Monday, November 28, 2011

Time to Cook the Books a la Grecque

The latest book pick for Cook the Books, the Internet foodie book club that my friends Johanna of Food Junkie, Not Junk Food and Deb of Kahakai Kitchen started three years ago, is Patricia Volonakis Davis'  Harlot's Sauce: A Memoir of Food, Family, Love, Loss, and Greece (NY: Harper Davis Publishers 2008).  With Cook the Books, we have read many kinds of foodie non-fiction, novels, children's literature and biographies, and traveled the world reading about different culinary traditions, but we have never examined the wonderful food culture of Greece, so I was excited when Johanna picked this book for our current CTB selection.

Davis tells the story of her courtship and marriage to a Greek immigrant and the cultural clashes between her first generation Italian-American family and his. Eventually, she and Gregori and their son Nick move to Greece and her descriptions of her new life there were the most interesting part of the book for me. I enjoyed the translations of various Greek words and expressions ("She can make a donkey die!" means someone is stubborn beyond words) and loved her prose about about Greek Orthodox rituals, the complex dance of the biscotti and coffee at Greek funerals, and comparisons of American and Greek attitudes towards children, stray dogs, and education.

Though the word "Food" is given preeminence in the title of this book, there is not so much discussion of Greek cuisine as there are descriptions of how Davis' marriage weakens and ultimately unravels. And this is not what I thought the book would be about, so unfortunately, I would find my thoughts drifting away through yet another recitation of a marital argument or fight with a passive-aggressive in-law. I flipped ahead through many pages seeking out the nuggets about Greek culture seen through an American's eyes or about the love-hate relationship that first generation immigrant families have with US pop culture and societal freedoms.

My favorite character in the book is Patricia's mother, a chain-smoking philosopher, whom she unfortunately becomes estranged from after too many Gregori incidents.  I absolutely loved Mama Nancy's theory of comparative religion. When young Patricia came home from Catholic school one day and asked how one knows that their religion is "the right one", Mom replies:

 "All religions are the "right" religion, if they're right for the person following them. They all teach basically the same things: to love one another, be the best people we can be, to never deliberately harm someone else."

When her daughter asks why there are different religions, Mom's educational metaphor comes back: "The best way I can describe it is that it's like decorating a house. Some have furniture that might seem strange to you, but the people who live there are happy with it." (p. 81)

After my reading, I was inspired to filch a Greek cookbook from our bookstore shelves, Perfect Greek (London: Parragon, 2006) and perused many a delicious recipe for various mezze, sweets and salads, but ultimately I settled on a recipe for a tomatoey Greek Fisherman's Soup which I adapted to be much more stew-like and which made for a wonderfully fragrant meal served over rice. I'm glad I made a big pot of rice, because this concoction had terrific juices and we sopped up every bit at dinner.

Here's a Fish Stew fit for a Harlot or Fisherman or whomever shows up at your table:

Greek Fisherman's Stew (adapted from Perfect Greek)

2 frozen fillets of tilapia, thawed and cut into chunks (they will flake off in the cooking)
1 lb. frozen shrimp, thawed and shelled

1 onion, peeled and thinly sliced
4 stalks celery, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced

3 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 (14 oz.) can diced tomatoes and their juice
Peel of one orange
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
3 Tbsp. chopped Italian parsley
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
Hot cooked rice

Heat olive oil in large soup pot. Add onion, celery and garlic and cook, stirring often, until softened, about five minutes. Add fish and shrimp and cook, stirring often, another 5-7 minutes, until shrimp are pink

Add white wine and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Add orange peel (I used a tangerine and squeezed in the juice too), thyme, parsley and bay leaves. Cook another 15 minutes at a simmer until seafood is thoroughly cooked and the fish has flaked up and into your wonderful stew juices.  Season with salt and pepper and serve over hot cooked rice. The citrus in the sauce really picks up the sweetness of the fish and shrimp.

Makes 4 dinner servings.

Johanna, our resident Athenian Cook the Book hostess, will be posting a roundup of all the blog entries about Harlot's Sauce after tomorrow's deadline, so hop on over to Cook the Books later this week to see all the posts. Our featured author, Patricia Volonakis Davis, will also be serving as our guest judge to select a winner from the blog entries so that should be entertaining reading as well.

