I have been looking forward to this for weeks..... Two days of gluten free baking with Adriana Rabinovich. Adriana is one of the experts in the gluten free baking world.... A trained chef, Adriana's daughter was diagnosed with Coeliac Disease when she was just 18 months old and with that (as for many of us who experience similar diagnoses), came a family dietary shift and fast learning curve onto a whole new way of baking. After her daughter encouraged her to write a book for gluten free people just like her, Adriana wrote The Gluten Free Cookbook For Kids in 2008 (the first GF cook book I owned) and since then, she has become highly renowned for her expertise. She now shares her wisdom and skill with others through teaching gluten free cookery courses.....
Regardless of the little blog I write, I count myself as very much a novice. The art and science of gluten free baking is still in its infancy and much of what I do is very unscientific experimentation in the kitchen....... Sometimes it comes good...... Sometimes it's a full-on disaster..... But I have a lot of fun testing out my baking hypotheses and figure a few disasters can be easily written off in the name of progress!
On the other hand, if there is advice, help, tips and tricks to be gleaned from someone who has been doing it for longer, and way more expertly than me, I am going to take all I am offered! And that's where Adriana comes in.... To get a little taster of Adriana's talents, check out this amazing Lemon Meringue Roulade which I made a few weeks back using one of her recipes. It was quite lovely and incredibly quick and easy to pull together.
The courses I attended were held at The Cookery School at Braxted Park in Essex, but had I not been contacted about them, I wouldn't have known they were happening.... Sometimes things are meant to be...
After a couple of days of rain so heavy I thought I would need an Ark to get there, the sun was truly shining on the drive to Braxted...... Not one cloud could be seen! The Braxted Park Estate is a beautiful venue. The long tree-lined drive up to the house seemed perfectly grand and just getting there made me feel quite special.
The Braxted Cookery School runs a whole range of courses in their purpose-designed kitchen, so whether you need something specialist or not, it is worth checking out their website. The team coordinating them were fantastically helpful and the courses I attended were spot on in both organisation and learning.
Inside the school, we were welcomed into the dining area with morning coffee and some of Adriana's totally delicious Soft Amaretti Biscuits (divine doesn't cut it..... these were more than heavenly) and soft Chocolate Puddle Cookies which had overtones of macaroon about them.
We were a reasonably small group of between 7 and 9 on each of the two days, which made the courses feel more personal and less overwhelming. Once the rest of the group had arrived, we moved through into a beautifully light, airy, purpose-built training kitchen. Our pack for the day included all the recipes we were making (and those for the delicious Amaretti and Chocolate Puddle cookies.... woohoo!!) and all washing up was removed from our responsibility, leaving us free to bake, learn and enjoy. I have to say, the luxury of someone doing my washing up (once I had let the guilt subside) was fabulous..... I wanted to take our lovely support staff home with me!
Adriana was an amazing teacher..... Clear, straight forward and wonderfully talented. No question was too silly to ask and her calm and welcoming personality made everyone feel comfortable. Her understanding of gluten free ingredients, how they work together and how to use ingredients 'outside the box' to improve the texture, flavour and structure of the bakes was fascinating. I can honestly say that Adriana's absorbed wisdom may change much of my own approach, particularly with gluten free bread making. so good were the textures of the bread bakes that we made. I will post my thoughts on bread making in a later post..... but first to PASTRY.......
Gluten free pastry can be a tricky customer. The lack of gluten means that it can be incredibly crumbly to work with and very difficult to roll. Add too much replacement 'gum' and you will end up with a slice of cardboard. Although I have never had a problem with getting my pastry 'short', even if you roll it successfully, it can be a pig to get from work surface to tin without ending up as a disconnected jigsaw.
That's where a little know-how goes a long way...... and Adriana was ready to share!
First option : roll your pastry dough between two sheets of cling film..... Not only does this prevent the need for extra flour (which can quickly dry the pastry dough to a point where it is unusable), but it also means that you can transfer the dough to your tin (using a lift and flip approach) without a disastrous breakdown (of pastry or self) and you can use the film to help mould the pastry into the tin! Just remember to leave the cling film on whilst your pastry chills for a short while and it should then peel away without a hitch.
Second option : Roll into balls and use a tortilla press to flatten into circles (again between cling film) to fill and fold into little pasties! Don't they look cool?!
Third option : Roll into balls and gently push into tartlet tins using a mini rolling pin or pastry pusher. I have had one of these for ages, but had been using it all wrong! The trick is to place the ball of dough into the hole and then flatten with the pusher (dusted with plenty of flour), gently rolling from side to side to ease the pastry up the sides of the tin.....
Adriana shared a number of pastry recipes on the course.... a lovely Flaky Shortcrust which made a delicious quiche that we ate for lunch and is the same recipe I have used here for my Sausage Pasties. A Pate Sucree (a sweet French tart pastry that I will come back to in a later post), used on the course to make Bakewell Tarts. A Chocolate pastry, Choux pastry and Hot Water Crust pastry...... we were worked really hard, but learnt so much!
