Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Paczki! (Gluten Free)

My dear friend LaRissa was recently diagnosed gluten intolerant – just in time for Fat Tuesday! This meant no paczki for her. SHOCK! HORROR! Oh, the humanity… So I did what any good friend who loves to cook and relishes a challenge would do: I googled gluten free paczki recipes. And found some! Here is the one that I chose to use as my guide.

The key ingredient, as I saw it, was the gluten free all-purpose flour. As I was about to learn on my trip to a local health food store, Arbor Farms Market, there are many varied substitutes for wheat flour, but most seemed to require mixing with some other substance, such as potato starch, or were not a perfect cup-for-cup match for wheat flour in recipes, so Tom Sawyer really did seem like the easiest and least expensive option. King Arthur also offers a GF flour. (What is with these names??)

After checking a few different stores, I never did find any rum extract, so my lovely assistant LaRissa and I ended up substituting vanilla extract (the real stuff) instead. We also used a 50/50 Splenda/sugar blend, which certainly didn’t hurt anything in my opinion. And since neither of us owns a deep fryer, I just used a fry pan with moderate olive oil puddle in the bottom. (I use this same technique for beignets, and they always turn out just fine.) We also used my mother’s technique of using a drinking glass as a biscuit cutter.

Those already familiar with GF baked goods know that they tend to come out smaller and denser than their wheaty counterparts, so if you try this recipe, don’t be disappointed by the lack of doughy poof you are used to from gluten paczki. The GF paczki did puff up! They were just smaller and denser than the paczki that the Paczki Fairy delivered to my work on Tuesday and Wednesday last. (Yeah, that’s right. I ate paczki on Ash Wednesday. And they were delicious!!)

The honey got everywhere - including on us!
Lacking a pastry bag, we decided to just douse them in powdered sugar, rendering them very beignets-like. (And now you know how to make GF beignets!) The first taste-test was positive. Then we hit upon genius. I don’t remember the details, but the suggestion was made to drizzle honey on top. PERFECTION! Pure surgary, gluten free indulgence.

Everyone out there who can no longer eat gluten, fear not. There is a plethora of products that are gluten free, and though you are not required to make everything from scratch anymore (the shelves of your local health food store are guaranteed to be lined with GF pre-made products – I even found a GF chocolate cake mix!), offerings like the Tom Sawyer GF flour make it a lot easier now than it used to be. And naturally there are tons of websites devoted to a GF lifestyle, as well. Try Gluten Free Girl and the Chef or Simply Gluten Free for your own GF high jinks.

For a first attempt at making paczki from scratch, this was a resounding success. The fact that they were GF paczki makes me feel that much more accomplished! And having for the first time a beautiful assistant baker made the process more entertaining. (As did the bottle of moscato I’d brought with me. Wine + Kitchen = Happy Shenanigans)

I received a request from our friend Katia to make chocolate paczki. Not chocolate filled paczki – chocolate dough. Having broken paczki down to the base elements like this, I think I could easily make chocolate paczki, but that will have to wait a little bit. More adventures await! Stay tuned!

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