**Next up on the Cook the Books reading list is John and Matt Lewis Thorne's collection of food essays "Outlaw Cook".  It's a fantastic book and I invite you all to join us in reading the book and then blogging up your thoughts and any Outlaw-inspired recipes.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Holiday Feasting Experiments and Giveaway Winner

The Thanksgiving feast keeps on giving as our family enjoys lots of savory leftovers. I'm giving thanks that I made all that food because it's a busy time at our bookshop and I need to focus on customer requests and special orders and the ever-ringing phone. Can't be cooking when I have to track down a replacement copy of someone's mom's favorite cookbook for Christmas or roam my shelves for the exact edition of Homer's Iliad for a special holiday gift.

One great success at the Thanksgiving table was a big antipasto platter that I made for us all to graze on while I was cooking up stuff Thursday morning. I usually have to swat away all the nibblers that plague me while I am trying to whisk gravy, orchestrate all the side dishes and come up with a good looking feast for our celebratory table, but with this luscious mound of salad greens, pickled bits, cheeses and meats set out on the table, I was able to keep humming along without being pestered and the turkey remained unmolested and fully skinned.

The other great addition to my holiday table was a batch of soft-on-the-inside, crusty-on-the-outside rolls. I used Carol Fenster's recipe for Dinner Yeast Rolls from her 1000 Gluten Free Recipes (NY: John Wiley and Sons, 2008).  Though yeast rolls are a time-consuming and ingredient-rich baking project, it was well worth the effort. They filled up the house with a wonderful scent during their baking and were winners at the dinner table too. I  will definitely be making them again, perhaps with some kosher salt or sesame. And definitely a double batch next time too!

And now to announce the winner of The Crispy Cook giveaway of a copy of Laura B. Russell's fantastic new  book, The Gluten-Free Asian Kitchen. The winner is commenter number 8, Moonsword. Congratulations Moonsword!  This truly is a great book that we have dipped into quite a bit recently. Dan used it to cook up some radish cake recently from some grated daikon, which tasted great but smelled horrendous, so he will have to wait until warmer weather to make this again so that we can open the windows during cooking.

I'll have another giveaway from Red Pack Tomatoes to announce later this week, so stick around for that!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Vegetable Sputnik Sends us into Orbit: Cooking with Kohlrabi

Chipmunk-ravaged kohlrabi plants from our garden

A wonderful little vegetable sputnik is the kohlrabi, a newcomer in the Crispy home garden, which I grew from a packet of seeds. Gardening with kohlrabi so easy. They grow rapidly, like radishes, and should be picked before they get too large and woody, or a swell up too quickly after a bout of rainy days.

They have the most interesting, sculptural form, looking all the world like a small, pale green satellite with stemlets jutting out from all points on its circumference.One can eat leaves too if a chipmunk is not present in one's garden shed and keeps nipping out to mine them.

I would describe the taste of this brassica as having a mild turnip or cabbage flavor. When chopped, the pale green flesh is more reminiscent of celeriac or a fat broccoli stem in texture, though it is somewhat more juicy.

You can eat kohlrabi raw, sliced into sticks or rounds to dip into your favorite spread or eat sprinkled with salt. We also tried grating the kohlrabis on my box grater and dressing them with mayonnaise, celery seed and salt and that was an okay sort of salad.

Kohlrabi in a Remoulade Dressing
On the advice of my friend Erika of Hungarian descent, the best way to cook kohlrabi is to hollow out and then parboil smallish specimens and then stuff them with a rice and meat mixture, as one would stuff a green bell pepper. We haven't yet tried that method, but I tried Erika's other suggestion, which was to slice some kohlrabis, fry them in butter and then add vegetable stock and herb. A little simmering time later and they were a nice side dish on a brisk autumn night.

You can also find a lot of information about kohlrabi and how to cook it from one of my favorite vegetable cookbooks, Bert Greene's Greene on Greens (NY: Workman Publishers, 1984). He shows his particular fondness for this brassica with no less than eleven recipes, some of them quite elaborate.