One of the best tricks we learnt on the pastry day was a process called fraisering.... a technique to blend pastry dough so that it is ultra-smooth without overworking. You make your basic dough by the usual rubbing-in process, but other than bringing it together into a rough block, don't knead or work it by hand at all. Instead, you take a palette knife, push it into the edge of the dough to cut out a small section, then turn the knife downwards to drag the pastry little by little across the work surface towards you, collecting up each smeared blob to the side until you have worked your way through all the dough. When you finally bring the dough together at the end by gently lifting and dropping it on the work surface several times, you have an incredibly smooth and evenly-blended pastry. I was impressed! A lesson that for certain, will be subsumed into my pastry-making from this point on!
Overall, I had (along with my fellow bakers) a fantastic day. If gluten free pastry is something you struggle with (or even if you don't but want a different perspective), I would absolutely recommend booking on to one of Adriana's courses....
I am sharing my mini sausage pasties with the following :
Inheritance Recipes with Pebble Soup and Coffee & Vanilla. This month's theme is 'comfort food'. For me pastry is one of the best comfort foods and I really want my daughter to have great gluten free recipes to use when she is older. She loves sausage rolls which also have amazing portability!
Simply Eggcellent with the lovely Dom at Belleau Kitchen. For October : Anything Goes! These sausage rolls contain both whole free range egg and egg yolks. They would be absolutely perfect for munching warm and fresh at those outdoor Halloween and Bonfire festivities that are on their way. Now..... what to do with those left over egg whites??
Free From Fridays with Emma at the Free From Farmhouse. These are gluten free, nut free and with an easy option for dairy free!
Fabulous Foodie Fridays with Lauren at Create Bake Make.
Gluten Free Fridays with Vegetarian Mamma.
Mini Sausage Pasties (with Adriana's Flaky Shortcrust Pastry) - Makes 12 to 14 mini pasties
230g plain gluten free flour mix
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
120g unsalted butter - chilled and cut into small cubes (or use pure sunflower spread)
1 large egg - well beaten
cold water (chilled with ice cubes) - approx 2 to 3 tablespoons needed
1 lb (500g) sausage meat
1 egg yolk
good grind black pepper
good grind sea salt
a handful finely chopped herbs (parsley/thyme/sage etc)
An extra beaten egg/egg yolk to glaze
- Mix all the filling ingredients together until well combined and set aside in the fridge.
- Put a little cold water into a jug with a couple of ice cubes to chill.
- In a large bowl, combine the flour mix and salt.
- Add the cubed butter and coat with flour in the bowl. Either rub the butter into the flour using your fingers, until it resembles fine bread-crumbs. Or use a food processor to gently pulse the mixture until it resembles wet sand (being very careful not to over-mix).
- Put the flour back in the bowl and add the egg. Using either a fork or your hands, gently mix the egg with the flour.
- Gradually add the water a little at a time (use a tablespoon, but go very carefully.... you will only need two to three) and continue to mix, bringing the dough together. The dough should come together easily and feel quite soft, but not be too wet. Adriana describes this as 'Scooby-Doo pastry' - soft but shaggy on the outside)
- Place the block of pastry on a clean work surface (do not dust with flour) and with a flexible palette knife, use the fraisering technique to blend the dough.... Take the palette knife and cut into the front edge of the dough block. As it slices through, tilt the palette knife downwards so that the blade is horizontal and pressing the dough flat on the work surface, pull it across the surface. Spread the same cut of dough three times and then gather it up onto the palette knife and place in a pile. Continue this process until you have worked through all of the pastry dough.
- Carefully push the pile of fraisered dough together (do not knead or 'work') and then gently lift and drop the dough ball until it blends together into a soft, smooth pastry.
- You can roll straight away, or cut into halves, wrap in cling film, flatten slightly and chill to use later.
- When ready to roll and shape, take the chilled dough and gently warm with the palm of your hand until it becomes more pliable.
- Heat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4.
- If rolling a larger piece, place the pastry dough between two sheets of cling film and roll to the desired thickness. Peel off the top cling film and using a lift and flip, place the pastry over the tart tin that you are using. With the pastry still stuck to the second layer of cling film, gently ease the pastry into the tin and place the whole thing into the fridge to chill. This will make it easier to peel the cling film off the pastry case and you can then trim. For the Pasties - take pieces of dough and roll into smallish balls. Using either a tortilla press or the flat back of a frying/sauce pan, flatten each dough ball (between pieces cling film) into a circle. Remove the film.
- Place some sausage meat mixture into the centre of the circle and spread towards opposite edges. Bring the two 'unfilled' pastry sides together into a pasty shape.
- Squeeze the edges together to seal and 'crimp' (brush with a little cold water before joining to help seal if you need to).
- Place on a baking tray and brush with egg yolk to glaze.
- Bake for about 25 minutes until golden brown and the sausage meat is thoroughly cooked.
- Eat hot, cold or freeze for later!
With thanks to Braxted Park for bringing the course to my attention. Although I received a discount to attend, I was not paid to write this post, neither was I required or expected to write a positive review. All views represented are my own and are an honest reflection of my experience of attending the course.