The carb train has just pulled into town, making all local stops along the holiday highway until New Year's Day. For many of us, the next six weeks are more like a ride on a runaway train, a fast and furious double-fisted eating frenzy that includes too much booze, fat, sugar and flour.
But if you're the one person in a crowd of 100 with celiac disease, a debilitating inability to digest gluten, all those cakes, cookies, candy, puddings and pies are strictly off-limits. That holiday choo-choo suddenly feels more like a solo ride on a drifting iceberg.
Can you imagine the holidays without pie? Me neither. What's a celiac -- or a vegan, for that matter -- to do in the midst of the holiday treat-a-thon?
In my quest to find out, I caught up with Jules Shepard, author of Nearly Normal Cooking for Gluten-Free Eating, a cookbook trying to give the gluten-intolerant a fighting chance to enjoy a life of baked goods like the rest of us. Shepard, who lives outside of Baltimore, Md., has developed her own line of all-purpose flour that has allowed her to continue eating her beloved carbs, including chocolate-chip cookies, scones -- and yes, dough for those holiday pies.
The results are slightly grittier than a gluten-rich dough, but it rolls out and presses into a pie plate just like you remember.
Nearly Normal Gluten-Free Flour Mix™
1 cup white rice flour
1 cup potato starch (do not confuse with potato flour)
1 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup corn flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour (also sold as tapioca starch)
4 teaspoons xanthan gumMix 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 1 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 or butter (Shepard uses Earth Balance shortening)
2-3 tablespoons cold waterCut the mixture together using 2 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 1 hour. The dough must be cold in your hand to roll out.Roll the pastry out onto a surface dusted with Nearly Normal Gluten-Free Flour Mix -- Shepard recommends a flexible pastry sheet (e.g. 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 to minimize burning.)
Kitchen Witch Apple Filling With a Twist of Rosemary
4-6 medium apples, peeled, cored and sliced, about 1-4 inch in size (about 2 cups' worth)
2 tablespoons gluten-free flour
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup granulated or brown sugar
1/2-1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, minced
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts or walnutsPlace apple slices into a medium bowl; squeeze lemon juice over apples.Add gluten-free flour to apples; this helps to absorb some of the moisture from the apples as they're cooking. Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Taste and adjust sugar, lemon and cinnamon as necessary.Pour filling into pie shell. Can be made as a one--crust open-face pie/tart or a double-crust pie. For double-crust pies, pinch edges together around the perimeter of the entire pie. With a paring knife, score top to work as a vent, and brush top with a beaten egg for shine.Baking temperatures and times vary. Single crust: Preheat oven to 375 degrees and bake for 35-40 minutes. Double crust: Preheat oven to 400 degrees and bake for 45-55 minutes, or until juices are bubbling.Crust will be lighter than gluten-rich dough, more like a beige than golden brown.