The From-Scratch-iest Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pie

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Some day I’m gonna be super hardcore, growing my own pumpkins in my magic pumpkin patch and harvesting my own gluten-free flour from the enormous gluten-free flour tree on my massive acreage. Until then, however, I will acquire all my ingredients from fairies, just like everyone else. Or the grocery store. Whichever is more convenient.

Still, there’s a certain satisfaction to be garnered from taking a thing from the absolute start to its completion. For me, for now, that means making things as from scratch as I possibly can. And for this particular recipe, that means pie crust from scratch and pumpkin that I slaughtered and roasted myself. Don’t question my wording on that. Have you ever cut up a pumpkin? Yes, “slaughter” is appropriate.

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Let’s start with that, shall we? Look at these beautiful pumpkins. These are NOT carving pumpkins. They are sugar pumpkins or pie pumpkins, specifically grown for their tender sweetness and exactly the sort of thing you want to dismember and roast for this pie.

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Give them a good washing to remove any dirt.

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Preheat your oven to 350°F and grab yourself a nice big rimmed cookie sheet or baking dish.

Decapitate your pumpkin by gently sawing off its stem.

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Cleave the pumpkin in two vertically.

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Eviscerate your pumpkin by scooping out the seeds and guts. You can wash and dry the seeds for roasting later on. They’re very good for you but may make you a little gassy. Just sayin’.

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Brush the fleshy surfaces of the pumpkin with vegetable oil. If you’re roasting this pumpkin for savoury purposes, then you would probably dust it with salt and pepper as well, but we’re using it for un-savoury purposes (as in, sweet, not nefarious), so you probably shouldn’t do that.

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Place the pumpkin halves face-down on the baking sheet and let that roast for about 45-60 minutes (depending on your pumpkin size). If you want this whole thing to go faster, then cut the pumpkin into smaller pieces.

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When the pumpkin is done the whole thing can be stabbed easily with a sharp knife.

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While that is baking, try to figure out how to scrub the residue off your hands. It’s harder than you think.

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Let the pumpkins cool a little bit so you don’t burn yourself, then scoop out the flesh and discard the skins.

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I ate some toasted pumpkin seeds while I waited for the pumpkin to cool a little bit more.

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I puréed the pumpkin flesh in a food processor to make it extra smooth.

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Because fresh pumpkin is more watery than canned pumpkin, you might want to drain it a bit. These mesh bags are actually for picking produce at the farmer’s market, but they’re also perfect strainers for thick substances like mashed pumpkin.

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I ended up with about 4 cups pumpkin goo, which is pretty much exactly what I needed for two pies. I shoved it in the fridge for a couple of days before I made the pie.

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Now for the crust, which I prepped the night before I made the pie. Gluten-free pie dough still needs to rest, just the same as regular pie dough, so that the flour can absorb all the liquid properly. This recipe, adapted from Martha Stewart, makes one pie shell bottom, so I did it twice.

As with regular pie crust, you still want all your ingredients to be ice cold when you work with them, and you want to handle them as little as possible.

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Start by whisking together 1/2 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup white rice flour, 1 teaspoon xanthan gum, and 2 teaspoons castor/superfine sugar in a small bowl.

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As well, assemble a small pitcher of ice water. Cube 1/2 cup cold butter and put that in a bowl as well. Finally, crack 1 large egg into another bowl and scramble it a little. Shove the water and the egg into the fridge and the butter and flour into the freezer for at least 15 minutes.

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When you’re ready to go, dump your flour and your butter into the bowl of your food processor.

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Pulse the dough until the butter forms little pea-sized crumbs.

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Tip in the egg, as well as 1-2 tablespoons ice water and pulse until the dough clumps together.

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I would err on the side of less water as opposed to more. In this batch I think I added 2 tablespoons water and you can see it’s very sticky (gluten-free dough will be stickier by nature, but not this sticky).

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So the next time round I used less water and got this more crumbly dough.

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Squish your dough into a patty and wrap it in plastic. Let it chill in the fridge for at least an hour, preferably three hours, at best, overnight.

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When you’re ready to roll (literally), place a piece of waxed paper on your work surface and lightly dust it with gluten-free flour. Plop your dough patty down and dust that with flour as well.

