Mastering the Art of Creating Gluten-Free Classic French Pastries

by Orly Gottesman, guest author

After she discovered her passion for baking under the tutelage of a pastry Chef in 
Paris, France, Orly Gottesman received her formal patisserie training from the Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts Institute in Sydney, Australia.
Orly is currently the resident Gluten-Free Head Baker at Chompies restaurants in Arizona.  Orly is working with the baking team to further develop Chompies’ Gluten-Free Friendly bakery product offerings.  Orly plans to move into a dedicated gluten-free facility and open her own gluten- free retail operation in the fall.  



It all began in Paris with a French macaroon baking lesson and a husband who is a foodie with celiac.  I moved from Manhattan to Paris with my husband in August 2010. I did not speak a word of French and I did not have a working visa.  I searched for activities to pursue with all the free time that I had. My dabbling began with a beginner’s French course at The Sorbonne.  I also took singing lessons with a former Broadway American actress who was living in Paris.  But, my favorite pastime was venturing on self-guided French patisserie tours around the city.  As I ate my way through the patisseries of Paris, I would ache for my husband who would pine for but couldn’t taste the buttery French pastries.

When I heard about a small patisserie in the 5th arrondissement that offered private baking lessons, I signed up for a macaroon and a lemon tart lesson.  I discovered then, that my passion for eating dessert was second to my love for baking them.  For the remainder of the time that we lived in Paris, I shadowed and assisted the chef/owner of this patisserie.  I even developed a line of cupcakes for her with popular French themed flavors.

When I realized that I wanted to pursue a career in baking, I applied and was accepted to Le Cordon Bleu (LCB) in Paris.  Before classes commenced, my husband’s job required us to move to Sydney.  I was disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to attend LCB Paris, but the move to Sydney ended up being a blessing in disguise.  I began courses at LCB’s Sydney campus. During my first term at LCB Sydney, I began to wonder if I could adapt these beautiful French pastries to gluten-free versions.

I then designed an independent study where I worked with the head pastry chef to create gluten-free versions of classic French pastries. I called it “The Gluten Free Challenge.” I taught myself invaluable lessons about the properties of gluten-free flours and the key differences baking gluten-free.  I even created my own original flour mixtures for each genre of pastries I produced.  But the secret to my success in this challenge was my husband, who tasted the creations I brought home nightly and was my ruthlessly honest sampler. Some of my experiments were a quick success, but most required a number of trials before yielding a satisfactory product.

Baking gluten-free French pastry has its challenges.  During my study, I discovered that making beautiful and delicious French gluten-free pastries is not a simple skill to master.  You can read a detailed account of my challenges baking gluten-free French pastries on my blog

I learned about the general properties of gluten-free baking while trying to master a gluten-free French tart crust.  Tarts are one of the most popular French desserts and can be served with a variety of classic fillings.  The first time I made a gluten-free French apple tart, I substituted the wheat flour with my gluten free “all purpose flour” mixture and followed the exact recipe that we did in class earlier in the term.

When I tried pinning out the dough, it immediately stuck to the rolling pin and broke apart.  I had to repeatedly stick it in the fridge to solidify before carefully rolling it out with a ton of dusting flour to prevent it from sticking. As per my LCB recipe, I rolled it to a 4mm thickness and baked the tart at 190 degrees celcius (about 370 fahrenheit) for 15 minutes.

The tart was over-baked and had a strong unpleasant aftertaste.  I discovered that gluten-free pastries bake more quickly than non-gluten free.  Therefore, baking at a lower temperature is often the best solution to ensuring that the product doesn’t burn.

The subsequent trial, I made two tarts, one pinned out to a 2mm crust and one 4mm. Even though the delicate dough broke apart when I rolled it over the pie tin, I was able to stick it back together with my hands and mold it to the tin without a problem.  This time, I baked the crusts at 180 degrees celcius for 10 minutes.  The thinner crust was baked all the way through and had a nice buttery flavor and genuine tart texture.   The thicker crust didn’t get baked enough on the bottom and tasted like raw gluten-free flour.  I learned to pin out my dough as thin as possible so that the crust bakes all the way through and has an optimal flavor.

The gratification I feel from my many successes is inspiring because it allows people on a gluten-free diet who love desserts to indulge in a whole new world of delights.  After baking over a dozen tarts, I’ve finally perfected a recipe that looks and tastes just as good as the tart you would purchase at a French patisserie.

Here is my recipe for my favorite French tart: “Tart au Pommes with Frangipane”


Sweet Paste:

250g all purpose gluten free flour

1.5 tsp xanthan gum

pinch of salt

125g sugar

125g butter

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp lemon juice or apple cider vinegar

½ lemon zest

Apple filling:

4 granny smith apples, peeled and cored

Cinnamon sugar to taste

Butter for sautéing

Frangipane filling:

100g butter

100g sugar

125g eggs (about 2.5)

100g almond meal

44g all purpose gluten-free flour


1) Make sweet pastry

-Combine gluten-free flour, xanthan gum, cold diced butter, pinch of salt, and lemon zest and mix on low speed until yielding a breadcrumb consistency

-Add egg, lemon juice, and vanilla and continue to mix to bring dough together.

-Roll the pastry up and flatten out.  Wrap in cling and refrigerate until dough becomes cold.

-Flour the surface of the chilled sweet pasty and roll out between two pieces of silicon paper to 2.5mm.

-Roll the dough over a pie tin.  If the dough breaks, you can use your hands to piece it back together.

-Bake on 350 fahrenheit for 10min

-Remove crust from the oven and eggwash the surface.  Bake for another two minutes and remove to cool

2) Make Frangipane

– Cream butter and sugar together in a mixer.  Combine gluten free flour and almond flour together.  On a low speed, alternate adding the eggs and the flours until all ingredients are evenly incorporated

3) Prepare Apples

-Cut each apple quarter in three.

-Sweat the apples in a buttered frying pan and then add cinnamon sugar to taste.  Make sure that apples are cooked enough with a slightly brown hue.

4) Arrange the Tart

-After the crust cools, pipe or spread a layer of frangipane into the crust to fill 60% of the way.

-Arrange sliced apples on top of the frangipane.  Return to bake in the oven until frangipane is cooked (use a toothpick to gage whether the frangipane is cooked.)

-Cool on a rack before slicing and Bon Appetite!


Thanks Orly!

If you would like to learn more about adapting classic french recipes to gluten-free versions, be sure to check out Orly’s blogs:  

Meet Orly via this ABC15 Phoenix segment:

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On June 10th, 2013, posted in: CeliacCorner Blogs by
5 Responses to Mastering the Art of Creating Gluten-Free Classic French Pastries
  1. Glad through trial and error you perfected the tart recipe, so we can now enjoy. Trying it out tomorrow.

  2. This article reminds me of Paris, my husband and I went on our honeymoon, pre-celiac diagnosis. Thanks for the recipe, will try it soon.

  3. This tart looks delicious, I do miss french pastry.

  4. thanks for posting, enjoyed this. I’d like to try the recipe out, sounds delicious.

  5. Oh Orly, thank you so much for this article. I am recently new to a celiac diagnosis, this gives me inspiration to start creating gluten free pastries!!!

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