However, the best dish hands down that we have tried with our kohlrabi bounty has been Kohlrabi Cakes. They are similar to potato or zucchini pancakes and we found that we can use up the bags of grated kohlrabi in our freezer. Dan the Breakfast King came up with this recipe during one creative morning and we've been really enjoying them.

Getting the specifics of the recipe from my brilliant, breakfast-making husband is a little difficult since it's kind of an improvisational recipe. He makes it a little bit differently each time, but he also notes that it is a very flexible and forgiving recipe. If you have a  carrot or onion scrap in your fridge, you can add it or not. You can season it differently each time. The amount of flour depends upon how moist your kohlrabi mixture is. So, with some less-than-wide-awake-note-taking on my part (I need my second mug of coffee in the a.m. before I am fully cognizant), I offer the following tasty recipe for:

Kohlrabi Cakes

2-3 apple-sized kohlrabis
1/2 green pepper, coarsely chopped
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and coarsely grated
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

1 egg, beaten
2-3 Tbsp. white rice flour
Your choice of herbs and seasonings (we like to use coarsely ground black pepper, smoked paprika and salt)
Butter and olive oil for frying

Whack off the ends of the kohlrabi and peel them. Grate them on the big hole side of your box grater. You will end up with about 2 to 2-1/2 cups of grated kohlrabi. Squeeze to remove excess moisture. You can also use frozen grated kohlrabi, thawed and drained.

Mix in pepper, onion, carrot and garlic. Beat in egg, seasonins and add enough flour to bind it all together. If your batter is too moist, add another Tbsp. of flour. It should just hold together when you shape it into patties.

Heat a Tbsp. each of butter and olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add two or three patties to your pan and fry slowly, flipping two or three times, for about 10 minutes, or until kohlrabi cakes are brown and CRISPY on the outside.

Makes 4 kohlrabi cakes.

I am sending this kohlrabi post and recipe to that most venerable food blog event (it's reached venerability as it's in its sixth year!), Weekend Herb Blogging was started by Kalyn's Kitchen and is now headquartered by Haalo at Cook Almost Anything and guest hosted this week in Italian and English by Brii at BriggisHome.

Brii will have a roundup of all the Weekend Herb Blogging #311 posts after this Sunday's deadline, so stay tuned for that.

**And if you would like to enter in my giveaway to receive a copy of Laura Russell's new "Gluten Free Asian Kitchen" cookbook, be sure to leave a comment at the previous post here at The Crispy Cook. I'll have another giveaway this week after I announce the winner of this great new cookbook.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Cookbook Review and Giveaway: Laura B. Russell's The Gluten-Free Asian Kitchen

If you are looking for ways to expand the culinary possibilities in your own Brave New Gluten Free World, then Laura B. Russell's cookbook, The Gluten Free Asian Kitchen (Berkeley, CA: Celestial Arts, 2011) is tailor made for you. Though many Asian food traditions are gluten-free, try going out to your favorite noodle or dim sum place or try navigating a typical Chinese (well, Chinese-American, really) restaurant and figuring out whether there's wheat in the soy sauce that's in nearly every dish or whether the noodles are wheat-based or rice-based, or a combination. It's enough to give you a gluten headache without even eating anything.

That's where Russell's new cookbook is so useful. Our family loves all kinds of Asian foods and we've really loved trying out new ingredients and cooking techniques since La Vida Gluten Free rained down on us five or so years ago. The Gluten-Free Asian Kitchen has helpful descriptions of all kinds of Asian ingredients, including shopping tips to help you avoid varieties of noodles, sauces, marinades and spices that may contain gluten. A special chapter at the end of the book by Marcus Pakiser is devoted to the delights of drinking sake, fermented rice wine that comes in many varieties and pairs well with many of the dishes outlined in this book. Dan and I bought our first bottle of sake and have enjoyed sipping and cooking with this delicate tasting beverage.