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Place another sheet of waxed paper over top and carefully use a rolling pin to spread out your dough. Work from the inside out, and flip it over and lift up the waxed paper as often as possible so it doesn’t stick in weird wrinkles.

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When you’re ready to plop the dough into your 12″ pie pan, remember that the dough will stick more to the waxed paper than regular dough, so you might want to chill it a bit beforehand.

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Trim and crimp the edges as usual and chuck it back in the fridge.

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If you’re only making one pie, then halve the ingredients for the filling, but if you’re making two (because really, why not make two?), then here’s how you do it. In a large bowl, whisk together 4 cups pumpkin purée, 3 300mL cans sweetened condensed milk (900mL total), 4 large eggs, and 2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice.

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Nice and smooth and sweet!

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Pour the filling into your two shells and carefully shove them into the oven (preheated to 425°F) on the same rack, if possible. Bake for 15 minutes at 425°F, then reduce the heat to 350°F and bake for another 35-45 minutes.

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They will be done when the middle is almost set and you can jab a knife into the filling about an inch from the crust and it comes out clean.

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Set those on a rack to cool completely, then EAT!

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Citrus Chipotle Cranberry Sauce? Believe it.

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I made a fancy cranberry sauce for Christmas last year but for some reason I didn’t blog it. This year for Thanksgiving (13 October in Canada) I wanted something a little spicier (but not much spicier) than the traditional sauce, so I thought that this would be a good bloggable opportunity, and I modified this recipe I found on Epicurious (originally of Bon Appétit) to do it. The result is a delightfully rich cranberry sauce with a hint of savoury and garlic and a smoky after taste. It’s truly amazeballs (yes, that is the technical term).

Chipotle Cranberry Sauce 1

Start with 2 dried chipotle chillies. Super dried. Gross.

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Plop those in a medium saucepan filled with water and bring it to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and let those chillies soak up the hot water for an hour to an hour and a half, depending on how dried out they are. You want to be able to mince them in the end. Your house will smell like chipotle for like forever, just a warning. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

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Grab yourself an orange and a lemon and zest them.

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I used a small rasp to get most of the zest but I used one of the fancy kinds for cocktails to get a bit of rind for colour.

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Juice the lemon while you’re at it and save the juice. Eat the orange because it’s good for you. DO IT.

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When the chillies are soft, drain them and then plop them in another pot with 24oz fresh cranberries (that’s two of the standard bags you get at the grocery store), the lemon and orange zest and lemon juice, 3/4 cup dried diced apricots (optional but worth it), and about 2 cups sugar. I actually saved a splash of the chipotle water and added it in as well, probably about 2-3 tablespoons.

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Heat that over medium, stirring, until the sugar is all dissolved.

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Now, you’re supposed to keep the chillies in there until the end and then take them out, stem and deseed them, and then plop them back in. But my chillies were so soft they started falling apart almost immediately.

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So I took out the bits of chipotle earlier, minced them (which was easier than I thought it would be, considering how hard they used to be), and added them back in. A few stray seeds made it in as well but there’s no harm in that.

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Keep cooking the berries, stirring occasionally now, until they start to softly POP open (it’s a delightful noise, I promise). Stir in 2 teaspoons minced garlic, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin.

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Keep stirring that until the sauce starts to thicken a bit and you can tell that the flavours have all gotten to know each other. Then you can remove it from the heat and let it cool.

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Chill the cranberry sauce for up to one week before it’s needed. It also freezes fantastically.

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I actually hope this lasts until Thanksgiving Monday. The Pie and I keep scooping out bites of it with a spoon.

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The Uber Cookie

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When I experiment with recipes, I usually steer away from tampering with the essentials in baking: the exact proportions of flour and baking soda and all of that jazz.  The thing is, when you are working with gluten-free options, all those proportions go out the window anyway.  All you have to think about is general cohesion and texture.

So I invented a cookie recipe from scratch.  I know, it’s not that impressive, but I’m pretty pleased with myself.  Q picked me up from the airport last week and I promised I would bribe him with baked goods, so here they are.  I took input from my husband on what he believes the three main important ingredients in cookies are meant to be: he picked peanut butter, raisins, and oatmeal.

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I can work with that.

