Coconut Tartlets with Orange Mascarpone Filling (Gluten Free)

Sunday, March 24, 2013

This dessert was the result of a few left over tidbits. I had some mascarpone from some ambitious plans for a dessert from earlier which never materialized. The fruit basket had two lone oranges whose skins began to slightly shrivel. And I was short on wheat flour, but I still had a fair amount of coconut flour from earlier experiments that had to be used up.


From that earlier experiment, which resulted in delicious gluten-free cupcakes, I knew coconut flour can be tricky. And for me, gluten-free baking has been a journey during which stumbling through trial and error seems to be the norm. Having done a quick search on coconut flour shortcrust pastry, I found nothing suitable. And so I decided to give it a try anyway, having accepted the fact that if it didn't work, at least it would be an experiment on which I could build on later (and it would still be a good excuse to use up the flour). And since it was snowing that particular day - the early spring warmth has since changed into a cold, at times snowy spell - I resolved to only work with the ingredients I had without having to make a run to the store. I had just enough butter for two tries.


Gluten-free baking calls for not only different ingredients but, I've found, also for different methods of preparation. For example, there is no need to wait for gluten to "relax" or "rest" - and since it's generally so tired it may be good to give it a rest altogether.

I usually roll out shortcrust pastry (for regular shortcrust pastry recipe, you can see a recipe I made here). Although the coconut flour dough can be made quite pliable, it is still brittle. So rather than rolling it out, the best way to handle it is to mold it into an elongated sausage shape, slice off a piece and mold it into the shell form directly. The dough firms up while baking and the texture becomes similar to that of a regular shortcrust pastry.


Coconut flour is generally much more absorbent, or thirstier, than wheat-based flour - and as a result requires much more liquid. Here I used as much water as I would add to about double of wheat based flour amount. I've also added xanthan gum to the coconut flour to give the dough the elasticity which is normally attributed to gluten. It comes as a powder, and becomes activated (and sticky) when it comes in contact with liquid. I learned the trick from my sister-in-law who bakes some amazing gluten-free desserts.


The filling I used for these tartlets is rich in orange flavor - which seemed appropriate for the snowy day. With just four ingredients, and when tartlets are chilled, the filling tastes like creamy orange-flavored ice cream, which goes well with the coconut flavored shells.


Coconut Tartlets with Orange Mascarpone Filling (Gluten Free)
Makes 12 1 1/2 inch tartlets

Coconut Flour Shortcrust Pastry

You will need:
1/2 cup coconut flour
2 tsp sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp xanthan gum
4 tbsp cold butter, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1 tbsp sour cream
4-6 tbsp ice cold water

1. Preheat oven to 375ºF. Butter 12 1 1/2 inch-wide tartlet or brioche forms.
2. Whisk together flour, sugar, salt and xanthan gum in a bowl. Add the butter, and working quickly with your fingers, rub the butter into the flour mixture, until the mixture is flaky and there are no large butter pieces remaining. Mix in the sour cream. Gradually add the water, one tablespoon at a time, until dough starts to form and the mixture becomes soft and pliable. If it crumbles, continue to gradually add water up to 6 tbsp. Give the dough a knead or two and roll into a ball. Form the dough into a sausage shape about 2 inches in diameter. Place the dough on wax paper and slice into twelve even pieces.
3. With your fingers, take each piece and mold it into a tartlet form - the shell should be about 1/4 to 1/8 inch thick. Remove any excess and repeat with the remaining forms. Place the forms on a thin baking sheet. Bake for 9 minutes, then prick the bottom of each shell with a fork to prevent them from rising. Return to the oven and bake 11 to 13 minutes more (20 to 22 minutes total), until the shells are golden and the edges are golden brown. Remove to a wire rack and let cool before adding the filling.

Orange Mascarpone Cream Filling

You will need:
8 oz mascarpone cheese
3/4 cup confectioner's sugar
2 tsp orange zest (about 1 small orange)
2 tsp Triple Sec liqueur
Small orange slices, for garnish (optional)

Place the mascarpone and sugar into a bowl. Mix with an electric mixer until blended, scraping the sides with a wooden spoon, about 1 minute. Add the zest and the liqueur and beat 1-2 minutes more, until combined and the filling is thick. Do not overbeat. Pipe or spread onto cooled tartlet shells. Top with orange slices. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.


Potato and Smoked Salmon Salad

Monday, March 11, 2013

As the weather turns warmer, soups, stews and various savory baked dishes get put on the back burner around these parts. At least for now (there might be a freak storm in April or May which might call for such things). This potato and salmon salad is great for lunch - it is filling without being heavy, with very light dressing.


The flavors here are Scandinavian-inspired. Although Scandinavian seafood salads tend to be creamier, with mayonnaise or crème fraîche which goes well with things like shrimp, I did not want to obscure the salmon with too much dressing.


The dressing here is lemon juice and a few other things (horseradish, dill, capers, scallion). The salmon is fatty enough that the salad does not need any oil.


Potato and Smoked Salmon Salad
(Serves 2)

You will need:
1/2 lb. young white potatoes
1 tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped
1 scallion, chopped
1 tsp capers
1/4 tsp horseradish, or to taste
4 oz smoked salmon, torn into chunks
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice, or to taste
Salt and pepper

1. Bring a medium pot filled with water to a boil. Add the potatoes, skins on, and cook, until potatoes are soft, about 10-15 minutes. Drain, rinse under cold water and let cool for about 10 minutes. Dice the potatoes into 1/2 inch pieces.
2. Place the diced potatoes into a bowl, add dill, scallion, capers and horseradish and toss to combine. Add the salmon, sprinkle with lemon juice and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve or refrigerate until needed.

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