Friday, September 23, 2011

Pie Crust Revealed!

Coconut flour has a few qualities to it that make it more difficult to work with and one or two that make it easier. It doesn't bind well to itself like wheat flours do. It's also not starchy. For those reasons, it tends to crack and requires a lot of eggs to hold it together. It's dehydrated. It's also a fat-based material, which means that melted fats moisten it much better than water-based liquids. It tends to have the consistency of a rich pound cake when thick, or when thin, like a crispy, very delicate cracker.  Dryer breads work well as crusts for pizza or pie. Moister versions work well as pancakes or pan breads. 

I've usually found that coconut bread texture actually improves with refrigeration.

Because of many of these factors, it's also a crust that does well with patching, which is good, considering how easy it cracks.

This was actually the bottom crust to our pumpkin pie, which was not deep-dish. On a deep-dish pie pan the crust needs to be a little thinner than in this case. Either way, this is the technique I've found works. 

The top to the apple pie was my first attempt at it. It went surprisingly well, but I still don't have quite enough to document that process yet. 

Apple Pear Raisin Pie (GAPS-friendly with one alteration)

The pie was fantastic. There's only about 1/5th of it left. I love that our daughter goes to a school where a festival spread has a gluten-free table. Then I love it that someone asks me what's in my pie and when she finds out says "That's perfect," takes a big piece, then enjoys it!

One note on the type of apples: They should have a bit of bite to them. Granny Smiths are a classic choice. On the other hand, our pie was made with Macintoshes (Little Moo's choice) and it was delicious.

Here's the recipe.

Deep Dish Apple Pear Raisin Pie

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F

Double Pie Crust
3/4 cup sifted coconut flour
3/4 cup flaked coconut
3 eggs
1/3 cup melted ghee
generous pinch salt

Blend dry ingredients. Beat eggs. Slowly add the ghee to the eggs while enthusiastically beating the mixture so as not to cook the eggs (but not so much that you decorate the walls!). Add the wet to the dry ingredients and blend well.

Divide so that one piece is slightly larger than the other. The larger one will be for the bottom. Roll out the bottom dough between layers of waxed paper on a large cutting board to fit the pan. Carefully peel off the top piece of paper. Lay the pan on top of the dough. Flip the whole cutting board over and with the last piece of paper still on the dough, carefully squash the crust into the pan. Peel the top paper off and form the edges of the dough to the pan. Don't let too much crust stick out or be too thin since coconut flour will dry and burn very easily. (See next post for a detailed description of how to make a coconut crust with pictures.) Roll out the top portion and set aside. Don't do this too far in advance or it may dry out too much.

4-5 large apples, pared, cored, thinly sliced
4-5 large pears, pared, cored, thinly sliced
1/2 cup water
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup raisins
2 teaspoons maple syrup (optional)
1/4 teaspoon liquid stevia
1 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch nutmeg
pinch allspice
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon sugar - palm, date, or other granulated/crystalline form (optional)

In a large saucepan or dutch oven simmer apples and pears in water, covered, stirring occasionally until slightly soft, but still with some body. This could be between 5 and 10 minutes depending on the consistency of the fruit. Add raisins, stevia, (maple syrup,) cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and vanilla. Continue cooking until the fruit becomes tender. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice.

Fill piecrust with the mixture. Cover with the top pie crust and seal the edge. Carefully cut several slits in the top crust to let out steam. If you are using sugar, sprinkle it over the top of the crust.

Bake for 12 minutes or long enough for the edges to start to brown. Open the oven and cover the edges with long folded strips of foil wrapped around the top and bottom of outer edge of the pie. Continue to bake for another 5-6 minutes. If your oven tends to be hot, reduce the heat after 12-14 minutes to 350 degrees F.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Ah...coconut crust tip for a single-crusted pie

When you've got that thing nice and thin, peel off one layer of waxed paper. Flip your cutting board and keep that last sheet of paper on the other side of the pastry. Using the solidity of that last sheet of paper, push it down into the pie pan. Pieces will fall off the sides. It's okay.

Then gently peel that last sheet of waxed paper off and patch with the fallen bits of crust.

And there it is...

More on Apple Pie

After wondering how I should post this recipe, I thought that I should, first, discuss the recipes I used to make this pie...both are questionable, in my opinion, although each has some good points, too. Then after tomorrow's event when the pies are cut and eaten, I'll get responses and will then post the recipe if the responses are good. Otherwise, it's back to the drawing board!

The first apple pie recipe is the one I learned from a friend as a teenager. It's a classic apple pie that's full of sugar, corn starch and spiced well with cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg. We'd spend the first half of a day peeling, coring and slicing apples to make two or three pies. It was a recipe that made the best of the sudden bounty of apples in the fall on the East Coast. It was my friend who taught me that a few pears give the pie a lot of depth, and also that the number of apples used in most recipes is never enough. Unfortunately, if I removed all the sugar and the corn starch, there's not much left to it.

