First, I should say that neither me, nor any of my brood, are coeliac. We’ve all got cast iron digestion around here and we eat a fair whack of gluten in this house. It doesn’t seem to bother anyone much. So I am certainly not an aficionado of gluten free products.
But tonight I had a gluten-free friend over for dinner, and I needed a solution that would use up some of the mountain of mushrooms my mum brought home a few days ago. I couldn’t get the thought of chicken and mushroom pie out of my head.
So I headed down to Yarraville’s Village Store to try out Careme’s new gluten free range.
I love Careme pastry. (I’ve previously written about my grand love affair with Careme). I love its ease of use, its buttery flakes, and the way it let’s me indulge my lazy side. So after using Careme to achieve many pastry-perfect dishes over the years, I had great confidence in trying out the gluten free sour cream shortcrust.
The first thing I noticed was that it took a fair while to defrost. I’d left it in the car for an hour while I stopped in at the playground with the Mr 4 after the shops, thinking that would be plenty of time for it to thaw. When I got home it stayed on the bench while I made the pie filling, and then I started to roll it out.
Unlike other Careme pastries, it needs kneading (but really, who doesn’t need to be kneaded these days? Boom-tish..) and with my first push of the rolling pin I could see that it was still too hard, after 2-3 hours out of the freezer. The pastry crumbled when I pushed down on it with the pin, and I could see that the texture of it was quite different from the flour pastry I am used to working with. It looked almost “seedy” (in the truest sense of the word, as if it were made from seeds, not that it had been out dancing on tabletops until 3am and was now craving a Quarter Pounder) and the scent told me that it was going to taste quite different from the usual shortcrust.
I left it out for a couple more hours on my stone benchtop, and by the time I got to it the pastry roll was nice and pliable, while still being cold enough to work with. I enjoyed working with it – it was easy to roll, and I used the non-stick wrap as the pastry sheet that I rolled it onto. I always find this an easier way to get it into the pie dish without a fuss.
It held in the pie dish, no problem, so I blind baked it. This is where I started to see some major differences between the gluten free variety and the pastry I am used to. First, it smells different while it’s baking. Not entirely unpleasant, but more like a health-food shop smell, or a hippy-kitchen in Mullumbimy smell, than a French patisserie. Also, my pie shell cracked in a number of places. This could have been due to the fact that I am a bit all-thumbs when it comes to pastry rather than the product itself, but I don’t tend to get cracked pie shells when I am using Careme’s traditional range of pastry.
Finally, after I took out my baking weights, I found that the bottom of the shell was quite oily. There was a thick slick of oil covering the pie base. So I docked the base with a fork and popped it back into the oven to dry out without the weights for five minutes. This seemed to work fine, and I managed to get a nice golden blush over my pastry base.
As my friend is not actually coeliac (she tends to loosen up a little on her diet when she’s eating at friends’ houses), I topped the pie with Careme’s standard puff pastry. I figured that it would be easy enough for our guest to just remove the pie lid if she didn’t want to eat the normal pastry. It was also a backup for the rest of us in case the gluten free pastry didn’t work – worst case scenario there would still be a nice flaky piece of buttery puff pastry to mop up the pie filling.
Unfortunately the two pastries cooked at very different speeds, and my gluten free pastry was quite overdone by the time the puff pastry had risen and browned. So this probably wasn’t the greatest idea I’d ever had.
The final product? The pie filling seemed to swamp the gluten free pastry base, and it sort of got lost in translation. I wasn’t a huge fan of the taste of the pastry, especially when compared with the magic that is Careme’s puff pastry. But I have a feeling if you were coeliac and were more used to tasting foods that were made from these kinds of flours you would have been more comfortable with the flavor of the pastry than I was.
All in all, I’d recommend this product for those who regularly eat gluten free food, but if you are preparing a meal to be eaten by a coeliac as well as people who eat a more mainstream diet, I’d probably pass on Careme and choose another kind of non-pastry dish altogether.