9, 2007 8:06 PM

Thanks for the recipe, I'm going to try to convert to a PKU recipe.

Posted by: Tina | November 10, 2007 3:06 AM

Thanks for the topic and recipes Kim. I'll be cooking my third GF Thanksgiving dinner this year. I've had trouble w/dressing b/c all the GF breads I tried were so sweet. I switched to a GF cornbread dressing and everyone seemed cool with that. Also, rather than tackle a pie crust, I now make a GF pumpkin cheesecake w/a GF gingersnap crust. It is off the chain!
To the newbies: hang in there. You can stay on your diet and still eat well. And you'll feel so much better at the end of the day.

Posted by: me too | November 10, 2007 8:20 AM

my wife was diagnosed with celiac disease many years ago (thanks to the wonderful folks at the johns.hopkins liver group). cornbread is EASY; dig up paul.prudhomme's recipe for cornbread and substitute corn flour (masa harina) for regular flour and you will have the BEST (and most authentic) southern cornbread. to use for stuffing; be sure to make it a few days early and let it get stale.
pie crusts are also fun; we've used the 'ginger snap idea' before and its excellent for pumpkin pies. my wife has an AWESOME recipe for italian pizzelles -- and we have found that grinding them into a 'crumb' mixture turns them into the perfect crust for cheesecakes and apple pies (the anise oil doesn't hurt!).
thanks for the nice article. cheers.

Posted by: gfb1 | November 10, 2007 10:40 AM

@me too: So how about posting your recipe for GF pumpkin cheesecake with that GF gingersnap crust, or a link to wherever you found it? I'd appreciate it much!

Posted by: ~sg | November 10, 2007 11:14 AM

yay Kim for doing a gluten free Thanksgiving article! As you can tell from the comments, it's appreciated more than you'll ever know!

Posted by: Annapolis, Md | November 10, 2007 11:23 AM

I'm really looking forward to trying out the pie crust, as I had pretty much given up on pie. As for bread, I had pretty much stopped eating eat it from lack of options. However, I recently came across the products by Whole Foods' Gluten Free Bakehouse. I've had their Cinnamon Raisin Bread and the Sundried Tomato & Roasted Garlic Bread, which are simply outstanding. I hesitate to promote a particular store, but I've liked these so much I want to tell everyone. I never thought I'd eat raisin bread again!

Posted by: Andrea | November 11, 2007 11:19 AM

Thought I'd post back on this- I made the GF stuffing for my wheat-allergic daughter and celiac SIL, and it was a big hit. I think it was actually better than the regular stuffing! My SIL was absolutely thrilled- it was the first time she's had stuffing in years. I did find that I used a *lot* less fluid than it called for- I doubled the recipe, and only used 2 cups of broth instead of 3, and even that was a bit much. I also made my stock on the weak side. I used the GF bullion packets from trader joes, and only used 2 packets instead of 3. I think it would have been too salty otherwise.

Posted by: reston, va | November 23, 2007 12:44 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.


© 2010 The Washington Post Company