Preheat your oven to 375°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

The best part about this is it turns out that I have some osmotically-absorbed or genetic knowledge about how to bake cookies from scratch, so there was no real trial and error here.  I just kept adding stuff in and it all seemed to work out.  I don’t want to get cocky, though; the next time I do this it’s likely I’ll end up blowing something up.  I think the real trick with stuff like this, when you’re not sure what’s going to happen, is to do it by hand, and avoid the labour-saving devices in  your kitchen.  That way you can see how the ingredients interact with each other while they’re being mixed, rather than shoving it all in the mixmaster, turning it to high, and hoping for the best.

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So with that in mind, I started with a bowl and a spoon.  Because I was going to use peanut butter in this recipe I halved the amount of butter I would normally use.  So in a bowl, cream together 1 cup granulated sugar and 1/2 cup softened butter.

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Then add in 1 cup softened peanut butter.  If you use Jiffy or whatever then it’s probably soft enough as it is, but I used that stuff that you have to stir the oil into and then keep in the fridge, so it needed some time to come to room temperature.  Mix that in well.

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Add to that 2 eggs, one at a time, mixing until each is well combined.  At this point you could add 1 teaspoon vanilla, but I forgot.  Still they turned out great.

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Now for your dry ingredients.  Plop in 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, and 1 1/2 cups buckwheat flour (don’t let that name fool you, buckwheat is gluten-free and not related to wheat at all).  Mix that all together well.  Another bonus of doing this with a spoon instead of a mixer is you can make sure the sides are well-scraped down and that there are no ingredients hiding unmixed at the bottom.

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To your cookie dough add 1 cup gluten-free rolled oats and 1 cup raisins.  You could probably add in some chocolate chips as well if the mood strikes you.  Mix until that’s well-combined.

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Form your dough into balls measuring a bit more than a tablespoon and flatten them with your fingers onto the parchment-lined baking sheets.

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Bake for 12 minutes, rotating your pans halfway through, until cookies are set (they will likely not brown much for you).  Leave them to firm up in the pan for about five minutes before removing to a cooling rack to cool completely.  Seal in an airtight container for up to a week.  I bet they would also freeze well.

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The Un-Cola

The Un-Cola

I saw this recipe on Freshly Pressed this past summer and was inspired by Krista and Jess to make this recipe from the New York Times (thanks ladies!).

My brother Ando has always been a fan of carbonated beverages.  Specifically the cola variety.  The more caffeine the better (he used to be a bit of a night owl).  Sodas aren’t that great for the teeth, of course,  as they contain a lot of sugar.  The colas especially so.  Ando’s tip for strong dentition: drink sodas only in conjunction with food, and use a straw.  When I saw this recipe, I thought he’d like it.  It’s made of all natural ingredients and contains significantly less sugar than your average can of Coke (which has 39g of sugar in it, the same as 10 sugar cubes).

The Un-Cola

These sorts of natural syrups are a sign that we are trying to return to simpler times, and the creators of this recipe, Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain, are doing just that (so you can go visit them Ando and tell me how the recipes compare — it’s just over the bridge after all).

So this is his DIY Christmas gift from his little sister (SURPRISE!), which, together with all the other presents for the Manhattan Crew, I am trying to get completed and mailed out before the end of the month — how’s that for organization?

The recipe itself is pretty straightforward, but does require a certain attention to detail.  I also had to do some serious sleuthing around St. John’s to find all the appropriate ingredients, though if that means puttering around Food for Thought and Fat Nanny’s for an hour or two then I really don’t mind.

The Un-Cola

You’ll need to grate the zest from 2 medium oranges, 1 large lime, and 1 large lemon.  I doubled my batch so that the Pie and I would have some to try, and then made up an extra set of dry ingredients so that Ando can cook himself up a refill.  Each batch makes about 3 cups syrup.

The Un-Cola

So I grated a lot of citrus.  I’m going to save it and make a fabulous beverage soon.

The Un-Cola

For the extra dry ingredients, I used a zester, which gets the peel without the bitter pith.

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Then I heated my oven to 150°F and spread the peel on a baking sheet to dry.

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It probably cooked for about an hour while I was doing all that other stuff.

The Un-Cola

Take some whole nutmeg and a fine rasp and grate yourself about 1/8 teaspoon of that stuff.  Mmm, smells so good.

