Thursday, August 29, 2013

Gltuen Free Vegan Alternatives to the Renaissance Italian Lunch

Whenever I'm cooking for a large number of people, I try to provide alternatives for the most common dietary restrictions. If someone contacts me about other issues, I'll do my best to accommodate them. About the only thing I cannot do is hardcore kosher, as I can pretty much guarantee that every cooking implement in my kitchen has contacted both dairy and meat products at some point.

For the lunch, I knew that I would have both vegans and gluten intolerant people eating. To keep it simple, I just combined those issues, and made pastries that satisfied both issues.

To make my life simpler, I made one 12 cup muffin tray with crusts, blind baked them, then added cheese substitute and herbs to half, and modified fruit and nut filling to the other half.

My first attempt at gluten free pie crust was an unmitigated disaster. I tried a straight substitute of multipurpose gluten free flour for regular flour in my pie crust recipe. This resulted in way too much fat, making the hand pies completely melt in a smear of goo all over the sheet pan. That prompted me to use the muffin tin, to give some structure to hold the shape of the dough in my second attempt.
My more successful attempt was based on this website, which I modified and adapted a little. I think next time I will use disposable mini tart tins, as getting the crumbly tarts out of the muffin tin was challenging.

The flour I used was Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Flour. It had a slightly grainy texture, like a find grind corn meal. The resulting crust was a bit crumbly, and grainier than I would like.

For the cheese tarts, I used Tofutti Better than Cream Cheese as a substitute for the ricotta. I was very surprised at how good it was. It really had a good texture and taste. It's major downside is cost. I paid about the same for a half pound of Tofutti as I did for five pounds of ricotta.

For the Neapolitan Pizza, I substituted 1/2 cup of water and 1/4 cup cornstarch for the egg. Seems to have jelled up nicely.

Gluten Free Pie Crust

1¼ cups All Purpose Gluten Free Flour Blend
½ cup vegetable shortening
2 to 4 tablespoons ice cold water
1 tsp. xanthan gum
1 tsp. kosher salt

Measure shortening, and place in freezer for 30 minutes.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour and salt. Pulse a few times to combine. Add shortening to processor. Pulse in short bursts, until mixture resembles course crumbs, about 6 - 8 times.

With food processor running, dribble in water one tablespoon at a time, until mixture just clumps together. Form into a disk, and wrap in plastic wrap. Dough tends to be crumbly. Refrigerate for at least one hour.

Lay out a sheet of wax paper, lightly dust with gluten free flour. Place disk of dough on top. Dust top with more flour. Cover with wax paper. Roll out to about 1/8 inch thick.

Lightly grease cups of muffin tin. Cut 3inch diameter circles of dough. Gently press dough into cups. Dough will be delicate and crumbly, may take some careful pressing to fully fill cup.

Line cups with wax paper, and fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake in a 350 F oven for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, and let cool. Remove wax paper and weights.

Add filling. Return to oven. Bake 20 minutes, or until filing is set and crust is golden brown.

Happy eating!

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