Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Ratio Rally! Gluten-Free, Vegan, Grain-Free Tartlettes with Cashew Cream & Fig Puree

Talk about "seat of your pants." Or "skin of your teeth." We might as well say, "The skin of your pants," because they both applied here. For all intents and purposes, you shouldn't be reading this post because it shouldn't exist. In preparation for my trip to the Philippines, baking experiments and writing this post were pretty far down on a lengthy, lengthy to-do list. But whether you attribute it to the experience and know-how I've gained through previous Ratio Rally challenges or just plain stubbornness and an unwillingness to give up without a fight, here we are.

If you're unfamiliar with the Gluten Free Ratio Rally, it's a wonderful monthly blogging event where chefs, culinary creatives, and writers from all over converge to explore and perhaps demystify gluten-free baking through the use of ratios and measuring ingredients by weight as opposed to volume. The ratio part can be attributed to Michael Ruhlman and his work in the book, Ratio, and the rally part can be attributed to Shauna James Ahern, aka gluten-free girl, who wanted to see how/if those ratio change given gluten-free ingredients. And the reading of this post can be attributed to you and your assumed desire to learn more about what it takes to bake gluten-free desserts and pastries without them necessarily tasting gluten-free. Like, I don't know, a gluten-free tart, for example? Don't you wish someone would make that one of our monthly challenges?

Huzzah! Behold, your wish has been granted!

[please excuse me - this is only my 2nd day in the Philippines and the combination of heat, jetlag, and the horrendous traffic have me a bit delirious]

So, a good amount of silliness aside, this month, hosted by the wonderful Charissa from Zest Bakery, the Gluten Free Ratio Rally focuses on tarts. There were basically two routes we could have taken: either a shortbread crust or a pie crust. The ratios for those are:

Shortbread - 1 part sugar : 2 parts fat : 3 parts flour
Pie - 1 part liquid : 2 parts fat : 3 parts flour

I was game for both. But what really tipped my decision was the fact that I have made shortbread many times in many variations with great success. Pie crust? Not so much. So the challenge, to push myself and create learning opportunities, in spite of my lack of time, was what sold me. And hopefully through my learning, you might be able to learn as well.

I was only able to do two trials this time. Shocking, I know. Most times, I do at least three trials, and I've done as many as nine in the past. Not because I necessarily have to, but because curiosity gets the best of me, and there's that needling compulsion to answer the question,"What if?"

That was definitely the case with the second batch. The first, following Ruhlman's method, turned out wonderfully, particularly in terms of aesthetics. Wonderful appearance, durability, and function. The only box it didn't fully tick was the texture and taste - it was a bit sandy and the flavor was a bit too ordinary for my liking.

The browner ones in the back? Trial #2.

So the second was just to play and see, "What if?" I added some sugar to make it a pate sucree, changed around the flours/starches a bit, added spices to give it character, and subbed in chilled curdled coconut milk for the ice water. While it smelled and tasted wonderful, it didn't necessarily hold up when it came to the durability test, and the aesthetics of it weren't so pleasing: toeing the line of too brown, and bottom and edges were more bumpy and not as smooth. Not pleasing to the point that I didn't fully document them with a photograph all their own. Ouch.

But as the ratio did not change, I felt good with stopping there and finding a happy medium between the two. Nevermind that my last trial was happening on the evening before my flight to the Philippines and I wouldn't have time to tweak the recipe/ratio for another trial - it all worked out.

My final ratio: 3 parts flour/starch : 2 parts fat : 1/2-1 part liquid

So here is my offering for this month's Tart challenge: A bite-sized tartlette with raw fillings of lemon-cardamom cashew cream and fig puree and the latest brainchild of my obsession with amuse-bouche.

May it also delight your eyes and heart.

Tartlette Dough
Gluten-Free, Vegan, & Grain-Free

Active Prep Time: 10-20 minutes
Inactive Prep Time: at least 8 hours
Baking Time: 15-25 minutes
Yield: 12 tartlette crusts

1 oz or 1/4 c garbanzo flour
1 oz or 1/4 c quinoa flour
1/2 oz or 1/8 c multipurpose cassava flour
1/2 oz or 1/8 c arrowroot starch

1/2 teaspoon whole psyllium husks
1 pinch sea salt
1 teaspoon blonde coconut sugar

