The title may be misleading. I am not giving up gluten for the New Year. I was just invited to a New Year’s Day party that was going to feature many gluten-free people, and I saw a recipe for fruit tarts by Pichet Ong in People magazine that looked wonderful. I decided to attempt to make them gluten-free. Luckily, I had one of my clever nephews handy to help since my mother was acting as the anti-cheerleader, yelling from the other room, “It will never work!” the entire time.
Yes, rolling out dough is difficult enough without removing the element that makes it hold together, but in good news, gluten-free pastry, while delicate to the touch, is awfully tasty. The people at the party loved it — raving that it melted in your mouth. We filled most of the tarts with a jam I made last week with the other nephew, with grapes I had frozen at a mature stage, shall we say. The jam was good — but it tasted like raisins instead of grapes so I didn’t want to give jars away as gifts. How do you explain why your grape jam doesn’t taste like any grape jam anyone has ever had in their life? How do you even label such jam? Raisin jam? Doesn’t that sound vaguely wrong? At any rate, the raisin flavor went over well in with what was essentially a hamantaschen. The non-raisin jam tarts were filled with slightly melted semi-sweet chocolate chips.
I got lots of fantastic technique tips from the GlutenfreeGoddess before we started and the nephew consulted pastry chefs he knows from college who suggested a mix of gluten-free flours. I know it’s bad, but I actually used gluten-free Bisquick, in addition to some almond flour I already had and millet flour for rolling out. This being my first foray into serious gluten-free pastry and the night before the party I had promised gluten-free treats for, I needed the crutch of Better Cooking through Chemistry. Gluten-free and dairy-free I can guarantee. I said nothing about organic or free of the military-food-ustrial complex.
The nephew also knew a super easy recipe for gluten-free nut butter-based cookies which we adapted from this recipe by using almond butter, adding a 1/4 cup of almond flour (all we had left!) and an extra egg. These cookies were pretty good too, but nobody raved the way they did about the tarts. That nephew, by the way, says he d0esn’t believe in New Year’s resolutions — which he says are ridiculous things people aren’t really going to do anyway, like work out every single day.
So, for the record, I am not going to write every day in the New Year, or give up sweets, or stop being snarky about every single thing that bugs me. How’s that?
3 cups gluten-free Bisquick (plus extra flour for rolling out — I used millet flour for this because it’s less sticky)
1 cup almond flour (I used Bob’s)
2 tablespoons sugar
3 sticks of cold Earth Balance (or butter), cut into chunks
1 stick of Crisco
4 egg yokes plus 1 egg for wash
2 teaspoons salt
6 tablespoons milk (I used lactose-free but almond milk would work great here)
Preserves or melted chocolate for filling — about a jar of jam or a bag chocolate chips (we melted in the microwave putting on the tarts)
Powdered sugar to dust the tops
Combine sugar, shortening, salt, and flours in a food processor until the mixture looks like sand. You can also do this with a couple of forks, but I actually used a food processor this time, since I had an assistant.
Mix egg yolks and milk and add this mixture to the flour mixture in three parts, pulsing (or mixing) in between. The whole thing should form a big sticky ball. Once all the ingredients are well incorporated, form the dough into two balls, wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least four hours. (We did it overnight.)
The next day (or later), preheat your oven to 350.
Roll each ball of dough out onto a no-stick surface like a granite counter or marble slab and cut into shapes as desired. We used a biscuit cutter to make circles. We discovered that it was pretty tricky to roll the dough as thinly as you would with regular flour dough — and it matters less because unlike normal flour, gluten-free pastry won’t taste too tough if it’s thicker.
Put a couple of teaspoons of jam onto your shapes. We discovered that we liked lots of jam in the tarts, since the pastry was pretty thick, but if you can roll the dough thinner, you can get away with less. We topped the pastry circles with other pastry circles and scored the edges to seal with a fork.
Make an egg wash by combining an egg and a couple of tablespoons of hot water and brush over each tart with a pastry brush. Then, puncture the tops with a fork to vent before baking unless they are folded over or “open plan” tarts like some of these pictured!
The tarts will take about 10 minutes, depending on your oven. According to the GlutenFree Goddess, gluten-free pastry burns faster. We didn’t really find that, but we did notice that the tarts didn’t get as golden brown as I am used to. Cool your just-baked tarts very carefully (leave them on the parchment on your cooling rack) because they are super crumbly the first day. Sift powered sugar over each tart as soon as they come out of the oven. By the time we took them to the party today, they behaved just like normal pastries (easy to pick up) though they still tasted very tender.
This recipe yielded about 16 – 18 large tarts but you may get more tarts if you are able to make your tarts smaller.