The recipe section is very well-written and the author patiently and thoroughly explains various techniques for which novice Asian cooks may need extra hand holding. (that would be me!). So far I've made four wonderful recipes from this inspirational cookbook and I can tell that it will be a real workhorse in our cookbook library. There are many popular Asian foods that one can cook (Pot Stickers, Mu Shu Pork, Bibimbap) but also many unusual and innovative recipes (Stir-Fried Rice Cakes with Shrimp and Vegetables, Crabby Noodles with Snow Peas, Thai Coffee Macarons).

I have happily bespattered this great cookbook already, and the first dish I tackled was a simple and homey one, Braised Tofu in Mushroom Sauce (p. 126). The cookbook photo by Leo Gong is so much more delicious-looking than mine, but I can tell you that this was a fantastic recipe that I know I'll be making often, especially since I have lots of bags of garden green beans in the freezer.  I used dried shiitake mushrooms (bought cheap at the Asian market) instead of the fresh ones called for in the recipe. That gave me the bonus of free mushroom broth from my soaking liquid for the luscious sauce, so that earned extra Crispy (and Frugal) Cook points.

By using the nonstick pan called for in Russell's recipe, I was finally able to keep my tofu cubes intact after cooking, and for that tip alone, I think this cookbook is a great investment. Russell calls for seasoning the tofu cubes with salt and pepper first and then dipping in potato starch, and this was some of the tastiest tofu I've had outside of a restaurant. You can check out this great recipe yourself at this link. (You can also find many more of Laura B. Russell's recipes on her website.)

I next whipped up a batch of Lemongrass Shrimp Skewers (p. 44) using lemongrass from my own garden patch (it lasted until October out there!). That was a heavenly and elegant dish. It's a little tricky working with the pulverized raw shrimp and shaping them around your skewer, but the aroma of these patties wafting off the barbeque grill was intoxicating. We served them over wonderfully-scented basmati rice and that was a killer meal.

After perusing all the tempting recipes made from many species of gluten-free noodles, I cooked up a batch of slightly lavender-colored Sweet Potato Noodles with(out Beef and) Vegetables (p. 91). They are pretty slippery characters, those Sweet Potato Noodles, so I appreciated Russell's tip about snipping them up with kitchen shears into manageable lengths to avoid wearing one's dinner.

Finally, I made a pile of Eggplant with Sweet Miso Glaze (p. 123), another dish with layers of flavor. I really loved this one, with its blend of smokiness, sweetness and creaminess. If  I had fresh-picked eggplants, I would dispense with the step of soaking the eggplant slices in salted water, but mine were a week old at least and starting to get soft, so I'm sure this short brining removed a bit of bitterness.

I am really going to have fun trying all of Russell's pickled vegetable recipes next garden season and look forward to creating my own batches of pickled ginger and green curry paste. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning about Asian food traditions and cooking techniques. Using this cookbook as a guide to exploring various Asian foods, you can create restaurant-quality meals for your family and friends and noone will ask "is this gluten-free?", because they'll be too busy noshing away.

Celestial Arts has graciously offered to send a free copy of The Gluten-Free Asian Cookbook to one of you. All you need to do is leave a comment below telling me what Asian recipe you'd love to learn how to make yourself by Wednesday, November 23, 2011 (midnight Eastern Standard Time), and I'll randomly pick a winner. This giveaway offer is limited to readers living in the United States.

Note: I received a free copy of this cookbook from the publisher, but as always, I was not obligated to review it on the Crispy Cook.  I was also given the opportunity to offer a copy as a giveaway to one of my readers.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Gluten Free Accomodations at the Porches in North Adams, Mass.

While it was only me (a non-Gluten Free member of the household)  and only one night's lodging, I was impressed by my stay at the historic Porches hotel in North Adams, Mass. I am let out of the bookstore for an annual "Ladies Weekend" with friends and though I had to abbreviate my annual getaway to just one night because of other commitments, it was a heavenly time.
Luxurious and Funky Accomodations

We chose North Adams, Massachusetts for our getaway this year because of its proximity to our Albany, NY hub and because most of us had not yet been to MassMoca, a great contemporary art museum that has exhibitions of incredible, huge sculptures and installations.
A very cozy reading room

The Porches is a historic hotel consisting of several adjacent rooming houses that were home to textile mill workers in the 19th century. The hotel is funky and decorated with interesting artwork and is walking distance to downtown North Adams and its many shops and restaurants. It is right next to MassMoca, which consists of many of these cavernous old factory spaces.