2 oz or 4 tablespoons chilled coconut Earth Balance

1/2-1 oz or 1-2 tablespoons chilled water

1. Sift flours and starch, and then add psyllium, salt, and sugar. Mix well.
2. Cut coconut Earth Balance into small chunks (roughly 1/2 tablespoon sized). Add chunks to flour and toss to coat. Chill in refrigerator for 5-10 minutes.
3. Using one hand, begin to pinch the fat (between your thumb, index, and middle finger) to flatten/break it into smaller pieces. Each time you 'squish' the fat, return it to the mixture to coat each smaller piece with flour and stir. Your aim is to find a combination of fat and flour that resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Any time you feel the fat begin to melt or become greasy, return the mixture to the refrigerator. It is very important to keep this mixture as cold as possible.
4. Once this consistency has been reached and you feel confident that the mixture is sufficiently cold, begin to add the ice cold water about 2 teaspoons at a time. Depending on the humidity of your kitchen, you may need closer to 1/2 ounce or closer to 1 ounce. Your goal is a shaggy dough, but you will want to add a touch more water to this pie dough (because of the greater absorption rate of the gluten-free ingredients). Just when the dough starts to come together, add just another 1-2 teaspoons.
5. Form into a flat 4-5" disc, wrap tightly with plastic wrap, and chill.
6. For this recipe, every 2-3 hours I would turn the dough by unwrapping it, rolling it between two pieces of parchment paper into a roughly 10"x10" square, and then folding it in half crosswise and again lengthwise. I formed it into a 4-5" disc again, rewrapped it, and returned it to the refrigerator. This process of turning the dough creates networks of small fat globules and air bubbles, so the baked dough will be tender and flakey.
7. After the third turn, preheat the oven to 375 degrees and prepare a mini-cupcake tin.
8. Break the dough into roughly 12 equal sized pieces and lightly roll into balls. Press the ball into the center of each cupcake well so the the dough flattens up the sides. Lightly form the dough until the edge is just under the rim of each cupcake well. If at any time the dough becomes warm, place the tin and dough in the refrigerator to chill for about 5 minutes.
9. Cut small squares of parchment paper to fit into each well over the dough and fill with baking weights or dried beans to prevent the dough from bubbling up.
10. Bake for 5 minutes at 375 degrees, and then reduce the heat to 350 degrees and continue to bake for 15-20 minutes. You will want to remove the beans/weights and parchment paper once the top edges of the crusts become light golden brown and then continue to bake them unweighted until the entire crust is completely baked. For me, I removed the weights and parchment paper after a total of 15 minutes and then allowed them to bake unweighted for about 5 more minutes.
11. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes and then remove each tartlette crust from the tin to finish cooling on a cooling rack.
12. Keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Coating the cold fat with cold flour.

Coarse breadcrumbs.

Ready to be weighted down for the blind bake.

Fresh out of the oven. Light blonde and sturdy.

The sturdiness surprised me. Proud papa.

Lemon Cardamom Cashew Cream Sauce
Gluten-Free, Vegan, & Raw

Active Prep Time: 5-10 minutes
Inactive Prep Time: at least 8 hours
Yield: a generous 1/2 cup

1/2 c raw cashew pieces
up to 1 c cold, filtered water
3-5 cardamom pods

1 tablespoon maple syrup
pinch salt
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1. Rinse cashew pieces in a sieve and then cover them with water. Add cardamom pods and allow to soak for at least 8 hours. Generally, the longer it goes, the smoother the final texture can be.
2. Spoon cashews from soaking liquid into a food processor. Pulse until broken down to a paste.
3. Begin adding liquid until desired consistency is reached. I only needed 5 tablespoons.
4. Add remaining ingredients and then adjust to taste. Keep refrigerated in a tightly sealed container for up to 5 days.

Soaking in the cardamom infused water.

The consistency is completely up to you.

Fresh Fig Puree
Gluten-Free, Vegan, & Raw

Active Prep Time: 5 minutes
Inactive Prep Time: none
Yield: approximately 1/3 cup

approximately 1/2 c fresh figs
1-2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1. Thoroughly wash and de-stem the figs. Peeling is optional (I chose not to).
2. Place in a food processor with lemon juice and blend until desired consistency.

Thank you, farmers' market.

The inspiration for the fillings came from all the times that I would eat a raw "cheesecake," impressed at the texture, the satisfaction derived from each bite, and the blood, sweat, and tears that must go into transforming cashews in that way. Finding out it was so simple and straightforward was inspiring, but no less satisfying to both make and enjoy. And the figs, pears, and sundrop tomatoes - all in season right now and adorning every farmers' market in spades. I love the candy sweetness of cherry tomatoes grown in the fall, and finding a way to incorporate them into this dessert was a mission I happily doled out and accepted. And in my everyday eating, I enjoy a balance of cooked and raw foods at every meal with a variety of textures. This final composition was just an echo of that.

I'm still pinching myself that I got this done in time. Regardless of the lack of hours in the day, I thankfully did not lack for inspiration, and with that inspiration came motivation to share and hopefully help others gain both knowledge and happiness from gluten-free baking. Even if it did make me a little crazy.

Please enjoy this recipe and may you find sweet (or savory) success with it. And if you'd like to find more inspiration, please visit the links below from Charissa, our lovely host from Zest Bakery, and all my other fellow Ralliers this month.

Perhaps inspiration might find you first.

Caneel / Mama Me Gluten Free / Pecan Tollhouse Tarts
Charissa / Zest Bakery / Cheddar Apple Tart
Claire / This Gluten-Free Life / Summer Sweet Tomato Tart
Heather / Discovering the Extraordinary / No-Bake Mini Pumpkin Tarts
Jean / GF Doctor / Nectarine Rose Tart
Karen / Cooking Gluten-Free! / Plum Tart
Mary Fran / FrannyCakes / Savory Sweet Potato Tart
Morri / Meals with Morri / Savory Onion Tart with Pate a foncer crust
Paula / Gapey's Grub / Sugar-Free Pear Tart
Pete & Kelli / No Gluten, No Problem / Cider-Poached Cinnamon Apple Tart


  1. I always look forward to what you come up with every month, and I am always intrigued, delighted, and suddenly very hungry.

    These are so adorable (and tasty). I particularly like the cashew "cream cheese" filling.

    1. Thank you kindly, Morri! So glad to have you back in the Rally!

  2. Your tarts are so unique and look delicious! I. Love. Figs. And your crust looks great!

    1. So do I, Caneel! They're so delicious, particularly now. Thank you so much for your comment. :)

  3. You had me at "pie crust." :D

    1. Right? And as we head into the Holiday season, methinks this recipe will be particularly useful. Thanks, as always, Debi!

    2. Very much so. I need to work on my pie crust recipe. I miss making apple pies this time of year. :D


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