Week 4, part one: gluten-free dairy-free baby birthday pies

Let me start off by saying that before yesterday, I had never made gluten-free, dairy-free anything. To be honest (this might offend a few gluten-free dairy-free people out there), at the beginning of my search, I wondered if searching “gluten-free vegan pie” would yield the same results as googling “yucky pie” or “boring healthy pie”. Sometimes I’m not the postergirl for open-mindedness. I now know that there was no call for that kind of sarcasm or snootiness. I know this because I managed to make gluten-free dairy-free baby pies that were pretty yummy, and along the way I found a host of vegan and gluten-free blogs that had plenty of tempting and beautiful looking food. I ended up making something that I could imagine making again, which I hadn’t expected.

The gluten-free and dairy-free combo is what made the exercise a lot more challenging. Every time I found an interesting gluten-free recipe I’d discover it had butter in it, or milk. Add to this that the birthday baby hasn’t yet been exposed to nuts, so I couldn’t incorporate any ground almonds or almond milk to add another layer of richness. At one point, I emailed my friend to ask, jokingly, if her baby was allowed to have bourbon. She said okay as long as it was only a little (probably afraid to add another thing to the “no” list). I replied that I’d been kidding and she fired back quickly to say that she’d obviously failed the underage drinking for kids test.

No surprise that this challenge was an uncomfortable experience for a perfectionist. My pie needed to taste good and look good – not just good, great. It needed to look like I’d been baking gluten-free dairy free delights for years. I did not like the fact that many of the recipes I found listed ingredients that sounded like they belonged in a science lab: sorghum flour, guar gum, xanthan gum… This was a strange new world indeed, and I was not feeling like I wanted a cupboard full of guar gum. I just wanted to make a baby a birthday pie. Gluten-free girl and the chef is the place to hang out to feel way less scared of gluten-free cooking. Unfortunately many recipes I found there had dairy. I did some more digging and thought I found the answer…

Excited by Tofutti’s claim that their product is “better than cream cheese” I thought I’d try making a cheesecake-type filling with honey and goat’s milk yogurt. Done. Simple.

Not so much.

I think Tofutti needs to change their slogan to “better than cream cheese if you’ve never tasted cream cheese and you don’t think cream cheese needs to be tangy or rich-tasting or appealing.” I’m going to go out on a limb and say that that stuff is gross. And I like tofu. I could have mixed it with chocolate sauce and I still don’t think I’d have wanted to eat it. So goodbye to the goat’s milk / honey / cream cheese wannabe idea.

Enter soy milk. Thank goodness for it. I made a soy pastry cream which turned out to be really quite tasty. My fella said the flavour was like rice pudding without the rice, which I think is a compliment.

Crust-wise, I’d toyed with the idea of making a gluten-free pie crust from scratch but I wasn’t sure what to do about the butter. I’ve seen a few recipes that use the “vegan buttery flavour sticks” in place of butter. When I tasted it I wondered if they should be renamed salty sticks. Them be some salty sticks. So I kept it simple and made a cookie crust using gluten-free cookies. I figured they would counter-balance all the salt in the vegan butter.

I guess what I created in the end really falls more into the “tart” category, but I am going to call them baby pies because they are so darn cute and they were made for a baby and I am writing a blog about pies so I really want them to be pies. And I’m the boss around here.

Here’s the recipe:

Crust (You’ll want to double this to get about a dozen little pies):
6 oz gluten-free dairy free cookies of your choice
(I used gingersnap because that’s all I could find)
5 tbsp vegan buttery flavour sticks
scant 1/4 cup sugar (if your cookies aren’t super sweet)

Filling (adapted from here):
2 cups vanilla soy milk
1/4 cup sugar (or to taste depending on sweetness of milk)
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
vanilla bean

Top:
strawberries (or other berries if you like)
red currant jelly and water to glaze

  1. Crust: Preheat the oven to 350°. In a food processor pulse the cookies until they are ground up. Add the sugar and then add the butter and pulse until combined.
  2. Press the mixture into muffin cups to create little crusts, making sure to build up the edges enough so that they are sturdy enough to get out later without breaking.
  3. Put in the fridge for 15 minutes and then bake for about 10 minutes.
  4. Before they are fully cool, run a sharp knife around them to release them and pop them out to cool completely on a rack.
  5. Filling: in a saucepan combine 1 1/2 c of the soy milk with the sugar and the scraped out vanilla bean (with pod if you like) and bring to a boil. In a medium bowl, whisk the rest of the soy milk with the cornstarch, eggs, and egg yolk.
  6. Whisk the hot liquid slowly into the eggs until most of it is in there. Put the egg mixture into the pot and continue cooking over low heat, whisking constantly, until it simmers and thickens. Cook a minute more.
  7. Strain into a bowl and whisk now and then to cool a bit before putting plastic wrap onto the surface and refrigerating until cool.
  8. To assemble: spoon or pipe the pastry cream into each shell. Slice the strawberries in half and arrange prettily on each shell. Heat up a little red currant jelly with a splash of water to make a glaze and brush over the fruit.

Baby pie music:

And a ribbon for having a filling creamy enough to make me forget the taste of Tofutti.

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