Last week at work I got the news that I am going to be working in one of our other teams for the next two and a bit weeks. The work I am going to be doing isn’t particularly hard, but it requires more focus than my usual position, and is great practical experience in things I only studied on a theoretical basis in my post-graduate study. Naturally, I am nervous as all hell.
I know this weakness in myself. When faced with a shift in focus, a challenge that I know in my logical mind that I am perfectly capable of achieving, my not-so-logical mind takes over and pumps up the anxiety levels.
I wish I could approach work challenges and changes the way I approach challenges in the kitchen: work out the science, be methodical in the creating, put all my heart and soul into it, and see how it goes. Lose or win I have tried my best and (most of the time) the results are yummy, or I learn from the experience and take those lessons into my next attempt.
What I’m saying is, I wish my work-life could be more like pie. Pastry has never been my strong suit, and gluten free pastry has been on the list of challenges that I have yet to attempt with gusto. But, on the weekend, I strapped on my big-girl
panties apron, got out my frozen butter, various flours, and got my hands dirty experimenting with a basic press-in pie crust. This summer is going to be the Great Pie Experiment summer, which is going to mean lots of challenges, a few failures, lots of learning, and some leaps of faith. )Also a lot of running and lifting of weights.)
This tart crust is the best to start with if you are either: a) new to cooking pies and tarts (like moi), b) new to cooking gluten free, or c) afraid of cooking things that fall into category a) or b). There is no kneading, rolling, lifting, cutting or any such tricky thing involved in this savoury tart. You simply make up the crust, allow it to chill for a while, then press the crumbs evenly into a lined and oiled tart pan. It’s just like making shortbread.
The trickiest thing is getting your crust even along the bottom and the sides, and if you make a few mistakes there, no one will know because we load the center of the tart with fresh summer tomatoes, herbs, and fresh mozzarella cheese. If someone does notice, tell them it’s a rustic summer tart. ‘Rustic’ forgives all inconsistencies.
After some time in the oven, the tomatoes will have deepened and sweetened their natural flavour, and the bright soft baby mozzarella will have melted into cheesy pockets. Trust me, you want cheesy pockets in your life. The reward vs. output for this gluten free savoury tart is high. This is a challenge you can win.
Vegetarian | Gluten Free | Serves 4 -6 as a light meal
Note: If you do not require this to be gluten free, just use 140 grams (about 1 cup) of plain flour in place of the first four ingredients.
Note: Xanthan gum is available in supermarkets and health food stores. It helps with the elasticity of the dough.
- 35 grams sorghum flour
- 35 grams brown rice flour
- 35 grams white rice flour
- 35 grams buckwheat flour
- 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
- 50 grams butter, frozen
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons ice-cold water
- 275 grams (about 8 small) roma tomatoes, halved
- 2 tablespoons fresh chopped oregano
- 2 tablespoons fresh chopped basil
- 100 grams mini bocconcini (or firm fresh mozzarella)
- Measure your flours and xanthan gum into a medium bowl. Whisk until well combined.
- Use a box grater to grate your frozen butter into your flour. This is the best way to get small pieces of butter into your dough. Gently ‘rub’ your butter into the flour until it looks like a course meal. You can use your hands or a pastry cutter to do this.
- Add salt and pepper and lightly mix to distribute.
- Measure in 3 tablespoons of iced water and stir until the dough starts to come together.
- Tip crumbly dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap. Do not bother trying to knead it all together. Wrap tightly and press into a flat disc. Chill in refrigerator for 30 minutes.
- Preheat your oven to 180C (350F).
- Oil the bottom and side well of a 7-inch (18 cm) removable bottom tart tin, and line the bottom with baking paper.
- Remove chilled dough from the refrigerator, tip into the bottom of the tart tin and press dough even around the bottom and up the sides of the tin.
- Bake for 5-10 minutes or until the bottom looks dry but is still pale.
- Slice tomatoes in half and place in partially baked tart shell cut side up. Sprinkle with chopped herbs and dot the mozzarella between the tomatoes.
- Bake for a further 20 minutes or until the tomatoes have started to blister and the mozzarella is melted.
- Remove from oven, allow to cool slightly before cutting and serving with a large green salad.
Okay dear readers, who is ready for this challenge? What should my next pastry experiment be?