Thursday, May 13, 2010

Pizza, Pie?

First of all, I'd like to start this post by saying WOOHOO!  YOU WANT PIES WITH THAT IS BACK, BABY!  You think I'm excited about that?  That doesn't even compare to the excitement I harbored for this month's challenge:  Pizza Pie.  Now whether you believe a pizza is technically a pie or not is not the point here folks.  The point is that Erin from Milk & Honey finally chose a theme that encourages the savory (though sweet and creative pizzas are also encouraged.)  Some of my favorite pies are savory ones, so I welcomed this theme with open arms (and open mouth.)  And I mean, I have an excuse to make pizza!!

Towards the end of April, I made a vow to start working on bread products with the two allergen free flour mixes I'v been perfecting.  So far I've made rolls, a double-crust pie, and now, a pizza dough!  I used the recipe that the genius Jeanne of Four Chickens adapted and it worked insanely well.  I've been trying to find or make Gluten-Free pizza since 2007 folks, and this is the first time I really felt, damn, that's finally pizza, free of everything I can't eat.

But where would a pizza be without it's toppings?  For this Pizza Pie Challenge, I decided to go all out and make a pizza that would make my toes curl, my eyes roll and my tongue dance with delight, and I have three letters for you all: B.L.T.

This B.L.T. pizza is a mix of the sweet, salty, and savory that I love so much.  It's a twist on a classic, as instead of lettuce I used leeks (yum!)  The fresh bacon, leeks, and tomatoes along with perfect spices on this amazingly stable and allergen free crust totally rocked my world.  I can't wait to see what the other awesome creatives came up with here!

B.L.T. Pizza
(Bacon, Leek, and Tomato)

1 allergen-free crust prepared via Four Chickens blog or your own favorite
2 slices bacon or turkey bacon
1/2 pint of fresh grape tomatoes, rinsed, drained, and cut into small circles
1 stalk of leeks, just the steam cut into slices and quartered
3 cloves of garlic chopped or diced (I like smelly pizza, feel free to reduce)
a few oz shaved fresh parmesan cheese
a few oz Kerrygold vintage cheddar cheese
thyme, basil, black truffle salt, pepper to taste
olive oil

Prepare crust according to recipe.
While par-baking the crust prepare toppings as follows:
Fry bacon in olive oil until desired crispiness, remove and drain on paper towels. Tear bacon into pieces.
Throw leeks and garlic into bacony oil and saute until soft.  Remove leeks/garlic and drain.

(stacking process)

Remove par-baked crust and brush lightly with olive oil.
Arrange grape tomatoes on crust followed by leeks/garlic, bacon, desired amount of parmesan and slices of cheddar.
Sprinkle to taste with fresh thyme, basil, black truffle salt and pepper.
Put in the oven and cook for 6-8 more minutes and remove.
Cry tears of joy in anticipation of eating something so good you may just foodgasm.

Of course, even though the crust is allergen free, the dairy and meat I chose to put on the pizza compromises the allergy status of it, but there's no reason you couldn't tailer it to your own needs.  Now stop looking at my pizza and go be creative!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Food Allergy Awareness Week

Marked by the joyous celebration of Mother's Day, us food allergics rang in Food Allergy Awareness Week.  FAAW which is taking place right now (5/9-5/15), is an opportunity to examine your communities in a different light.  I'm guessing that some of you who already read my blog are allergics yourself.  But what if you're not an allergic?  Maybe an allergic-curious?  There's an angle for you!  The FAI's suggested giving up a food for the week.  This sacrifice is I believe, is the FAI's way of getting you to feel what it might be like to be an allergic for a small portion of time.  Maybe those who don't understand or can't imagine what it would be like without mentioned food will become more sympathetic to others.

I think that having people give up a food for a week in support of the allergic community is a good idea, but I would go one step further and suggest people give up one of the top 8 allergens instead.  The top 8 allergens are: Wheat, Milk, Fish, Shellfish, Eggs, Soy, Tree Nuts, and Peanuts.

As someone who is not able to eat 6 of the top 8 allergens, and is now having to limit my intake of eggs (thanks to the chickens pumped full of soy), I feel I can comprehend a great deal on the topic of sacrificing a common food.  Its not just the sacrifice of not eating a food though.  For me, eating one of my allergens quickly becomes a dangerous situation.  I've had horrifying allergic reactions, including losing consciousness.  Last year, someone accidentally put a pine nut in my salad and I was deathly ill for 3 days straight with my body doing some very unpleasant things which I will spare you from reading the details of.

