Sunday, November 28, 2010

Breakfast: Can it be done without eggs?

The day after Thanksgiving isn’t complete without a piece of pumpkin pie for breakfast. At least, that’s the way it is in my house. This particular tradition got a bit complicated when I went gluten-free. Then it got more complicated when I started cutting dairy from my diet. This year, with a vegan sister-in-law, I thought it might be insurmountable. But my baking genes kicked in, I bought a can of coconut milk, and this pie is the result. When I served it at Thanksgiving dinner, it took me a half hour to get back to my seat because everyone had to ask what I’d done to make it so delicious. No one believed it was gluten-free and vegan.

You’ll likely encounter the same result when you make it. The texture is slightly more solid than traditional pumpkin custard, but no one ever cares because they love the delicate flavor of coconut milk paired with the pumpkin. This recipe also works with butternut squash, which yields a slightly more savory pie.

And yes; I got my piece of pumpkin pie for breakfast this year!

Pumpkin Pie (vegan & GF)
Makes 1 8”-9” pie

Vegan Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pie
3/4 cup sweet rice flour
1/2 cup white rice flour
1/4 cup tapioca flour
1 tsp cornstarch
pinch salt
2 Tbls white sugar
2 Tbls dry soymilk
1/2 cup vegan butter or shortening
1/4 cup soymilk, more as needed

1 can pumpkin (15oz) or 2 cups fresh
1 cup coconut milk
1 Tbls dark rum
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp salt

If you’re using fresh pumpkin or butternut squash, mash it and hang it to drain in cheesecloth for about 4 hours before you use it. Otherwise, it may hold too much liquid for the pie to set correctly.

For the crust, mix dry ingredients together very well, then cut in butter, adding soymilk in small amounts as you go. You want it to hold together, but avoid adding so much soymilk that it becomes sticky. Usually, 1/4 - 1/3 cup will do it. Roll out on a piece of parchment paper using sweet rice flour. Slide a cookie sheet or flat board underneath the crust, position the pie plate upside-down on top, then hold it all and carefully but quickly flip it right-side up. Repair any breaks in the crust, cut off excess, and flute edges. Refrigerate until ready to fill. Crust can be made 1 to 2 days in advance and kept in fridge, wrapped in plastic so it won’t dry out.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a bowl, mix all dry ingredients together well, mashing cornstarch into brown sugar to be sure there are no lumps. Mix together coconut milk and rum separately. Add pumpkin to dry ingredients, then beat with electric mixer while you gradually add coconut milk. Beat at least 5 minutes, until very well-mixed, no lumps appear, and you see air bubbles incorporated into the filling. The more air you beat into the filling, the lighter your pie filling will be, so make sure to get some air in there.

Immediately pour filling into prepared pie shell and bake 45 minutes – 1 hour. Pie is done when the filling surface appears smooth and mostly set. Center may be slightly soft when you remove it from the oven, but will set up in the fridge in about 1 hour. Serve hot or cold, plain or with vanilla coconut milk ice cream. Pie keeps in fridge 3-4 days.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Butter ‘em up

A few weeks ago, I decided to make gnocchi (an Italian cross between pasta and dumplings). They’re traditionally made with potatoes, but my husband adores potatoes and I have trouble keeping them in plentiful stock. I had a butternut squash and figured, “why not?” The best recipes often emerge from making do with what’s available. Gluten-free Butternut Squash Gnocchi have a smooth texture, bright flavor, and a vibrancy that compliments any well-laid table.
This is the basic pasta recipe. They can be served all sorts of ways, so don’t be afraid to try out interesting combinations. Gorgonzola and sage. Roasted almond pesto. White beans and marinara. But my favorite is the simplest: sautéed in butter with nutmeg, parmesan, and fresh basil or garlic.

Butternut Squash Gnocchi
Butternut Squash Gnocchi
Makes about 4 cups

1 2-lb. butternut squash (about 2 cups mashed)
1 egg, beaten
1 cup potato flour
1 cup potato starch
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp nutmeg
sweet rice flour

Halve butternut squash, scoop out seeds, and place face-down in a baking pan in 1 inch of water. Cook in 375 degrees Fahrenheit oven about 45 minutes or until a fork easily penetrates the thickest part. Remove from oven and allow to cool about 15 minutes. Scoop out steamed squash, being careful not to take any skin with it, and mash or whip until smooth. Measure out 2 cups, draining out excess water.

In a standing mixer or bowl, beat egg into 2 cups mashed squash. Add salt and nutmeg, blending well. Add potato flour and potato starch, mixing and kneading until dough is uniform and smooth. It will be slightly sticky.

Dust a surface with sweet rice flour and flour your hands. Working with small amounts of dough at a time, roll into a snake about ½-inch thick. Cut snake at 1-inch intervals. Roll each gnocchi gently between your index finger and a fork so it marks one side and drops to the surface. Repeat until all dough is formed into gnocchi. At this stage, gnocchi can be frozen on a waxed paper-lined cookie sheet and transferred to bags or containers to keep in the freezer long-term.

To cook fresh, drop gnocchi into boiling water and cook until they float to the surface. Skim the floating gnocchi off the top and sauté briefly in butter with nutmeg, parmesan, and fresh basil or garlic. Frozen gnocchi can be cooked directly from the freezer and will boil longer than fresh gnocchi.

Note: This recipe can be made vegan, substituting Ener-G Egg Replacer for the egg.