A palatial and stylish bathroom
The Porches was just great for us. We love to get together and catch up on what's been going on in our lives, drink wine, swap books and just generally chill out. The Porches had big rooms for the ten of us to gather in for our nightly pajama parties and there was also a heated outdoor swimming pool and hot tub which we used for our post-prandial gab sessions. Other perks included a cozy reading room, with fireplace, cuddly in-house cat, a sauna and bookshelves full of interesting books. The hotel staff was attentive and friendly and everything was perfectly relaxing.

Ladies Weekend Essentials

It was a wonderful overnight stay, but to top things off, I was pleasantly surprised the next morning when I stumbled into the breakfast room for a (series of great cups of) coffee and saw that there were many gluten-free things to eat, including granola, breakfast cereals, hardboiled eggs and bread. While none of the "Ladies" were gluten-free, I was pleased to see that if I want to spend a romantic getaway weekend with the celiac husband, we will both be wonderfully housed and fed. 

In a hotel cat's world it's always nap time
A big thank you to The Porches staff for making this a wonderfully restful stay with my favorite friends and thumbs up for being so accommodating for the gluten-free community.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Cinnamon Basil Cupcakes with Fresh Tomato Soup for Novel Food

If you are a gardener, cook or voracious reader of mystery novels, (or all three like me) you will love diving into Susan Wittig Albert's China Bayles series. Set in the Texas hill country, China is a former high-powered defense attorney who shifts gears mid-career to open up an herb shop surrounded by gardens in a small town. Her main side kick is a red-haired Amazon, Ruby, who wears flamboyant clothes and shares commercial space with our heroine to run her New Age shop full of crystals, tarot cards and incense.

I had a thoroughly enjoyable time this summer reading through the cozy series, which now numbers 19 books in all.  Albert has a different herbal theme for each book and its title and one can learn a lot about gardening, folklore, the medicinal use of herbs and even try out some delicious recipes from the back of many of the books. I was particularly taken by a scene in Book 2, Witches' Bane, in which China and her mom dine at former nun Maggie's Restaurant and have a lunch of Cinnamon Basil Cupcakes, thick Tomato Soup and Greek Style Broccoli Salad. That sounded like a fantastic combination, so much so, that I ordered cinnamon basil seeds from a catalogue just to try out those cupcakes (which are more like savory muffins).

That's where I was stymied. I had a nice little bunch of Cinnamon Basil plants sprouting up in a clump in the garden when the overzealous weeder, husband Dan, yanked them out by mistake. It was a long interval between reading about this mouthwatering literary feast and actually seeing this project to completion, but it was a worthwhile wait.

A bunch of Cinnamon Basil with gorgeous purple stems

Back to the garden patch I went to plant some more, this time carefully marked with a special stake, and they duly grew into the handsome plants you see above. This basil variety really does have a spicy cinnamon fragrance and taste and are a striking plant with dark purple stems and light purple blossoms. In addition to using them in the following Cinnamon Basil Cupcake recipe, I used the chiffonaded leaves liberally in my tomato and noodle salads all through August.

The Cinnamon Basil Cupcakes come out a pale shade of green, which is not the usual color for a muffin or cupcake, but they are so delectable and they certainly make for a colorful meal paired alongside deep red tomato soup. I will reduce the amount of sugar in this recipe when I make them again, as I felt they were a little too sweet, but they really were a wonderful accompaniment when served warm from the oven and dunked into my soup.

Gluten Free Cinnamon Basil Muffins (or you can call them Cupcakes like China)

1/4 cup cinnamon basil leaves, stripped from stems
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten

1/2 cup white rice flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp. xanthan gum
1 tsp baking powder

1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup walnuts, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Puree cinnamon basil leaves in a blender with the oil until it is a fine puree. Add sugar and egg and mix well.

Sift together dry ingredients. Add to basil-oil mixture and combine. Add in sour cream, milk and walnuts and mix well.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 15-20 minutes, or until muffins feel springy.

