The Un-crustables

It is peach season.

Apparently the great state of Delaware has an annual peach festival to celebrate this fun fruit.

It is one of those small town affairs that includes a parade, a princess, and a recipe contest.

Whoa.

Hold the peach pit.

A recipe contest?

Sign. Me. Up.

I’ve always wanted to enter a recipe contest but had several impeding factors:

1.  I never measure anything. It’s hard to write a recipe when you never measure ingredients.

2. It’s extremely difficult to bake without using precise measurements.

3. The idea in my head and the finished product are rarely the same.

I knew I had to take my time on this one if I was going to create something worth eating and worth entering into contest. You see, Delaware thinks it is part of the South and, as you know, Southerners take their food very seriously.

Good thing I’m from the North and have a sense of humor about food. You need it when you constantly create kitchen catastrophes.

As with all of my creations, I had a vision in my head akin to sugar plums dancing in anticipation of Santa’s arrival.

Except I dreamt  of yellow cling peaches in anticipation of blowing some granny’s pie recipe out of the water.

My peach dessert needed a crust and I consider this to be the most difficult and crucial component of the whole recipe. Toppings and fillings are easier to create because they don’t require the precise measurements that baked goods do.

While visions of peach princesses danced through my dreams, gluten related food products dropped in on my nightmares. So I decided to try the crust using gluten-free flour.

Now, you can make your own gluten-free baking mix using a combination of flours, but this can cost upwards of $15.o0. No joke.

Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Baking Mix to the rescue!

God Bless Bob and his delicious, natural food products.

I purchased this for just under four dollars which is astronomical compared to wheat flour, but is a steal considering the high price of GF goodies.

Bob’s all-purpose baking flour contains a combination of garbanzo bean flour, potato starch, tapioca flour, white sorghum flour, and fava bean flour.  Garbanzo beans? Fava beans? Apparently anything can be dried and ground into flour.

According to the directions on the package, the mix needs a little assistance from xanthan gum.

Huh?

We’re getting into the weird ingredient category here.

Not to worry, xanthan gum is naturally derived and mimics the bonding properties of gluten in GF recipes.

It was a tad (ok, a lot) expensive but it pretty much lasts forever since you’re using about a teaspoon or less at a time. I made the investment considering I had about 200 years worth of pie recipes to compete with.

To make the crust, I started with 3 cups of the GF flour.

The flour was soft with with a more muted yellow-ish hue compared to bleached (blech) all-purpose flour and tasted slightly sweeter.

Then I added 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar. We’re not talking nutrition here. We’re talking dessert!

A lot of cookies and crusts use butter as the fat component, but I decided to use heart healthy canola oil. It’s inexpensive, it’s easy to store, has a long shelf life, and offers some nutritional benefits.

I started out with 2/3 of a cup of oil with the intention of adding another 1/3 of a cup but the dough was so soft and crumbly that I decided to make it both ways and do a crust- off. I patted half the dough into the pan, pressing with my fingers to make an even layer.

Then I added 2 tablespoons of oil to the remaining half.

Whoops.

That ended up making a thin batter.

I complicated the recipe further by adding another 1/4 c. flour and 1/8 c. powdered sugar.

That gave me the consistency I needed so I pressed crust number two into another pan.

The additional oil made a much thicker, denser dough without the crumble factor of the first batch.

The question is: which one would taste better?

I baked each dough in a 350 degree oven for 18 minutes.

The first batch, which had less oil baked up lighter and fluffier, with pockets of flaky crust. The batch with more oil was crispier, darker, and more dense.

If you’re thinking these look exactly the same and that I am completely bananas, I assure you, they have subtle differences. Further testing is needed to determine the winner of the crust contest.

Next up was the slice-ability challenge.

As you can see, the crust with less oil sliced evenly into two halves while the crust with more oil fractured into several pieces. I can only imagine the horrified looks on the judges faces when their perfect peach dessert crumbled at the first slice of the knife.

Next up was the taste test (which, really, I had been doing unofficially all along. This stuff was goooooood).

The added oil cookie crust is on the left and the reduced oil crust is on the right.

The crust on the left was heavy,  crispy and reminded me of a sweet biscotti. The crust on the right was more delicate and reminiscent of a shortbread cookie. They both tasted phenomenal, but the oil rich crust had a slight edge because it had a deeper, more developed flavor. This would be great on its own but I needed something that could withstand the peach topping. I thought the crust on the right would offer a better balance of flavors plus it had the added benefit of slicing into nice, even pieces.

Hubby agreed with me.

That never happens.

I think we have a winner.

At this point I should note that at some time during the experimentation period, I went back to gluten since I’m having a hard time pinpointing it as the culprit of my GI issues. I made the cookie crust again using wheat flour and, surprisingly, hubby and I both liked the GF free version better. I think it’s because it’s naturally lighter, sweeter, and nuttier tasting.

Holy crap. We just agreed. Twice. In the same day.

We definitely have a winner.

After all that baking and a long morning run, I was famished.

Despite the fact that  I just ate my weight in a bazillion tiny bites of cookie crust, I needed actual food.

This called for something serious.

Green smoothie!

In the mix:

2 cups of spinach

1 medium frozen banana

1 tbs. ground flax seed

1/2 cup almond milk.

Normally I don’t like ice interrupting my creamy smoothie experience, but I figured I could use the extra hydration. Plus, I really just wanted a full glass. None of this 3/4 of a glass crap.

Whatever you’re thinking right now, stop.

The spinach adds an element of sweet but the banana flavor overpowers any undesired veggie taste.

The flax is undetectable and adds omega 3s and healthy fats.

So all you really taste is ripe banana and nutty almond milk.

I’m going to need the fuel because now I have to come up with some sort of peach topping.

Hmmmmm………..

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