I confess: Thanksgiving is just two weeks away, and I'm stumped for a dessert to serve my food-allergic children.
Here's my dilemma: Traditional cakes tend to have an overabundance of eggs and milk in them. And pies have been out of the question because, until recently, I've been unable to find a recipe without eggs, dairy or nuts. Also, until a few months ago, my daughter Talia reacted to the wheat in baked goods with incessant sneezing fits, hives and watery, puffy eyes. And I'd never been brave enough to tackle a piecrust made totally from scratch.
After Talia asked if we were going to have "pie like other families have on Thanksgiving," I sent a query to moms in the NC FACES (North Carolina Food Allergic Children Excelling Safely) support group. I pored through cookbooks and consulted a pediatric nutritionist and local cookbook author for help.
NC FACES member Theresa Nguyen sent me a recipe for a Chocolate Tofu Pie; cookbook author Sheri Castle shared a tofu chocolate mousse recipe and Lesley Stanford, a pediatric nutritionist at Duke, offered a recipe for a piecrust made from scratch. (The recipes are on the Indy's Big Bite blog; see "Related Stories" below.)
Emboldened by Talia's recent tolerance to wheat, I pulled out a bag of flour, salt, dairy-free vegetable shortening and a cup of ice water.
I mixed two cups of flour with a teaspoon of salt. The recipe called for "cutting" the shortening in with a pastry blender, but I didn't have one. I used a plastic spatula and spoon, gradually dropping spoonfuls of shortening into the flour mixture and mashing it with the back of the spatula until the mixture resembled coarse crumbs.
I added tablespoons of ice water into the mixture until it became soft, pliable dough. I divided the mixture into two orange-size balls, then rolled the first one with a rolling pin until it was roughly a quarter-inch thick and spread in a pie-pan-shaped circle.
The whole process took about 10 minutes.
I patted the dough into the pan, placed it in the refrigerator overnight (a few minutes would've sufficed) and took it out the next morning. I prebaked the crust in a 350-degree oven for about 15 minutes.
In a saucepan I mixed sugar, cocoa, water and cornstarch over medium-high heat while constantly stirring for about six to eight minutes. It seemed an eternity, but the thin, watery mixture eventually began to thicken like pudding. My kitchen was infused with the rich, unmistakable scent of aromatic chocolate. After adding the margarine and vanilla, I chilled the pie for three hours. The "Old-Fashioned Chocolate Pie" looked and smelled delicious. But would it deliver? Talia and Ty had never had pie before, so the initial silence, coupled with chocolate-stained lips and empty plates, spoke volumes.
"It's yummy," exclaimed Talia. Ty agreed.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
2/3 cup dairy-free vegetable shortening
6–8 tbsp. ice water
Mix flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Using a pasty blender or fork, cut in vegetable shortening until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Mix in ice water one tablespoon at a time, until the dough begins to form a ball. Dough should be moist enough to stick together without crumbling, but not overly wet. Divide dough into two balls. Roll dough to quarter-inch consistency. Place one rolled crust into pie pan. Chill for a few minutes and bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes. Recipe courtesy of Linda Coss.
Old-Fashioned Chocolate Pie
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup cocoa
2 cups water
1/4 cup flour or cornstarch
1 tsp. vanilla flavoring
1 tbsp. (dairy-free) margarine
Baked piecrust or graham cracker crust
Mix first four ingredients and cook over medium or high heat until thick, about six to eight minutes. Stir all the time the mixture is cooking. Add the vanilla and margarine; stir until dissolved. Pour into crust. Chill 3 hours before serving. Recipe courtesy of Patsy Ray.
Joyce Clark Hicks can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.