Have your paleo pie (thickened) and eat it, too! by Lesley Carter
November 27, 2013
I have found thickening sauces for pies to be difficult since moving toward paleo/primal eating. Arrowroot seemed to be the universal recommendation for this situation, but I never had luck with it. With arrowroot, you have to be careful not to heat it too high or too long, or it will lose its ability to thicken your sauce.... and you are back where you started with a thin sauce... and frustrated. This happened to me every time.
Lately, I've been experimenting more with tapioca flour. Since discovering Primal Girl's Wonder Dough recipe, I always have a large supply of tapioca flour on hand. It is a versatile "flour" with a neutral flavor that I have used successfully in many baked paleo treats. The Cook's Thesaurus at foodsubs.com says, "Tapioca is a good choice for thickening pie fillings, since it thickens at a lower temperature than cornstarch, remains stable when frozen, and imparts a glossy sheen.... The starch is also sometimes used to thicken soups, stews, and sauces, but the glossy finish looks a bit unnatural in these kinds of dishes. It works quickly, though, so it's a good choice if you want to correct a sauce just before serving it."
As I was preparing my (non-Paleo) husband's favorite shepherd's pie today, I figured I would try tapioca flour in place of the usual wheat flour. I followed the advice of several web sources to use the same amount of tapioca flour as the wheat flour called for in the recipe. I mixed it in some cold water to form a slurry and stirred it into the hot bone broth that was already bubbling away with the meat and veggies. And it thickened like a charm! The pie still had a lot more cooking to do in the oven, but I felt safe that the tapioca wouldn't lose its thickening power like my failed attempts with the arrowroot. And voila, after another hour in the oven, I was rewarded with a lovely thick, rich sauce that had a pretty sheen.
I imagine this method will come in handy making Turkey Pie after Thanksgiving! If you include dairy in your pies, another bonus is that tapioca doesn't turn dairy-based sauces slimy the way arrowroot does. Happy Thickening!
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