While muffins are baking, you can whip up a quick tomato soup by sauteeing some onions and garlic in olive oil until golden, adding in a bunch of fresh or canned peeled, pureed tomatoes and then cooking over low heat, stirring often, until desired thickness. Season with a little more fresh cinnamon basil and salt and pepper and you have an awesome, literary-inspired light meal.

I hope this whets your appetite for this excellent herbal mystery series and to plant a patch of cinnamon basil yourself. You'll want to read the China Bayles series in order, as China, Ruby and various family members go through a lot of changes in life. I saved up this tasty post just for the 14th edition of Novel Food, which is hosted quarterly by Briciole. Novel Food invites participants to cook up recipes inspired by a literary work which has been particularly captivating.

If you haven't already discovered this fun blog event, you can check back through the archives to discover novels, plays, short stories and poems which have inspired bloggers to whip up wonderful creations in their kitchens. This round of Novel Food ends this Sunday, so you still have time to join in the fun or wait until after the deadline to see what others have been reading and then eating.

**And now for a bit of Crispy Cook housekeeping. I am pleased to announce the winners of my Lundberg Family Farms and Stonehouse 27 giveaways. The five winners are: Lindsey, John, the Swedenese Family, Simona and Kathleen. Congratulations to all and I will be contacting you to get your mailing address so that you can receive your Lundberg Brown Rice Bowl and Stonehouse 27 Cooking Sauce sent to you.

Stay tuned for another Giveaway post this week to learn how to get a copy of a great new GF cookbook: Laura B. Russell's "The Gluten-Free Asian Kitchen". I've made several recipes from this cookbook and all have been terrific.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Maple Walnut Pie

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe" said the late Carl Sagan

Well, inventing the universe seems a bit much for the Crispy Cook to tackle, so I took a different approach and decided to try my hand at making a custardy type pie in a pre-baked shell. Gluten-free of course, and so that required inventing or at least improving on the universe of my baking skills. These skills being perhaps more like a small galaxy, or an orbiting moon. Or realistically, an asteroid, but I digress.

I've made a few fruit pies in my time, but I wanted to tackle a different species of pie, so I reached for my shoebox full of index cards and picked out a recipe for Maple Walnut Pie of uncertain provenance (it has my teenaged handwriting, so it is probably from a cookbook borrowed from the library). If you are like me, you are one of those folks who likes to eat trees. I mean that toothsome combination of maple and walnut flavors that just tastes so perfect together, especially during the cooler days of autumn.

The Gluten Free Ratio Rally bunch picked pie making for our October project and this month we are led by  Lisa of Gluten Free Canteen in tackling gluten-free pie pastry and fashioning it into various pie permutations.

The Gluten Free Ratio Rally is a group of bloggers who believe in tackling baking projects by using basic ratios of flour, fat, liquids and eggs as a starting point and by measuring ingredients by weight rather than volume, to ensure more scientific results. I joined this amazing group of bakers several months ago, when we all shared our results using Pate a Choux (I made Cream Puffs with Coffee Cream), then Pasta (I made Smoked Paprika Noodles), then Cake (I made a Czech Cherry Bublanina), and then Doughnuts (mine were pretty darn fancy Chocolate Donuts with Chocolate Glaze). I had to skip the last round, when this group made pizza (I made one but it was soggy and sorry), but I was determined not to miss a chance to hone my pie making skills, in readiness for the upcoming holiday season.

Gluten Free Ratio Rally Pie Bakers at Work
Pie crust is a tricky sort of baker's art. It requires ingredients to be at the correct temperature and a pair of deft hands for rolling out and shaping the pie crust. The good news for Gluten Free bakers is that you don't have to worry about overworking the dough and having it become tough, because guess what? That's what happens to gluten-RICH dough. With gluten-FREE dough there are no evil glutenous fibers to overstretch, so you can patch your broken crusts time after time and your crust will not get tough. It may not stick together perfectly (VOICE of EXPERIENCE), but it will not get tough as leather.

