Monday, February 22, 2010

Ideas for Adapting Pastry Recipes

* The reason most pastry made with wheat flour is tricky is that the wheat contains gluten, which makes it stretchy. This is good for bread - it stretches into pockets to hold expanding gases from the leaveners and makes a light, moist loaf. This is not good for pastry, which gets tough when the gluten gets stretched. In fact, special “cake and pastry flour” is made with low-gluten wheat flour. Pastry made with gluten-free flour doesn’t get tough as easily as wheat pastry. It is harder to overwork the dough with mixing or kneading.

* Still, it is possible to make tough pastry with gluten-free flours. I’ve noticed the following errors can toughen the dough:
  • Working with dough that is too warm. Use chilled ingredients to mix the dough, then refrigerate it for at least an hour before rolling.
  • Using recipes that skimp on the fat. Why bother skimping on the fat in pastry? If you’re worried about fat, make fruit sherbet, not fruit pie.
  • Adding too much water to the dough. Start with the minimum amount of water that will hold the dough together and leave it workable.
* Most pie and tart crust recipes adapt fairly well to gluten-free treatments. For the best chance of success:
  • Choose a pastry with some fat and protein from chocolate, sour cream, cream cheese, or plain cheese.
  • Or choose a pastry that already has some gluten-free ingredients, such as cornmeal. - Choose a “pat-in” (rather than “roll-out”) pastry crust. It’s likely to work very well.
  • Replace the flour with a combination of light starches. For instance, 2 cups wheat flour can be replaced with a mixture of 1 cup sweet rice flour, 1/4 cup potato starch, 1/4 cup corn starch, and 1/4 cup tapioca starch, with 1 tsp xanthan gum.
  • If a recipe calls for no egg, add some egg, even if you have to use half a beaten egg and figure out what to do with the other half. Replace 1 tbsp water with 1 tbsp egg. Whisk the egg with 1 tsp vinegar, too. If the recipe calls for an egg already, use a really big egg, reduce the water by 1 tbsp, and add the vinegar, too.
* Other options can always include using crushed gluten-free cookies (or a mix of cookies and gluten-free bread crumbs) in place of graham wafers. Add some chopped or ground nuts for more flavour and texture.