Oct 072012
 

When we wanted a gluten-free graham cracker crust for our key lime meringue pie, we looked to Gluten-Free Girl because we wanted a recipe that included the making of graham crackers, rather than a trip to the store for ready-made, GF graham crackers. We followed that recipe pretty closely and came up with crackers that looked like this:

 

I am often imprecise with measurements, but note them as closely as I can. A few grams on either side should not make a difference. This is the recipe for graham crackers as I followed it, which has a few modifications from the one referenced above.

  • 70g garbanzo flour
  • 70g tapioca flour
  • 70g white rice flour
  • ½ teaspoon xanthan gum
  • ¼ teaspoon guar gum
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 100g melted butter
  • 85g honey
  • 3-6 tablespoons cold water

Method:

Preheat the oven to 325F/160C

  1. Whisk together the dry ingredients
  2. Cut the butter into the mixture until the texture is mealy. It’s easiest to do this in a food processor.
  3. Combine the honey and a few tablespoons of cold water and pour it into the batter while mixing.
  4. Keep mixing until the dough sticks together in a ball: add more water if necessary.
  5. Roll the dough into two balls. Wrap each dough ball and cool in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
  6. Remove the dough from the fridge and roll it out (one ball at a time) on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. The flattened dough should be about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick.
  7. Cut the dough to match the pattern you want for your graham crackers.
  8. Refrigerate the rolled out dough for 15 minutes.
  9. Prick the dough all over with a fork.
  10. Bake the graham crackers until they are golden and firm to the touch.
  11. Remove from the oven and cool on the baking sheet. They should become quite crisp.

Verdict on the result: the kids liked them, but I’m going to work with the recipe. It’s probably me, or perhaps my mixture of flours, but I found them to be a bit dense. That said, we made them mainly so that we could make graham cracker crumbs, and for that they were great.

The graham cracker crust

  • 200g graham cracker crumbs
  • 115g unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons sugar

Method:

  1. Blitz the graham cracker crumbs, butter, and sugar, in a food processor until uniformly mixed. The crumbs should hold together when pressed.
  2. Pour into a pie dish and press up against the bottom and sides.
  3. We did not pre-bake this, but it can be browned at 375F/190C for 5-10 minutes if desired.

Once pressed into the dish, the crust looked like this:

The pie crust, before pouring in the key lime mixture.

 

The pie was lovely, and disappeared quickly. I’ll still work to improve this recipe, though. The crust was a bit dense, which may be because my own measurements of butter and sugar were off, or because the graham crackers I worked with were dense.

 

Oct 072012
 

We can thank STS-133 for our family’s appreciation of key lime pie. While we did see it launch in the end, our first journey to Florida included a trip to the Keys while we waited to hear whether the mission would go ahead. That first trip may end up being the first and last time we sample proper Key Lime Pie, but we’ll continue to experiment on our own versions that bring us back to Islamorada. The current recipe is not key lime pie, even if it was inspired by that dessert. First, key limes were out of season and therefore not available. Secondly, we decided to add a meringue using the leftover egg whites. That and Joseph was very much into the ‘science’ of meringues.

The finished product

 The recipe we followed was based on this:

  • 5 egg yolks
  • 14 oz. (1 can) condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup (key) lime juice

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F/190 degrees C
  • Beat the yolks, then add in condensed milk and lime juice and mix thoroughly.
  • Pour the mixture into a graham cracker crust (we mostly followed the recipe from Gluten-Free Girl).
  • Bake for 15 minutes, then let cool.
  • Whip the egg whites (after adding some green food coloring to keep in theme) and 1/4 cup of icing/confectioners’ sugar until stiff, and forming peaks. Spread on top of the pie.
  • Bake until golden brown (10-15 minutes)

Right, so our crust was a bit large, and the consistency of the crust was such that it flopped over onto the pie filling. We rather liked the effect, one child claiming that it looked a bit like some weird planetoid. In any event, we covered all of this with the colored meringue.

Modifications: for a start, we try to use key limes! That said, the slightly milder taste meant that everyone in the family liked this one. One time we included rind and made an incredibly intense pie. I’d recommend that for anyone who wants pie tasting to be an experience.

Dec 242011
 

Mince pies

How did we do it? First of all, I picked up a new kitchen scale. It’s digital and switches easily between metric and US standard units. This makes it easy to fool around with different types of gluten-free flour since the only thing that really matters is that there be double the mass of flour to fat.

Right. What about those pies?

* Cranberry mince pies. For the filling, I pretty much followed the recipe given here.

* I also made traditional mince pies (again, GF pastry) inspired by this recipe.

I may have added some prunes into the mix and also currents. I did not use any candied fruit and had to substitute Granny Smiths for Bramleys.

We are fortunate to have access to a great farm stand that sells excellent quality locally-raised meat at reasonable prices. I bought a large block of suet from them. When I need a bit, I just take the block out of the freezer, grate what I need, and put the rest back for later.

For the pastry, I played around a bit. In the last batch, I combined roughly equal parts of:

  • Rice flour (white and brown)
  • Garbanzo (chickpea) / fava bean flour
  • Added in a bit of corn starch

The above three ingredients came to about 150gm.

Then I put in a couple of teaspoons of:

  • xanthan gum
  • baking powder

Now for the fat. I’m not sure if it made much difference, but I froze all of my fat (lard and butter).

Total fat used: 75 gm

 

Sometimes I used only butter, sometimes a combination of lard and butter. The latter was a bit crumblier, as you might imagine.

Rather than cut the fat through the flour, I grated it, or at least sliced it into tiny pieces before cutting through the flour.

I did use my fingers for less than a minute to crumble the mixture together, then added the cold water– about 5-6 tablespoons and mixed everything together with a fork.

One the mixture held together, I separated it into two balls and put it in the fridge.

Half and hour later, I was ready to roll.

One note of warning: gluten-free pastry is not as pliable as regular pastry because of the lack of gluten. For me, the mini pies worked really well because each shell was small enough that it did not fall apart. When making a large apple pie, I found I had to do a bit a patching because of cracks in the dough.

I did find that using buckwheat flour sometimes helped with the pliability issues, but one has to be careful since the strong taste does not suit all types of filling.

Other links re. gluten-free flours and pastry (in no particular order). I took my ideas from several of these. As should be clear from the above, I am still experimenting. Even though I’ve been happy with some of the results, I’m eager to test other methods so that I can find a comfort zone within the gluten free world. A lot of the recipes linked below look quite involved. The great thing about using a scale is that there is less fussing with small individual measurements. Play away!

http://www.tarteletteblog.com/2010/04/recipe-gluten-free-puff-pastry.html

http://www.artofglutenfreebaking.com/2010/03/puff-pastry-gluten-free/

http://glutenfreegirl.com/gluten-free-rough-puff-pastry/

http://www.flour-arrangements.com/2010/10/gluten-free-pastry.html

http://www.ellenskitchen.com/faqs/glutfree.html

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