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Table Talk » Gluten-free culinary heaven (part 3)

The last day of the Gluten-Free Culinary Summit was a Hands-On Holiday Baking session. We worked in groups of four or five. Each session started with a demonstration of the recipe, then we worked on it at our tables while the instructor walked through the room offering advice. We didn't bake any of the recipes we made, we were learning how to mix and form the doughs.

Holiday baking isn't complete without sugar cookies. So, first up was Chef Wendy Vietro, Pastry Chef/Owner of Ursula's European Pastries (Cranston, RI). Chef Vietro demonstrated Traditional Holiday Sugar Cookies. After her demonstration, each table mixed a batch of the sugar cookie dough. Wendy gave us some great tips about working with the dough. Her tips included making sure that the butter was very soft before mixing the dough. This helps avoid a crumbly dough. She also showed us a "cheat" for rolling out the dough: rolling pin rings. I've seen pictures of these but I've never seen them in use. My favorite rolling pin is tapered so the rings won't work on it. I'll have to get a new rolling pin to try them. Chef Vietro also told us how to use this recipe to make Russian Tea Cookies and also a pistachio coated thumbprint. She shared how she grinds nuts in a Zyliss rotary grater. What a great tip. Chef Vietro's dough went together easily and was easy to roll out and cut. At the end of the session we all received a package of cookies made with the sugar cookie dough.

Our second demonstration was presented by Chef Lee Tobin of Whole Foods Market Gluten-Free Bakehouse. Chef Tobin demonstrated a Gluten-Free Raspberry Linzertorte. This linzertorte has a hazelnut-based crust, but it can be made with walnuts or almonds. A tip that Chef Tobin gave us was to toss the cubes of cold butter with a bit of the flour to keep the butter from sticking to itself when you cut it in. We were also instructed to form the dough into a round before rolling it out. And to roll the dough out on parchment. The linzertorte has a bottom crust that is spread with raspberry jam, then topped with a lattice crust. For this session, the dough was already made; we rolled out the bottom crust and placed it in the tart pan, spread it with the raspberry filling, then rolled out the top crust and cut it into the strips for the lattice and placed the lattice on top of the filling. Rather than making a large tart, we can use this dough to make thumbprint cookies. At the end of the session, we all got a small piece of the tart to try. It was delicious!

Next up was Judith Mann, owner of Good JuJu Bakery (S. Yarmouth, MA), to demonstrate a Holiday Braided Cinnamon Fruit Bread, which she said was like a fruit cake, only better. This dough had yeast to help it rise in the oven. It was scented with cinnamon and studded with dried fruit. She included instructions for mixing in a stand mixer or mixing by hand. Our group mixed it by hand. The dough was very thick and hard to mix (I did most of the hand mixing). When I make this, I'll mix it in the stand mixer. The bread is braided, but rather than braiding ropes of dough, the bread is made in a La Forme braided loaf pan. I'm not a fan of traditional fruit cake, but this bread was delicious. I was thinking about what a great peanut butter sandwich it would make.

You can't have holidays with pies, so in our last session, Chef Renee Zonka from Kendall College demonstrated Traditional Pie Crust. Her crust is made with both butter and shortening. What I loved about this demo is that Chef Zonka went through the ingredients in a pie crust and described why she choose each of the ingredients in her gluten-free pie crust. Her pie crust uses both butter and shortening and she freezes the butter and shortening. Rather than white rice flour, she uses sweet rice flour, which is finer ground and less gritty than white rice flour. Her flour mixture also includes sorghum flour, which has properties similar to wheat flour. Xanthan gum pulls the dough together, vinegar softens the dough, and baking powder lightens the dough. I've made gluten-free pie crusts and I've never been 100% happy with them. I'm looking forward to working with this recipe. Another thing I learned is that when I cut the fat into the flour mixture, I've been working it too much. I need to leave larger bits of fat in the dough. At the end of this demonstration, we got pieces of a baked crust to try. It was light and flaky. Much better that the gluten-free crusts that I've made before.

These baking demonstrations were great. It was fun to get our hands on the doughs to see what they should feel like and to get tips from the chefs to help us to improve our gluten-free baking. It's one thing to watch a demonstration, but when you get to participate, you learn so much more.

Again, Suzanne Bowland of GF Culinary Productions, Inc. did an outstanding job organizing and running this conference. I left the conference with so much knowledge and inspiration. I plan to attend future summits. Thanks Suzanne, for the incredible opportunity to learn from the presenters and the attendees.

Posted September 28, 2008 6:23 PM in Gluten-Free, Miscellaneous

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2 Comment(s)

Kris said… (on September 29, 2008 at 08:39 AM #)


Your description of the GF culinary seminar is amazing. What an awesome event! Thanks for sharing your experiences - this sounds like it was wonderful!

Debby said… (on September 29, 2008 at 17:37 PM #)

Thanks for sharing, Patti. I was not able to go this time but hope to attend next years conference.


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