Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Ho ho ho, it's gluten free we go...

Gluten-free needn’t mean fun-free this Christmas. There’s no reason to miss out on any of the festive classics just because wheat’s off your menu. Washed down with a steaming mug of mulled wine, these light and crumbly damson and cobnut mince pies have Christmas all wrapped up.

If you’re catering for gluten dodgers over the holidays, you’ll be pleased to discover that these are simple and quick to make and just as delicious as their wheaty counterparts. My gluten-scoffing friend couldn’t tell the difference when she came over for three one the other day, but you can always stick to wheat with my recipe here, if you’d prefer.

This sweet gluten-free shortcrust is perfect for baking with children, as it has the added bonus of being impossible to overwork. However many times your little darlings scrunch up and re-roll this dough, you’ll never have to suffer another tough or chewy pie again – that’s a little extra Christmas present from me to you, right there.

I made my own damson and cobnut mincemeat last year and still have plenty left, but you’ll have a job finding damsons in December. Try swapping the damsons for plums and the cobnuts for hazelnuts, for delicious and more easily sourced alternatives. If making mincemeat’s not at the top of your festive agenda, by all means buy some in. Just remember, before serving it to any coeliac friends, to check the ingredients. Most mincemeat is made with suet, which has been stored dusted in wheat flour, but you can buy gluten-free vegetarian suet here.

Damson and cobnut mincemeat

425ml apple juice or cider
425g light muscovado sugar
425g cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped
1 tsp ground mixed spice
1tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch ground cloves
425g currants
425g raisins
300g damsons (or plums), stoned
200g fresh cobnuts roughly chopped (you can use hazelnuts instead)
Grated zest and juice of 1 large orange
250ml brandy

Put the apple and sugar into a large pan and heat gently until the sugar has completely dissolved. Stir in the rest of the ingredients, minus the brandy. Slowly bring to the boil, stirring all the time. Lower the heat, partially cover the pan and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to become completely cold. Stir in the brandy or rum and spoon into cold, sterilised jars. Cover with waxed discs and tight fitting lids.

Gluten-free sweet shortcrust 

Makes 12 deep filled pies with lids.

300g rice flour
200g unsalted butter
100g caster sugar
The finely grated zest of 1 orange (optional)
1 egg, beaten
A splash of milk if needed

It’s easiest to blitz the flour, butter and sugar in a food processor until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs, before pulsing in the remaining ingredients. You want the dough to be soft but not sticky. If you’re doing it by hand, simply rub the flour and fat together before adding the sugar and forking through the egg before kneading it together gently to form a ball. Wrap the pastry in cling film and chill in the fridge for about 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan) and butter a 12 hole muffin tray.

Roll out the pastry between two sheets of cling film - this is the best way I’ve found for rolling all shortcrust (including wheat), as it doesn’t require any extra flour and keeps the pastry from falling apart. Cut out rounds and line the tray. You can easily patch up any cracks or holes with extra pastry. Fill the pies with mincemeat and top with pastry lids lightly brushed with a little milk. Prick the tops with a fork and bake for 20 minutes.

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