I have never baked with gluten-free flour before.

When I starting reading about gluten-free flour substitutions for the theme this month, I was overwhelmed.  Very quickly I uncovered a range of different flours people use in substitution for standard wheat flour – potato flour, rice flour, tapioca flour, soya flour.

And, even more interestingly, I discovered that people had their favourite blend and mix of these flours to achieve a certain result.  I was so impressed by all the baking trial and error that obviously had gone into finding those special combinations.

But these are all new considerations for me, someone who lives unaffected by allergies.

For my ‘Allergy-free baking‘ month, I wanted to include a favourite of mine.  Pastry.  Just a simple tart pastry.  I looked to adapt a previously used pastry recipe and switch out regular flour for a gluten-free flour mix, and use vegetable shortening to replace butter.  I figured that would be a good place to start in this gluten-free voyage.

I admittedly did not find making this pastry that easy.  The texture and consistency of the pastry was significantly different, and much more delicate and fragile to handle.  But, with an injection of patience, I managed to create some sweet fig jam tarts.

This is turning out to be an interesting (and educational!) baking journey.

{ Gluten-free, dairy-free fig tarts } adapted from Star Topped Mince Pies by Nigella Lawson

* Ingredients *
1 1/2 cups of gluten free flour
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
Zest of 1/2 orange
Juice of 1 small orange
½ cup fig jam
Gluten free icing sugar for dusting, optional

* Directions *
Measure the flour out into a shallow bowl or dish, and using a teaspoon, dollop in little mounds of shortening.  Add the zest.  Combine with your hands and put in the freezer for 20 minutes.  Measure out the orange juice and put in the refrigerator.  Empty out the flour and fat into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until you have a pale pile of oatmeal-like crumbs.  Add the juice down the funnel, pulsing till it looks as if the dough is about to cohere; you want to stop just before it does (even if some orange juice is left).  If all your juice is used up and you need more liquid, add some iced water.  Turn out of the processor and, in your hands, combine to a dough.  Then form into two discs.  Wrap each in plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator to rest for 20 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 220/425.  Roll out the discs one at a time as thinly as you can without exaggerating.  Out of each rolled out disc cut out circles.  Press these circles gently into moulds and dollop in a scant teaspoon of jam.  Then cut out your stars and place them lightly on top.  Re-roll pastry as required.  Bake pies for 8-10 minutes.  Cool on a rack and dust with icing sugar (optional) before serving.

Makes 2 dozen finished pies