For many years gluten-free flour was a mystery to me. There were only a few brands, all with different ingredients in unknown proportions and the brands couldn’t be exchanged for each other as they behaved differently. I toyed with the idea of making my own mix, but that seemed a bit complicated as I didn’t use the flour that much. GF flours have improved quite a bit in the last year or two and my daughter who cannot tolerate gluten often asks me to make different cakes and sweets, and many of them work out well (like sticky date pudding), my Sicilian Apple cake and a chocolate zucchini cake. But buttery short-crust pastry had eluded me until quite recently.
I was at the Italian Food and Wine festival a few months ago when Vince from Ardor Gluten Free called me over to his stall. He was making some gluten free gnocchi at the stall, lovely pink-coloured ones made with beetroot. I had followed Vince for some time on Instagram as I was impressed with the look of his gnocchi. I am always on the lookout for improvements in my GF gnocchi recipe, which I make during cooking classes so I headed over. Some cooked gnocchi were being handed out in small bowls, as tasters, so I gave them a try – they were very very good, the texture was better than mine in fact. I started talking to Vince about the flour he uses and to get some tips. After a long chat he said he would send me some samples of his flours. He has different types for different purposes: bread flour, plain flour, self-raising flour and a gnocchi mix. I haven’t used the bread flour yet but love the Ardor Gluten Free gnocchi flour (the gnocchi turn out comparable to potato gnocchi made with regular flour and seem hardier) and I have been using the plain GF flour for sweets. I have made the pastry below on several occasions, usually as a fruit tart and cannot fault it. It is easy to work with and the texture of the cooked tart is lovely.
Because of their success I have been making a lot of GF shortcrust tarts – as much as I love apples, pears and quinces, I am relieved to finally have fresh berries at the market as it means that Spring is here. Strawberries, blueberries and raspberries are all in season, sweet and ripe, and I couldn’t be happier. The lovely little bowls with little pourers on them with the blueberries in them (photo at the start of the post) are made by Rose Jensen Holm. Rose interviewed me for her journal a few months back (link to the article is here) and she sent me the three little bowls as a gift. Rose makes the prettiest ceramics; I love them. Here is a link to her online shop if you would like to take a look.
I love serving fruit tarts with (as my brother-in-law Chris would say), an unguent. The one I love most of all is mascarpone, but frankly it is not great quality in Australia, sort of grainy and quite expensive. My friend Julia has a recipe for a home-made version in her new cookbook Ostro (you should check it out if you haven’t already, it is gorgeous) which I have made a few times. All you need to a pot of cream, lemon juice and a bit of time (you need it to rest in the fridge overnight). It works a treat and I have jotted down the recipe from Julia’s book below.
- my friend Fabrizia Lanza has launched a new kick-starter campaign – this time for a film called Amaro, that brings to life the narrative of Sicilian food and culture through the exploration of a single taste: bitter. It sounds very exciting! Click here to find out more and here to support the campaign
- I will be travelling back to Italy in a few weeks (yay), visiting Rome, my beloved Trieste, Puglia (to attend the Puglia Encounter Workshop) and then on to Sicily to run an autumn workshop from 1 November to 6 November 2017 at the Anna Tasca Lanza Cooking School. They could still squeeze one or two of you in to the workshop if you are keen, so click here to find out more!
- I will be running another workshop in Sicily at the Anna Tasca Lanza Cooking School in 2018 and this time around it will be the start of SUMMER. I have never spent summer in Sicily so I am very much looking forward to this one. If you have ever thought about visiting this unique cooking school in the Sicilian country side (and the winery it sits in), exploring traditional Sicilian food and culture and cook with me, please consider coming along. It will be lots of fun. Click here to see the 6-day detailed program (which has a “book now” button on it for enquiries directly to the cooking school). Or email me via the contact form at the end of this post
- I have just about finished writing my second cook book Adriatico, I have submitted the photos and the manuscript will be in by the end of the month. YES! I am very happy with how it has come together, there are many hundreds of location photos of the beautiful Adriatic coast of Italy, and of the people who live there as well as 84 recipes. Thanks SO MUCH to all the recipe testers for getting back to me with such useful feedback. I look forward to working with the editors and designers at Smith Street Books over the next few months to pull it all into a book. I hope it will be ready for release some time in the first half of 2018.
- Last weekend I ran a lunch for a group of six friends. We made three courses (potato gnocchi, gnocchi alla Romana and a shortcrust fruit pastry) then sat down at my dining table for a meal with a glass or two of wine. It was a huge amount of fun. We made all the food together at my kitchen bench earlier. You could call it a cooking class lunch. I will be running more of these lunches in 2018, at this stage you will have to find a group of six who would like to book and we can come up with a menu together. It makes a great birthday celebration. I will also be running my regular cooking classes in 2018, so click here to have a look at the classes or contact me via the contact form below to arrange a bespoke cooking-class lunch.
Now onto the recipe for this glorious (gluten-free) Spring tart served with mascarpone….
gluten free short crust rustic crostata with home made mascarpone
to make the crostata:
150g gluten free flour (I use Ardor Gluten Free; Casalare is also good)
1/4 teaspoon salt
110g unsalted butter, cold, cut into small dice
1/2 lemon, zest only
1 heaped tablespoon jam (plum or blueberry)
125g blueberries, washed and dried
a bit of extra sugar for sprinkling
to make the mascarpone
500ml cream (thickened is fine)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
If you are making the mascarpone, you need to start this the night before. Place the cream in a small saucepan and place on medium heat until the temperature reaches 90C, stirring occasionally – it will froth up quite a bit when it reaches the temperature so be ready to take it off the heat so it does not boil over. I stir it quite a bit with a wooden spoon while it is heating so it heats evenly. Once it has reached the required temperature, stir in the lemon juice and return it to the heat. Keep cooking and stirring at medium heat so that the cream is just simmering for 5 miutes. remove form the heat and allow it to cool. Prepare a doubled-over piece of muslin over a fine mesh colander, and place that over a bowl. Place the cream in the muslin, cover and place in the fridge. The cream will set and will be beautiful thick mascarpone the next morning. Store in a glass container for up to three days.
To make the pastry, place the flour, sugar and salt in a bowl and give it a quick whisk to incorporate the ingredients. Next work in the butter with your fingertips until it resembles a fine crumb. If the butter feels like it is melting, place the bowl in the fridge for 5 minutes before proceeding. Next drop in the egg, stirring it with a spoon and then bringing it together with your hands. If it is too sticky, add a bit of flour, and if it is a bit dry, add a bit of cold milk. Knead briefly to form a ball and then place it on a sheet of cling film. Place another sheet of cling film on top and flatten the dough to a rough disc with a rolling pin. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes before proceeding.
Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a tray with baking paper. Remove the pastry from the fridge and with a rolling pin, roll it until it is a 30cm diameter circle (keep the two sheets of cling film in place otherwise the pastry will stick to the rolling pin or your work surface). Remove one of the sheets of cling film, and flip the pastry circle onto the lined tray. Remove the top layer of cling film. If the pastry feels a bit soft, put the tray in the fridge for a few minutes. Scatter the lemon zest onto the inner part of the pastry circle (leaving a 3-4cm border), then spread the jam onto the same area using the back of a large spoon. Assemble the fruit on the jam and then fold the edges of the circle over, using the baking paper to help you so you do not warm the dough too much. Put in the fridge briefly if needed. Sprinkle sugar on the pastry edges and bake for 40-45 minutes until golden.
Serve at room temperature with a dollop of mascarpone on the side. The crostata will last for a day or two, covered.