Pastry – both eating and making – is one of those things that I have to be in the mood for which is probably why it’s been over a year since the last addition to the ‘Pies & Tarts‘ section of my recipe archive.
When it comes to eating, pastry doesn’t really do that much for me. I appreciate it for what it is – a vehicle for whatever deliciousness you want to put inside it – but I find it hard to get excited about pastry for pastry’s sake.
My ambivalent attitude towards eating pastry has definitely influenced the frequency with which I am seized with a desire to make it myself. And the truth is that until I started baking gluten free, I never really had much luck with it. That might seem counter-intuitive given the bad reputation that gluten free pastry has and the number of recipes that call for weird ingredients which I think always make a recipe seem far more complicated (and expensive) than it needs to be but I’ve found that gluten free pastry has some very real advantages, particularly if you are not blessed with the cold hands/light touch that regular pastry requires (I most certainly am not).
For sweet pastry, the recipe I’ve included here is my usual go-to, last seen in these bakewell tarts. I have in the past considered it slightly inferior to regular pastry but it’s really grown on me. The last time I made pastry with wheat flour, I found it pretty tough and chewy (which does, I admit, say more about my pastry-making skills than anything else) but this gluten free version is definitely more forgiving. You can throw it around a fair bit and it will stay pleasingly light and crisp. There’s also much less need to rest the dough at various points in the process – in fact, I find that speed is generally a huge advantage. Ideally you want to get from food processor to the rolled-out pastry in a few minutes (although I do generally then chill the pastry before baking to ensure that it keeps its shape).
The main disadvantage to gluten free pastry is that it can be a bit tricky to roll out, particularly if you’re trying to make a large pie or tart. I have much more success when it comes to mini tarts like these ones (plus they’re way cuter) or individual tarts (like these ones). Making a smaller tart also means that it’s more likely that the pastry will cook through by the time that the filling is ready. It’s not the end of the world if the pastry cracks or breaks though – given the lack of gluten, it doesn’t make a difference if you end up re-rolling or squidging bits together.
Whether I’m making gluten free pastry, I also don’t generally blind bake it – I find that that the pastry often cracks in the oven so I end up having to try and repair it before pouring the filling in and it all becomes far too much hard work. I’ve never found that skipping this step makes a huge amount of difference to the finished result.
For savoury pastry, I often use this olive oil version from the New York Times. I tend to use a combination rice flour (rather than the millet flour that the recipe calls for) and buckwheat flour and embrace the heartiness. It’s a press-in crust which makes it fairly easy to work with and it can stand up well to robust flavours. I have also used it in an apple tart which I was a little unconvinced about but which others seemed to enjoy.
I made these little treats for my dad for Father’s Day last weekend. He always seems to appreciate my brownies more than anything else that I bake (like father, like daughter) but I wanted to make something a bit fancier than normal. All the elements of these little tarts work together so well – the thin shortbread-like pastry base and the fudgy brownie filling, the dollop of tart creme friache and a raspberry to cut through the richness and, finally, the crunch of the flaked almonds on top. I’ve made various incarnations of this recipe over the last few years, mostly gluten-filled rather than gluten free, but I can honestly say that this version is my favourite by far. Happy baking!
This recipe makes a little more pastry than you need; any extra can be stored in the freezer. I like to make a little more than required because gluten free pastry can be a little fiddly. In general though, I don't find this stuff too hard to deal with and it does have a lovely melt-in-the-mouth quality that I've never been able to achieve with regular pastry. I used a mince pie tin here which is a little shallower than a cupcake tin but either will do the trick.
- 120g (1 cup) rice flour
- 50g (1/2 cup) ground almonds
- 60g (1/2 cup) corn starch (corn flour)
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 115g (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold and cubed
- 1 egg, beaten
- 2 - 3 tablespoons ice cold water
- 1 egg
- 100g (just under 1/2 cup) unrefined sugar
- 55g (1/2 stick) butter, melted
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 20g (1/4 cup) cocoa powder
- 20g (just under 1/4 cup) ground almonds
- 1/2 teaspoon instant coffee
- A generous pinch of salt
- Creme friache, raspberries and some lightly toasted flaked almonds, for the topping
- Lightly grease a 12 hole cupcake or little tart tin. To make the pastry, place the rice flour, ground almonds and corn flour in a food processor with the sugar and salt. Add the butter and pulse a few times until the mixture resembles (large) breadcrumbs. Add the egg and a tablespoon of water and pulse again until the mixture starts to clump together (you may need a touch more water). Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and bring it together with your hands. You can, clearly, make the pastry by hand if you'd rather.
- Roll the pastry out thinly on a well-floured surface and cut out 12 circles approximately 4 inches across. I generally find that the pastry is still cool enough to be able to do this successfully but if the butter starts to melt, you can chill the dough for a while until its firm enough to cut out easily. If it's too cold though, you might struggle to press it into the tin without cracking. It's a fine balance. Place each circle of pastry in a hole of the tin and gently press it down and to the edges. Trim off any excess pastry with a sharp knife. Place the pastry cases in the fridge to chill while you make the filling. You might find that you have a little extra pastry; it can be stored in the freezer and used in another recipe.
- While the pastry is chilling, put the oven on to 180C/350F and make the filling. In a medium bowl, beat the egg until thick and frothy. An electric whisk makes this much easier. Add the sugar and continue to beat until the mixture is mousse-like. Gently pour in the melted butter and vanilla, continuing to beat. Finally, fold in the cocoa powder, ground almonds, coffee and salt with a light hand. Stop once all the streaks of the dry ingredients have disappeared.
- Pour the brownie filling into the pastry cases and bake for 25 - 30 minutes until the pastry is golden and the filling has risen. Allow to cool in the tin for a few minutes before removing. Just before serving, top each tart with a blob of creme fraiche, a raspberry and a scattering of flaked almonds.
I've been making versions of this recipe for years and years. It originally came from a brownie cookbook by Linda Collister called, unsurprisingly, Brownies but I've played with it a lot.