I love the idea of someone trying to give up one of the 8 allergens for one week's time.  It encourages support and empathy and a special compassion for those suffering from food allergies.  But if one of the participants are accidentally fed the ingredient they are avoiding, what will happen to them?  Nothing.  So on top of asking you readers to give up a top 8 allergens, I ask you to really get to know your allergic family members, friends, teachers, community leaders, and bloggers.  Ask them what its really like to live with food allergies on a daily basis.  Read about food allergies and try eating out once while trying to avoid one of the top 8.  Educate yourselves and others and taper back from judging the mother of a peanut allergic child who is begging you not to pack a peanut butter & jelly sandwich for your child (a small inconvenience to you can save her child's life.)  If you work in the restaurant industry, learn about proper allergy safety, cross contamination, and sanitation.  Remember to be sensitive instead of snippy to those with special food needs.

As a very food allergic person, every day there's a sense of danger where there should be a sense of normalcy.  Please take a moment to think about how a food allergy can affect someone's life this week.  After all, awareness of each others' needs allows for the danger to turn into normalcy one day.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Keep Your Eyes on the Pies

"Anyone can cook!"  Perhaps my favorite line in a Pixar pic, said exuberantly by Chef Gusteau in the brilliant movie, Ratatouille.  Those of you who think "cartoons" are for "children" might want to take a minute and stop strangling your inner child and examine that Ratatouille is a movie that shares the shear joy of cooking with everyone- big, small or rat.  I've cheesily repeated that line to myself while meditating over quite a few experiments in the kitchen.  In fact, I have a stuffed Little Chef in my kitchen to remind me to keep on keeping on, even when allergen free goods seem impossible to compose.

Now I'm no rat, but when I started baking Gluten Free, a lot of weird things started happening.  Huge failings.  Hard as rock rolls.  Cookies and cakes that never cooked all the way through.  I-guess-you-could-call-them-muffins muffins.  I had given up on conventional, traditional baked goods for a time.  I experimented with other baked goods and alternative ways of creating traditional goods.  For example, I abandoned the usual pie crusts, and tried using fudge, cookie dough, GF crumbs, hash browns and mashed cauliflower (for the savory.) 

I secretly missed double crusted pies.  I mean, making pie was one of my favorite things to do pre-GF.  My favorite was fresh apple pie in the fall, and without that regular crust, it just didn't taste the same.  Well one day not too long ago, Shauna of the Gluten Free Girl tweeted about the amazing Jeanne at Four Chickens.  I saw that Jeanne had made a pie crust, and not only did it look beautiful, it looked too easy to make.  It seemed so simple to me that I figured, how can this possibly work?  Well, it worked!  And it worked like a charm.  Jeanne actually has many recipes for all the bready, baked goods I haven't been able to crack yet with no recipe, including choux pastry and pizza crust.  Her blog is amazing and I urge you to go check it out! 

It's time to recognize that many talented bloggers have joined the ranks of Little Chef who inspires me to strive for greatness each time I set foot in my kitchen.  If they can make magic in their GF kitchens, I can certainly make magic in mine.  Remember, anyone can cook.  And anyone means you too.

What's better than making inspiring food?  How about making it for someone who inspires you?  Like on Mother's Day.  This would be the perfect, bright addition to any Mother's Day feast.

Double-Berry, Double-Crust Pie
No nuts, soy, gluten, eggs, or dairy-
can you believe it?

Crust Ingredients:
Pie Crust as prepared using Four Chickens blog (note: I used my own allergen free flour mix instead)

Filling Ingredients:
2 pints of blackberries, washed and drained well
1 pint of strawberries, washed, drained well and quartered
1/2 cup of fair trade sugar
2 tbs tapioca starch

Click on the link above and follow Jeanne's directions. 
When it's time to make the filling, combine all filling ingredients and set aside while making crust.
Complete pie crust according to directions.  *Make sure when rolling it out use lots of tapioca starch so the dough does not stick to the rolling board, rolling pin, or you!
Before pouring the filling in the bottom crust, drain the extra liquid from the filling thats formed so your pie is not soupy.
Bake for about 35 minutes and let cool.
Refridgerate for a 30 minutes to set the fruit juices in the pie.
Remove and set to room temperature to serve.
Cut and serve, maybe even a la mode :)

Some notes about the above recipe:
  • It doesn't contain eggs unless you make an egg wash, and you can use a non-dairy shortening to make it egg and dairy free!
  • The pie crust had to be rolled very thin in order to cover my Emile Henry 9" pie plate.  There was no leftover crust; it had to be used to cover everything.
  • The crust will be very sticky while you're rolling it out.  I put the note above about using tapioca starch in order to reduce this.  I covered my hands with the starch and the ball of crust that I was rolling out.  I also rolled it out in between two pieces of parchment paper; this helped a lot.
  • The flour I used to make the crust was a combination of white rice, tapioca and arrowroot.  This mix held up and I'm guessing any all purpose GF flour would too.
  • I sprinkled some extra sugar on top of the crust before I put the pie in the oven.  The crust isn't really sweet or flavorful by itself, so make sure your filling is robust!
  • If you cut into a berry pie and see a soupy mess, cheat!  Take a ladle and try to dry it up a bit.  But I highly recommend drinking the soupy mess.  It's usually delicious.