Do you ever develop emotional attachments to your cookbooks? I certainly do – I tend to get sentimental about books anyways, but especially my cookbooks – after all, they have been with me through some failures and successes, repeated trials, discovering new techniques and all of the crazy adventures that go with learning how to cook. For example, I feel like Marcella Hazan taught me pasta in her Classic Italian Cookbook. The first time I made it I totally freaked out, but her directions were so clear that after reading I felt like she gave me all the confidence I needed. Confidence is really the most important ingredient in cooking. You have to believe in what you are doing – like if you try to make macarons and get all nervous and anxious about it, I’m convinced that the cookies somehow know and will misbehave accordingly. Or maybe I’m just very superstitious But over the years, I have come to depend on my cookbooks always being there, offering guidance when I felt lost.
So you can imagine the small feeling of panic when I realized I could not bring my entire library of cookbooks (well, enough to fill a couple bookshelves at least) with me across the ocean. I told myself I could find whatever I needed online or buy them again here. I ended up bringing just a couple of books and making the decision of what to pick was agonizingly painful, it was like saying good bye to a long time friend. So now I am here, and when my parents came to visit a few weeks ago they brought me a gift – a cookbook from Ladurée – there couldn’t have been a better housewarming gift (well, maybe the macarons that they brought too, those were pretty darn good – and naturally gluten free!). I love the soft velvety cover and gold lined pages, it feels so special. And I’m totally going to use the ribbon as my bookmark, haha. Translating and cooking from it (as it is in French) will definitely be a learning experience, and I fully intend to be able to convert the recipes I make to be gluten free. I decided to start with a basic tarte shell, the pâte sucrée aux amandes.
The first time I made some basic apple tartes and the 2nd time I changed my proportions around a bit and decided to make David Lebovitz’s tarte au citron. It’s fantastic by the way, and the next time I may be tempted to not even bother with the shell and just eat the lemon curd straight out of the pan. I almost sat myself down on the couch and did just that after tasting, it was so irresistible – but I managed to bring myself to pour the curd into my tarte shells and set them in the fridge overnight. That took an unbelievable amount willpower! But anyways, back to these tartes. They worked really well both times – gluten free crusts are not so hard because there is no stretching or rising required in a crust, so gluten is not so important. But there are still some techniques that make working with gluten free dough a little easier, and I totally cheated and did most of this in the food processor. I think my 2nd attempt at the crust had more flavor, so it’s the recipe I am showing here.
I apologize up front for not having volume measurements. One of my first purchases for my kitchen was a scale. It reads in grams. I am a chemist, mass and metric units make sense to me, and everyone should really weigh their ingredients anyways – if you are going to take the effort to measure out your ingredients you might as well be precise and accurate. If you don’t believe me, then believe Michael Ruhlman – he knows what he’s talking about and describes just about how much variation volume measurements can have. Mass measurements are definitely the way to go.
Adapted from Ladurée – Sucré
Ingredients (for four 4″ tarts):
65 g almonds or hazelnuts, pistachios, whatever is your favorite
120g butter, cut into pieces
70g powdered sugar
60g potato starch
60g rice flour
40g finely ground buckwheat flour
1. Pulse nuts in a food processor until you have formed a meal. If the oil released from the nuts causes them to clump together too much like in a butter, add in a little bit of the powdered sugar.
2. Pulse in the butter, then powdered sugar and salt, then egg.
3. Mix together the gluten free flours in a bowl, and then gradually add to the dough, pulsing only enough for all of the dough and the flour to be incorporated. Then take the dough with your hands and form it into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and stick it in the fridge for a couple hours. You want the dough to be really cold to work with it.
4. Take out of the fridge, and separate the dough into 4 parts. Put the other three back into the fridge, you only want to work with one at a time. Roll out the dough between two sheets of plastic wrap until it is thin – you want it a little less than 1/4″. To transfer to your tarte dish, peel off the top layer of plastic wrap, take it in your hands, and gently flip it onto your dish. Then carefully peel off the other layer of plastic wrap, and press into your dish. Trim any lose ends, and prick the bottom with a fork. Do the same with the other 3.
5. To bake, preheat oven to 350F, cover it with foil that has been greased and weigh down your tarte shell (beans, pie weights, etc.). If you don’t, the shell will puff up and the sides will fall down. It will still be tasty, but you will just end up with a thick tarte bottom instead. Baking time will depend on the thickness of your dough – mine took around 20 minutes. Keep in mind that I am doing this all in a glorified toaster oven because I don’t have an actual oven in my apartment, so it’s not like I could digitally set the temp and the temp may not have been exact.