Shauna, the Gluten Free Girl herself, set up her own holiday gluten free challenge in an attempt to help those with gluten intolerance find options for their holiday meals.
Even though my contribution here is outside my normal vein, not exactly gentle in the calorie department, it's almost Thanksgiving and I can't resist tossing a decadent treat in the mix.
When it comes to feeding my clients who need to keep a gluten free diet, I more often than not go with items that are naturally gluten-less rather than go down the substitute ingredient road.
One of my favorite flour free pastries is a dacquoise: layers of almond or hazelnut meringue usually layered with ganache & chocolate buttercream.
For the holiday I chose to make a pumpkin version with candied cranberries on top to add a tart, acidic counter point to the pumpkin's rich creaminess.
Dacquoise aren't really hard to make but there are a lot of steps involved. Also, they don't have the shelf life of a regular cake. You want to eat them relatively quickly, within a day or two.
That's why I don't make them all too often. For a holiday however, when you are feeding a crew of family & friends, they are a nice, decadent treat.
Pumpkin Dacquoise with Candied Cranberries
almond meal (or ground almonds) 1 cup
granulated sugar ½ cup
egg whites 10 (about 1 ½ cups)
cream of tartar 1 tsp
superfine sugar 2 cup
vanilla extract 2 tsp
Toast almond meal in 350 degree oven until golden brown. Remove from oven & allow to cool slightly, 3 – 4 minutes.
Stir nuts & ½ cup granulated sugar together & set aside.
Reduce oven temperature to 225 degrees.
Whip egg whites & cream of tartar in mixer on med-high speed until soft peaks begin to form. Gradually add in superfine sugar and vanilla and continue to whip to stiff, glossy peaks.
Gently fold nut mixture into meringue.
Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Using the bottom of a 10 inch spring form or cake pan as a guide, draw 4 circles in the paper. Using a piping bag with a wide, plain tip pipe out discs of meringue in a spiral fashion filling in the circles.
Bake meringue in oven at 225 degrees for 1 ½ hours, turn the oven off and continue to dry for another 1 ½ hours. Check to make sure they are completely dry.
pumpkin puree 1 cup
heavy cream ½ cup
white chocolate 12 oz chopped
ground cinnamon ½ tsp
ground cloves ¼ tsp
ground ginger ¼ tsp
unsalted butter ¼ cup (½ stick) cut into small pieces
Heat pumpkin puree and cream over med-low heat in a heavy bottomed sauce pan until close to but not quite boiling. Be sure to keep stirring to make sure it doesn't scorch.
Remove from heat and stir in white chocolate until it is melted and blended in. Add in spices then stir in butter one piece at a time until smooth. Cover & refrigerate.
Pumpkin Butter Cream
unsalted butter 1 ½ cups (3 sticks) room temperature
pumpkin puree 1 cup
ground cinnamon 1 tsp
ground allspice ½ tsp
ground ginger ½ tsp
vanilla extract 1 ½ tsp
confectioners sugar 3 cups
Cream together butter, pumpkin and spices in mixer. Add in sugar one cup at a time and beat until smooth.
fresh cranberries 4 oz
sugar 3/4 cup plus more for coating
water 3/4 cup
Bring water and sugar to a boil until sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat & pour syrup over cranberries. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Drain cranberries and toss with sugar to coat. Lay berries out on a baking tray to dry for one hour.
Lay on meringue round on a flat plate or cake circle. Using a bag with a star tip pipe a ring of buttercream around the outer edge of the meringue. Then pipe a small rosette in the center of the circle the same height as the ring.
Note: I actually forgot that last little part when I made mine. That's why the tip of the the slice of cake sunk down a little when it was cut. The buttercream adds stability as well as richness.
Now spread a layer of ganache inside the buttercream ring.
Place the next meringue circle on top of the first layer and gently press down with light, even pressure being careful not to crack it. Although it's not the end of the world if you do.
Continue the same filling procedure for the next two layers.
Top the final meringue circle and garnish with candied cranberries & toasted sliced almonds.
I used almonds for this recipe but because, I had them on hand. Given my preference and a little less laziness, I'd go with hazelnuts. They have a touch more "woody" nature to their nutty flavor that I bet would lend itself well to this dish.