It was a close call. We thought my husband might be gluten intolerant, but the allergy test results came back today and we are in the clear, we think.
Thinking Jeff might have a gluten allergy was not the best news for me (or him, but we’re talking about me right now folks, he can gripe on his own blog if he wants to). I mean let’s be serious, I did not go to pastry chef school to improve my looks. I would say that at least 60-70 percent of the time I walk into the kitchen it is to create something that is obviously filled with gluten. That does not include all the times I create a dish with unintended gluten in it. Like nuts or salt or soy (even more so actually) gluten is one of those things that, the second you attempt to avoid it, is when you realize that it is in nearly EVERYTHING you eat. Oh dear.
I know there are many many resources for people with gluten intolerance. Shauna Ahern who writes the blog Gluten Free Girl is an amazing one and has many lovely recipes for all the standards we enjoy such as chocolate chip cookies, scones, tea bread and so on. However one cannot deny the fussiness of it all (not to mention the expense). Many if not all of Shauna’s baked goods call for no fewer than five different flours such as teff, sweet rice, sorghum, corn and potato. I am sure you get used it and that the benefit of having your loved one be able to enjoy your cooking and baking without feeling sick, outweighs the rest, but getting into it is an uphill journey with much trial and error.
Also, I don’t think I have mentioned Jeff’s sweet tooth. This is a guy who loves dessert and is blessed with a metabolism like a high speed train. I can barely get a cake or a batch of cookies out of the oven before it is time to make another. Last week, with all the Thanksgiving prep I got a little behind in my exploration of the world of gluten-free baking. Jeff kept opening drawers and cupboards looking for bits of chocolate or a stray candied nut, poor guy. After we’d had a chance to breathe and spend a day or two free of orange tubers, I remembered a recipe I’d clipped from Gourmet’s 2005 Thanksgiving issue. A delicious and simple sweet potato pie that I figured could easily be made gluten free. I am not exaggerating when I tell you Jeff ate this for a day and half after each meal (well, okay my daughter and I helped a little). Anyway with a little help from some gluten free ginger snaps, this pie was a roaring success. I’ll definitely be making it again, but for now it’s onto some old favorites we’ve been craving these past few weeks, like real pasta, whole wheat muffins and some dense, chewy raisin bread mmmm….
Sweet Potato Pie with Gingersnap Pecan Crust, heavily adapted from Gourmet’s November 2005 issue
For the Crust:
5 Tbs non-hydrogenated margarine, melted (I used Earth Balance vegan buttery sticks)
flour for dusting (if you are going gluten free, you can use any gluten free flour here, or the Bob’s Red Mill GF flour mix, or potato starch)
1 cup (5 oz) finely crushed ginger snaps (I used Simple Bites GF, and crushed them in my food processor)
1/2 cup chopped, toasted pecans
2 lb sweet potatoes (3-4 small-medium)
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
3 large eggs
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 cup soy milk (I use unsweetened)
1 Tbs dark rum (don’t leave this out or use rum flavoring, you will be missing out)
1/2 tsp vanilla
Make the crust:
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease and flour a 10 inch pie plate (original recipe said to use glass or ceramic, but go head and use whatever you’ve got). Knock out the excess flour.
Toss together all crust ingredients in a bowl with a fork until crumbs are evenly moistened, then press evenly over bottom and up the side of pie plate. Bake crust for about 6 minutes, then cool on rack.
Increase oven temp to 400 F. Prick each sweet potato with a fork. Roast in a shallow, foil lined baking sheet for about one our, until tender. Remove from oven and reduce temp to 375 F. (Obviously, you could do this step first, or even a day ahead and refrigerate the sweet potatoes, peeled, until ready to use.)
While potatoes cool, cook sugar in a dry, heavy, 8-inch skillet over moderate heat until sugar begins to melt. Continue to cook swirling, or stirring occasionally with a fork until sugar melts to a deep golden caramel. Remove from heat. Carefully pour water down the side of skillet- mixture will bubble and steam vigorously. Return to heat and simmer until caramel is completely dissolved. Remove from heat. Tips and Tricks: melting sugar is a slow process, it should take a few minutes, be patient, and DO NOT walk away. Once it begins melting it goes very quickly from crystals to hot liquid to a blackened mess. Be vigilant!
When potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel and remove any tough or dark spots. Puree in a food processor until smooth, then add eggs, cinnamon and salt and blend until smooth (careful, if your potatoes are still hot, you will scramble your eggs). Add soy milk, caramel, rum and vanilla and blend everything until well combined.
Pour filling into crust. Bake until filling 2-inches from edge is slightly puffed and center trembles gently when shaken, ~40 minutes. If the crust begins to brown too much before the filling is set, crimp some foil around the edge of pie. Cool pie on rack for 1 hour before serving.