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Gluten free and the holidays

This is my first holiday season being gluten free.  Most of the time I have no problem eating gluten free, I love so many foods that are naturally GF that I don’t really have to think about it most of the time. And I’ve adjusted my shopping habits where necessary – GF pasta for the occasional bowl of mac and cheese, and GF oatmeal for breakfast. Easy peasy for the most part.

But now it’s holiday time, and as we all know, with the holidays come ample sweets. And there are only so many pies and cookies a girl can look at and resist (especially when she’s 28 weeks pregnant and her fetus seems to have a strong sweet tooth). So I’ve been starting to experiment more with gluten free baking.  Especially adapting holiday favorites to deliciousness that’s not going to make my stomache and intestines hate me for the next 3 days.

I certainly am no expert yet, but I’m starting to find some recipes that are just as good, capture the flavors of the season, and are GF friendly.

For Thanksgiving I tackled adapting the Pioneer Woman’s cranberry Nantucket pie, Smitten Kitchen’s apple tart with salted caramel glaze, and a pumpkin pie, again using Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for pumpkin pie filling.

I had read good review’s of Pamela’s gluten free flour blends, and picked up a bag of the pancake and baking blend to experiment with, trying out my adapted desserts a couple weeks before Thanksgiving to make sure things were going to work out.

Gluten Free Nantucket Pie:

I used Pamela’s baking blend in place of flour for the topping of the Nantucket pie, and followed the rest of the recipe as written. After baking for about 20-25 minutes I noticed that the topping was browning quite a bit, and didn’t think it was going to make it the total 45 minutes without burning.  I’m guessing, since the flour mix has powdered milk in it, that this may have caused the premature browning?  Also, the batter topping looked much softer and less cake like than with regular flour, it was bubbling pretty well too.  I pulled the pie out of the oven and let it set, and the batter topping did become a beautiful caramel-ly colored topping for the pie. However, with only using half the baking time, the cranberries hadn’t fully burst and the sugar in the filling was still grainy instead of making a jelly with the cranberries.

When it came time to make the pie for Thanksgiving I mixed together the cranberries, sugar and pecans and baked them for 25 minutes. Then I added the batter topping and finished the pie off with another 25 minutes of baking.  It worked great! The batter topping with Pamela’s baking blend is definitely less cake like and makes more of a chewy caramel-ly cookie top crust.  A little different than the traditional Nantucket Pie I’ve been making for the past few years, but a delicious dish none the less.

Gluten Free Apple Tart:

I might be crazy, but I attempted (and was reasonably successful!) making a gluten free puff pastry from scratch.  I used Pamela’s baking blend in place of the flour mixture called for in this recipe from Tartlette. And things worked out generally good.  Not quite as “puff” of a pastry as I would like, but not bad by any means. I think next time I attempt a puff pastry I will either follow Tartlette’s flour blend, or try with an all purpose blend rather than a pancake and baking blend though.  I think puff pastry could benefit from a bit more protein for elasticity in the flour blend.

Otherwise, I followed the Smitten Kitchen recipe as written, and everyone enjoyed the apple tart.

Gluten Free Pumpkin Pie:

For the pumpkin pie I made a this pecan crust from Elana’s Paleo Pantry.  I pre-baked the crust for about 15-20 minutes at 350 before putting the filling in and baking per the Smitten Kitchen instructions.

The crust isn’t bad, I’ve used it before for a tart and liked it, but in the future for pumpkin pie I think I’d prefer a more traditional pie crust.  I did notice that this pie and crust got better with age – I baked two pies the night before Thanksgiving.  Husby and I taste tested the first one on Wednesday night and thought the crust and pie combo was meh, but the next day, as we ate the pie for dessert, I thought the flavors had definitely improved.  I’ve heard that this is common in general with gluten free or “paleo” baking – that it tends to be better the next day than fresh out of the oven.

Just one more note on gluten free baking.  The best gf chocolate chip cookies I’ve had yet I made following the recipe on the Pamela’s pancake and baking blend flour bag.  I’m ready to try other gf flour blends, but I will definitely be using this as my go to chocolate chip cookie recipe.  And yes, I have tried the Alton Brown cookie recipe.  Both husby and I thought these cookies were loads better.

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