The Un-Cola

Crush one section of one star anise pod with a spoon.

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Cut a vanilla pod so you have a 1 1/2″ section (that’s almost 4cm for you metric folk).  Use a knife to split that section in half lengthwise.

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You’ll also need 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon dried lavender flowers, 2 teaspoons minced ginger, and 1/4 teaspoon citric acid.  You can get citric acid at stores that sell canning supplies, or try specialty or health food stores.

In a heavy pot over medium heat, bring all those ingredients to a simmer in 2 cups water.  Reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for about 20 minutes.

The Un-Cola

In a large bowl, mix together 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar and 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar.

The Un-Cola

Plop a colander or strainer on top of that and line it with a double layer of cheesecloth.

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Pour the contents of the hot pot over the cheesecloth and gather the ends of the cloth together so that all the solids are in a nice little package.  Use a spoon to squeeze out all the liquid from the package against the side of the pot.

The Un-Cola

Stir the syrup occasionally until the sugar dissolves, about 10 minutes.  Transfer to a container and keep it in the refrigerator.

The Un-Cola

In order for this to last the trip over the sea and land and a river to Manhattan (from one island to another) I decided to can it.  You can see my tips on canning with a stove top canner here.

The Un-Cola

To drink, pour 1 part syrup over ice and mix with 4 parts seltzer or soda water.  It tastes FANTASTIC.  Not like a commercial soda, but one where you can taste all the flavours that went into it.  AMAZING.

The Un-Cola

And here is the little container with the dried peel and all the other dried ingredients (minus the sugar) that Ando will need to make his own batch.

The Un-Cola

Happy Hallowe’en Cupcakes

Hurray!  It’s Hallowe’en!

These spooky cupcakes come from my favourite cupcake book, Cupcake Heaven by Susannah Blake, and they’re easy as pie.  Or cupcakes.  And pumpkin is an awesome thing to bake with.

‘Twas an ominous storm a-brewing this afternoon when I made them up.  It almost ruined my light! 

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Beat together 1/2 cup packed brown sugar, 1/2 cup sunflower oil, and 2 eggs.

Fold in 1 cup grated pumpkin or butternut squash (you can used canned pumpkin, and I usually add a little extra for moistness) and the grated peel of 1 unwaxed lemon.

Combine in a separate bowl 1 cup self-rising flour (or one cup minus one teaspoon all-purpose flour mixed with 1 teaspoon baking powder, though for this recipe regular flour works just fine), 1 teaspoon baking powder, and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon.

Sift flour mixture into pumpkin mixture and fold in.

Spoon mixture into 12 paper liners and bake for 18 minutes.  I only had medium liners (so I ended up with 24) but usually I make large ones.  Also, make sure to flatten out your batter so it’s level before baking, as the batter, having no butter to melt, won’t do it on its own.  Obviously, I forgot that step.

Cool completely on wire racks.

In a double boiler or heatproof bowl over gently simmering water, melt 5 oz chopped white chocolate

In a separate bowl, melt 1 oz chopped bittersweet or dark chocolate.  Allow the chocolates to cool for about 5 minutes.

Spoon the white chocolate evenly to cover the top of the cooled cupcakes.

Make a parchment paper cone (fold it into triangles and snip off a corner, though don’t snip the corner until you’re ready to pipe the chocolate).

Pour the dark chocolate into the cone.  It’s easiest if you have an extra pair of hands, but we do what we can with what we have.  Fold over the opening of the cone several times to avoid gooey messes.

Pipe the bittersweet chocolate onto the cupcakes with a central dot surrounded by two concentric circles (you can use a spiral if you have difficulty making discrete circles).

Use a toothpick or skewer to drag lines from the centre chocolate dot out to the edge of the cupcake, about six or seven of them, to make a spiderweb pattern.  Normally they turn out better than this, but I’m not one to dwell on small mistakes.

You can also ice them however you wish, really.  It’s up to you after all.

The cupcakes are best eaten when the chocolate is still gooey, but they can also be chilled in the refrigerator until set.

And hark!  The sun makes a final, feeble attempt to burst through the clouds.

Alas, forces of darkness take over.

Have a very happy and safe Hallowe’en!