I’m still getting to grips with gf pastry. It’s a tricky beast. I mean it’s tricky when it’s got gluten in it, but without? Whoa! Puff pastry; 9 hours of chilling, and folding and rolling and skill for something that doesn’t puff properly. Filo; I’m not even sure where I’d start. Pâte à choux; no thank you. Shortcrust though. Yes please. Shortcrust pastry is by far the simplest of pastries to make. So simple you could make it one-handed. No really. After gouging a hole in my thumb on a broken plant pot (me, clumsy? Never) I was down to just the one working hand at the weekend and although it did take me twice as long, it was still a cinch to rub up a quick shortcrust dough. And a shorter shortcrust you never did see. Flaky, crumbly but without that limp softness that is the bane of so many gluten-free flours. The cornmeal in this crust is what gives it colour, texture, crunch, crispness, and a melt-in-the-mouth crumbliness. So easy, it gives me courage to tackle other gf pastries (watch this space).
As for free-from tarts/crostatas/galettes, these are the simplest excuse for a dessert, I can’t believe I never knew about them before. Stretching the word circle right to its very limits, my crostata was a messy, rough, oval with tattered edges. No worries. The messier these creations are, the more “rustic” they look. Whoever first applied that word to cooking deserves some kind of award. Maybe a Nobel prize.
Plum and cornmeal crostata
Adapted from Everyday Food, via Dinner with Julie
3/4 cup (100g) gluten-free flour blend
1/2 cup (60g) fine cornmeal (polenta)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (115g) butter
2 tablespoons water
10 red plums (~650g) pitted and sliced
2 tablespoons sugar
1. Preheat oven to 160 C.
2. Mix the gf flour, cornmeal, sugar and salt in a bowl. Cut the butter into small chunks and rub in with your fingertips until you have a mixture resembling breadcrumbs.
3. Add the water, a bit at a time, and bring the mixture together with your hands. It should be just wet enough to form a cohesive ball. Flatten slightly, wrap in clingfilm, and pop in the fridge for 45 minutes.
4. Bring the dough out of the fridge and roll it out on a lightly floured piece of parchment (this will help when transferring to a baking tray). Roll it out to half an inch thick in a rough circle.
5. Pile the plums onto the pastry, leaving a clear border round the edge of a couple of inches. Fold the border over onto the fruit and patch up any cracks or gaps roughly with your fingertips.
6. Transfer the crostata to a baking sheet, sprinkle a couple of tablespoons of sugar over the top of the fruit to taste (my plums were pretty sweet so only used 1 tablespoon) and pop in the oven for 40-45 minutes, or until the pastry is nicely browned, and the edges of the plums are soft and wrinkled.
7. Serve warm on its own, or with creme fraiche.
Makes 8 medium-sized slices. It tasted so good as soon as I’d finished 1 slice I had to have another. This does keep very well in the fridge though, and doesn’t go too soggy underneath, unlike many tarts. Mine lasted 3 days in the fridge and didn’t suffer too badly because of that.