Week 22: macaroon truffle pie of perfection

Coconut is a divisive ingredient. A little like coriander or anchovies in the way that people seem to either adore it or despise it. Coconut is a magnet to me. In a bakery, if something has coconut in it, I will find it and I will want it. Add chocolate and I will want it even more. So it’s no surprise that this pie called to me, because it is really like a macaroon’s more sophisticated cousin. Once you’ve tasted it, you will know that it is hard to classify this pie. It’s a little bit like the best chewy chocolate macaroon you’ve ever tasted, and a bit like a Bounty bar, and a bit like a fine dark truffle. All. At. Once.

I swear.

To make this scenario even more perfect, I am happy to report that it is dead easy. Probably the easiest pie I’ve made so far in this venture.

So go make one.

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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… Continue reading

Gluten-free vegan pie: the life of the party?

We are just over a week away from celebrating the first birthday of our dear friends’ little one. Let’s call her “the Nut.” (I can do this because it is her for real nickname. I am not a mean auntie). This kid is lucky because her parents are the coolest for all sorts of reasons, one reason being that they are a-mazing cooks. Dad is a professional pastry chef and Mom is just naturally a genius in the kitchen. Needless to say, you anticipate eating at their house weeks in advance. They are the sort of people who put together a dining “experience”: multiple snacks and appetizers, a main with all sorts of elements, and a dessert that makes you swoon (sometimes several). And they do all of this with complete ease, wandering out of the kitchen to chat and turn up the music and have a drink and hang out. Your glass is always full. The spicy olives / homemade feta and roasted pepper dip / garlic bread bits are plentiful. They are natural cooks, completely relaxed. Their love of food is not just about eating; it’s also a real love of making food,. They enjoy the process. I don’t think everyone who cooks can make this claim.

So for the Nut’s first birthday, her Mom is planning a picnic. (I told you she was cool, didn’t I?) I have offered to make pie, since that’s my thing right now. There’s just one problem. The Nut has a gluten / dairy sensitivity. I more or less live for gluten and dairy and so have never been at all motivated to explore the world of gluten-free or vegan baking. Of course, Perfectionist Me wants the birthday pie to be the best gluten / dairy-free pie possible. I’m feeling a little… lost (intimidated, anxious, clueless…).

I think I will start by considering Gluten-free Girl and the Chef’s piecrust. Perhaps with berries tumbled in? A little vegan ganache? (I cannot believe I just typed those two words together). If you have advice, please, do not be silent.

Whatever I come up with, I wish I had time to order some of these adorable wedge-shaped pie boxes from Petit Moulin because you’d have to love a piece of pie – vegan, gluten-free, conventional – that was wrapped up like a birthday present like this, just for you. Here’s hoping gluten-free vegan pie turns out to be the life of the party and not a perfectionist’s nightmare.