I've made a couple of gluten-free pie crusts in the past with some success, like Baked Brie wrapped in a bean pastry crust (not bad) and Apple Sour Cream Pie with flaky pastry crust (maybe a bit too flaky), and was determined to use the Ratio Rally methods to strengthen my pie baking skills. So back to eating trees.

The unbaked pie crust ready for the oven

I decided to make two crusts instead of one since it is so much work and so floury to put together one crust anyway. The starting ratio for the Gluten Free Pie crust is 3:2:1, 3 parts flour, 2 parts fat and 1 part liquid. For two crusts then, I would need 12 oz. flour, 8 oz. shortening (my pie-master is my late maternal grandmother, who always used shortening), and 4 oz. (or less, depending on how things stuck together with my dough) of ice water.

I used equal parts of cornstarch (for lightness), tapioca starch (for flexibility in the pastry) and sorghum flour (for a nutty, hearty taste) for my flour blend.  I buy these items in bulk at any one of Albany's Asian markets to keep my gluten-free flour costs down.

My Gluten Free Pie Crust Recipe (adapted from Michael Ruhlman's 3-2-1 Pie Dough recipe)

4 oz. cornstarch
4 oz. tapioca starch
4 oz. sorghum flour (sometimes labeled as jowar flour)
1/2 tsp. xanthan gum (keeps gf baked goods from crumbling)
1/2 tsp. salt
8 oz. vegetable shortening
4 oz. ice water
Rice flour for dusting

Mix together dry ingredients. Cut in shortening until texture resembles coarse sand and shortening lumps are gone. Add half of the ice water and stir together until dough clumps together into a ball. You may need to add bits more of ice water until it all holds together. 
Divide dough into two balls, wrap in plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator at least 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Unwrap one ball of dough and set on floured surface. Roll out to a large circle and then gently fold in half to transfer to nine inch glass pie plate. My dough cracked and tore in several places, but this GF pie pastry is forgiving, so I just kept patching and filling in and the warmth of my hands secured the dough. (It wasn't a flawless pie crust, rather more like a Frankencrust, but it held together for my filling.)
Prick dough several times with a fork.  Line crust with a piece of aluminum foil and then weight down with some dried beans or pie weights to keep the crust from buckling during baking. Repeat with second ball of dough. 

Place pie crusts in preheated oven and bake 20 minutes. Remove foil and beans/pie weights. Bake another
15-20 minutes until pie crust is golden brown and baked through. Let cool.
Makes 2 pie crusts

The baked gluten free pie crust (a few cracks, but really flaky and tender)

Maple Walnut Pie Filling

3 Tbsp. softened butter
4 Tbsp. white rice flour
4 egg yolks
1 cup PURE maple syrup
1 cup white corn syrup
1 cup water
2 cups walnuts, coarsely chopped

Cream butter and rice flour together. Add egg yolks, maple syrup, corn syrup and water and mix until completely blended. Cook in saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently, until thickened, about 25-30 minutes. You don't want this to overboil or scorch, so you need to be doing something right next to the stove, like washing the mound of pie crust-making dishes, to keep a close eye on things.

Add in chopped nuts and continue to stir and cook until a little bit thicker, about another 5 minutes. This will also soften up the walnuts.

Pour into cooled baked pie crusts and refrigerate at least 1 hour to firm up. Serve topped with slightly sweetened whipped cream. Makes 2 pies.

This pie was really terrific. As an ardent arbophage (tree eater), I do love Maple Walnut flavor anything, but this was a nice dessert that is similar to a pecan pie, but not nearly as cloying sweet. I may try a little more xanthan gum in my next pie crust or perhaps switch in more sorghum flour and less cornstarch to get the crust to be less crumbly and more easy to roll out and bake without cracking, but I was really happy with the whole pie project. One pie is wrapped and nestled in the freezer for our Thanksgiving meal, and the other pie is nearly gone after two rounds of partaking.

Lisa of Gluten Free Canteen has all the links to the other gluten free pie experiments that my fellow GF Ratio Rally Bakers will have for you to see, including hand pies, galettes, savory pies, pot pies, quiches and other pie pastry goodness, so be sure to hop over there.