The second recipe is Bruce Fife's from his Cooking With Coconut Flour, which you might have noticed has been my go-to cookbook for a while. I made a double basic crust. I added pears. I used more raisins than he called for and substituted a smaller amount of maple syrup with his called-for 1/4 teaspoon of liquid stevia for sweetness. This is a pie that will be shared, and will be eaten by a group that has some kids and adults with gluten intolerance and Celiac's Disease. There are some who are vegetarians and a few who are dairy-free because of ideology, not medical necessity. A very few of the families also cook with Weston A. Price in mind. For those reasons, I chose to use ghee. I could have tried some gelatin in the apples, but I decided that it was both more work than necessary and also would have meant that an awful lot of the people at this event tomorrow would refuse to eat it.

The crust is very challenging. Coconut flour does not hold together well, so, as you can see from the picture, it's pretty rocky near the edges. It also browns very quickly, so I'm a bit concerned about the state of the crust inside. On the other hand, it bakes up so fast that it's probably fine. I nearly prebaked it, but the recipe called for it to be raw going in. So that's what I did.

Fife only calls for four apples. I'm wondering what size pie shell he has. Twice that barely filled this deep-dish version. Also, I left off all thickeners - I discovered that while stirring the filling that it thickened just fine on it's own. I also added a few teaspoonfuls of ghee which will make it thicken a bit when chilled. Then, as a compromise towards aesthetics (coconut flour crusts are not that pretty) and for a bit more sweet, I did sprinkle a bit of unprocessed sugar on the top - barely 1/4 teaspoon.

So that's the story of this pie. Please send both it and me some good thoughts for tomorrow!

And now...pumpkin pie.

Almost done!

Thursday is Pie Day!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Random Thought

Practicing harmonizing while slicing mushrooms is a bad idea.

A few facts about coconut custards

Thanks to my flirtations with culinary disaster, you get the benefits of hindsight.

One...coconut milk does curdle when overheated with egg yolks.

Two...good eggs don't need to be cooked at all. They just have to be warm enough to harden when cool.

Three...don't try to make a custard with a time limit or when under stress. They're best the next morning anyway.

Four...don't experiment with the last box of coconut milk.

Needless to say, no photos are a available. *deep sigh*

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Elephant In The Kitchen

It's been three years since I started the GAPS Diet and somewhat longer than that since I became acquainted with the work of Weston A. Price. It was soon after that I began to notice something that very rarely gets mentioned and seems to stick out like a two-ton pachyderm hiding behind the refrigerator door.

Food is one of those things in our lives that is way more than the sum of its parts. The relationships that we have with food, the way we get it or raise it, cook and eat it speak loudly to how we live on the earth, relate to each other, and to what are our most deeply held opinions and values. Our eating habits, rules and taboos make us part of a tribe, or not.

People like me who cook and eat along the lines of Weston A. Price/Nourishing Traditions tend to be on the right of the political/cultural spectrum. Those who are more on the left seem to be more likely to be vegetarians and appear to be in a different reality when it comes to food and nutrition. This isn't always the case, I'm sure, but so far I have, as yet, to be proven wrong. 

There. I've said it. Throw your tomatoes now, if you like. It's true. It's weird. It puts me in company that ordinarily would never share any kind of mental space with me and my ilk and visa versa. Or at least, that's what I thought before I started researching how to improve my family's health through diet. 

It's a lonely road being a political and cultural liberal with this kind of nutritional philosophy. Occasionally I hear other progressives speaking out who have discovered that current science points human beings towards pastured animal-based foods rather than a solely plant-based diet, like Lierre Keith and my original mentor, Julie Matthews. It's a relief when I do hear a voice that speaks of eating compassionately for the environment and for our bodies, that the cycle of life includes death, and a world of intensive agriculture without animal husbandry is a scary one to contemplate. It's rare, though, that I meet a liberal in person who is either on GAPS or following WAP's philosophies. Our family fills our plates with rich stews, fermented condiments and vegetables, raw milk yogurt and cheeses while just about everyone we know is avoids too much fat and feels that they should apologize if they choose to eat chicken instead of soy products. It's not fun to eat alone, even when the food is delicious. I keep hoping to find liberals who are on a similar journey, but so far that's not been the case. 

On the other hand, I've recently come into contact with a cousin that I never knew that I had. Like many folks on that side of my family (most of whom I have never met and am only now learning exist) she is a conservative and a Libertarian. She also packs her freezer with local, grass-fed beef. She cooks locally and from scratch, believes in giving her beautiful and healthy children whole fats and good food, at least as our family would know it. When I post a sharp comment on Facebook about genetically modified organisms or the undeclared toxins in commonly available toiletries she often posts supportively with all my liberal friends. We are careful not to talk politics since we're both pretty opinionated. We've made many a connection through how we feed our families and it's a blessing. 

There aren't too many situations these days in which rightwards- and leftwards-leaning people can connect like this. I am thankful for this one. 

Sauerkraut Making Night!

We took advantage of a quiet holiday evening to fill our crock again.
Adding peppercorns.
A little extra height is nice for leverage.

Nearly ready!