A Gluten-Free Thanksgiving
When I interviewed cookbook author Jules Shepard earlier this year for my Food section story on her gluten-free journey, I gained an appreciation for the constant dietary vigilance of someone living with celiac disease.
Shepard, who refused to give up a life of enjoying baked goods, developed an all-purpose gluten-free flour mixture, a blend of five grains (plus xanthan gum as a binder) that makes carb-heavy faves such as pizza, cookies and scones not only possible but culinarily respectable. (I tested three recipes this summer using her flour mix and was duly impressed by the results.)
I tried to imagine what life would be like without gluten -- as 1 in 100 Americans do -- but sure enough, as soon as the story was published, I moved on to the next topic on my to-do list.
Flash forward three months, with Thanksgiving just around the corner. Suddenly, it occurs to me: What does someone with celiac do on such a carb-heavy holiday? Nearly everything on the typical Thanksgiving menu is loaded with gluten -- the gravy, the stuffing, the pie, the rolls -- even those fried onions-in-a-can for the green bean casserole.
So I give Shepard a call, asking her how she copes with all the dietary adjustments for the holidays. In keeping with her mission to enjoy life at the table, Shepard has developed recipes for gluten-free pie dough and stuffing.
Getting the pie dough to resemble her grandmother's recipe was a high priority, says Shepard. "It was the single most frustrating recipe that I could ever make gluten free," she tells me over the phone this week. "Every time I would make a gluten-free pie crust using a mix on the market, the crust would completely crumble and fall apart, and I couldn't transfer it into the pie plate. I had about given up. I really wanted it to be as close to the flaky, savory pie crust that my grandmother taught me. Nothing, until I created my flour mixture, would come even close."
Shepard has fond memories learning to bake from her grandmother, Joan (pronounced Jo-ann) Dawson, who lived in Vienna, W. Va. until her death in 2004. "I especially think of her at this time of year because that's where we always spent Christmas," she relates.
After the jump, Shepard's recipes for pie dough and stuffing. If you're interested in a hands-on tutorial, Shepard is teaching a "Gluten-Free Thanksgiving" class on Monday, Nov. 12, 7-9 p.m., at Great Sage restaurant in Clarksville, Md. (5809 Clarksville Square Drive; 443-535-9321). You must call to reserve a space. On Dec. 10, she's leading a class on gluten-free holiday goodies.
Nearly Normal Gluten-Free Flour Mix
1 cup white rice flour
1 cup potato starch (not potato flour)
1 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup corn flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour or tapioca starch
4 teaspoons xanthan gum
Mix all ingredients together and store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place.
Grandma's Pie Crust
From "Nearly Normal Cooking for Gluten-Free Eating" by Jules Shepard
(Makes one 8 or 9 -inch pie crust; double amounts for a two-crust pie)
1 cup Nearly Normal Gluten-Free Flour Mix
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup shortening (Shepard uses Earth Balance shortening)
2-3 tablespoons cold water
Cut the mixture together using two knives or a pastry cutter. Add the water to make the consistency you need to form a ball. Wrap in plastic and chill in refrigerator for at least one hour. The dough must be cold in your hand in order to roll out.
Roll the pastry out onto a surface dusted with Nearly Normal Gluten-Free Flour Mix -- Shepard recommends a flexible pastry sheet (i.e. Silpat) for that purpose. Turn the pie plate upside down on top of the rolled out crust and flip the crust and plate over. Pat into shape and fill with desired filling. For a two-crust pie, fold the crust in half and lift gently onto the top of the pie. Put small pats of butter on top of the crust and sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar if you desire.
(Shepard suggests covering crust edges with foil or pie cover while baking to minimize burning.)
Gluten-Free Bread Stuffing
1 loaf gluten-free bread (available in the frozen section of specialty grocers; Shepard recommends avoiding brands that include rice syrup, as it yields an overly sweet result)
1 apple, peeled and chopped
1/3 cup peeled, shredded carrots
1/8 cup celery, chopped
1/8 cup dried or 1/4 cup fresh onion, chopped
1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup flaxseed
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper
1/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups gluten-free vegetable broth
Thaw gluten-free bread and cut slices into small cubes -- enough to make approximately 2 cups of bread cubes. Spread in a single layer onto a cookie sheet and toast in a preheated 300F oven for 8-10 minutes. Set aside.
In a large skillet, melt the butter, then add the carrots, celery and onion. Saute until tender. Add the spices and set aside.
In a large bowl, mix the toasted bread crumbs, chopped apple, nuts, berries and flaxseed. Add the carrot-celery-onion mixture and stir well. Pour the entire mixture into a large baking dish with a lid. Pour the broth over the mixture gradually, stirring until the bread is moist. Do not add the full amount if the bread is moistened with less (each brand of frozen bread will likely vary a bit in how much broth is needed).
Cover and bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees for approximately 30 minutes. Leftovers keep nicely in the refrigerator, allowing many of the flavors to enhance with time.
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