Every summer, Phillip and I choose an autumn race to run, somewhere North of Texas. With the exception of the Flagstaff Trail Marathon we ran in September 2013, we choose an October race. The October date serves the twin purpose of celebrating the month of our wedding anniversary, and motivates us to train through the wretchedly hot, humid S Texas climate that begins in April and lasts through October. This week we are traveling up to Bar Harbor, ME, to run the Mount Desert Island Marathon. In addition to enjoying more temperate running conditions when we make our fall race pilgrimage up North, we find that we get to enjoy autumn in more quaint manner than we can in S Texas. As we drive around such places as upstate New York (Mohawk-Hudson Marathon), Northern Arizona (Flagstaff Trail Marathon), and Eastern Kentucky (Cloudsplitter 50k), the dry, chilly air and multi-colored leaves on trees remind us of the time of year in a way we don’t always get to mark back home in Texas. Additionally, we pass in these places quaint cabins and Victorian-style homes with yards and porches decorated with signs of autumn and Halloween: bales of hay, scarecrows, ghosts hanging among bronze, red, and golden leaves on trees, and pumpkins. Always pumpkins: bright orange, round, big, small. Pumpkins piled decoratively on steps, or carved into grinning jack-o-lanterns, sitting on porch posts or near fence posts. These Northern autumnal scenes are Hallmark-card perfect, but in a very nice way. Here I have to repeat (because of the topic of this post, naturally) that cliché about the arrival of pumpkins being a harbinger of change that points the way toward the trifecta holiday season: Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, along with all the accompanying celebratory, appropriately seasonal foods.
The arrival of pumpkin season means different things for different people. Some people love their pumpkin spice lattes. Other people love their pumpkin bread or pumpkin cake. People who love pumpkin can find the store shelves full of such things as pumpkin macarons, dark chocolate pumpkin spice salted caramels, pumpkin pie soda, and even chocolate pumpkin spice wine (hint: BY-PASS THIS WINE. Trust me. I impulse purchased the wine and tasted it so that you don’t have to. No need to thank me; I’m always willing to take one for the team.) Perhaps the most popular way to enjoy pumpkin this time of year is baked into a creamy, rich pumpkin pie. Despite my enormous sweet tooth, however, I actually enjoy pumpkin and other squashes most in savory dishes. One such pumpkin dish I have missed for nearly ten years since my Celiac diagnosis is pumpkin ravioli. Since I’ve finally successfully made a couple of batches of gluten-free pasta with my new pasta machine, I decided to attempt gluten-free pumpkin ravioli.
To make gluten-free pasta, I’ve returned to studying the nature of various gluten-free flours. Pasta dough needs not only to hold together to form a shape; it needs to hold together when it cooks. The more protein in a gluten-free flour, and mixture of flours, the better the pasta dough will perform when shaped and cooked. In addition to protein flours, pasta dough needs flours that will emulate gluten. The curse of gluten-free cooking, that dishes made with batters or doughs require a blend of several gluten-free flours to be successful, is also the beauty of gluten-free cooking. Some people, because of time restraints or a (blessed) preference for simplicity, are content to use one of the many fine quality all purpose gluten-free flours now available in stores. I actually prefer to have many different gluten-free flours in my pantry and refrigerator. I find that the variety of flours allows me room to be creative, and also to experiment. Having a plethora of gluten-free flours from which to choose has helped me, through trial and error, to develop a blend that seems (thus far) to be fool-proof for creating a successful pasta dough.
The blend of flours that finally produced the most successful, neutral tasting pasta dough include non-gmo sprouted corn flour, brown rice flour, sweet (glutenous) rice flour, arrowroot flour, tapioca flour, and either ground flax seeds or ground white chia seeds (either one or the other: they work equally well). I chose to use sprouted corn flour after reading that corn flour is one of the best substitutes for semolina, the flour used for making traditional pasta. I’ve been experimenting with One Degree Organics non-gmo sprouted corn flour since I first found it in Whole Foods a few months ago. Its texture is fairly smooth, and it has a transparent flavor. Because it’s made from sprouted corn, the flour’s nutrients are more easily absorbed by the body. Corn flour has a neutral flavor; therefore it absorbs the other flavors in dishes in which it’s used. This flour creates a firm structure, and combined with flours that have a higher protein / fat content, such as brown rice flour, helps to create a sturdy structure. Sweet rice flour, tapioca starch, and arrowroot starch work well in pasta dough; their binding ability mimics the binding nature of gluten in non-glutenfree flours. Finally, I use just a small amount of either ground flax seed or ground white chia seeds as a replacement for xanthan and guar gums that are prevalent in gluten-free foods.
For making and shaping the pasta dough, I use a modified version of the basic recipe and instructions by Giuliano Hazan, the only son of iconic Italian cook Marcella Hazan. Regarding the amount of flour to egg ratio, note this very important admonition by Mr. Hazan: “It is impossible to give a precise measurement for the amount of flour needed. Depending on the size of the eggs, the humidity, and even the temperature in the room, you may need more or less.” His point here is that pasta dough making is an inexact science, affected by many variables on any given day one is making pasta. Because I make my own blend of flours, I make the amount necessary for the recipe. Unlike Mr. Hazan, if I have to make an adjustment to the dough, I adjust the amount of egg. I add one egg at a time, to make sure I don’t get the dough too sticky and thus have to add more flour. I usually need all three eggs. Often I need to add more than the three eggs called for in Hazan’s recipe. Once I use the three eggs, if the dough is too dry, I add egg yolks, only, until the dough is the right consistency. Sometimes I need to add only one or two egg yolks. Other times I need to add as many as four. I choose to add egg yolks only, when the initial three eggs are not enough to form the right dough consistency, partly based on myriad other recipes I’ve read for making egg pasta dough, and partly because sometimes an entire egg adds more moisture than the dough really needs.
I also use my food processor to make the pasta dough. I feel better about using a machine to make the dough, rather than the traditional way of adding eggs to a well formed in the flour, after reading what Michael Ruhlman says on the subject:
It only dawned on me while working on the pasta dough ratio for Ratio that this well method was completely unnecessary and that I would never have to wipe egg white off my shoe again. The dough is thoroughly mixed and kneaded till smooth so how you incorporate the eggs isn’t critical. I imagine the original reason for the well method was that it saved on cleaning a bowl, but I would rather clean a bowl than my shoe and floor.
In addition to hand-mixing pasta dough, many people hand-shape it as well. I use a pasta-making machine when I make pasta. I figure that if I’m taking the time to make pasta from scratch, no one should judge me too harshly for using machines to make the task a less daunting!
Note: I bake and cook by weight. To modify recipes for gluten-free flours, I use the method recommended by Dr. Jean McFadden Layton and Linda Larsen. I blend my flours based upon the ratio of protein to starch required by the particular dish I am preparing. I’m almost positive (although I haven’t tried it myself), however, that this recipe will work just as well with 2 1/4 cups fine quality, commercial gluten-free all purpose flour.
I set my pasta machine on 5 to make the pasta sheets for the ravioli, and I use a fondant cutter to cut the pasta. After much experimentation, I found the method that works best (for me, anyway) is to mark without cutting the pasta sheet with which I am working in half, then tablespoon-size scoops of filling spaced as necessary based on the size cutter I am using to form the ravioli, then fold the other half evenly over the fillings, seal, and cut.
Gluten-Free Pumpkin Ravioli With Sage Butter
Pumpkin Ravioli Filling
1 Can pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
1 Egg yolk, lightly beaten
2 Tbs. Grated Manchego cheese
1/4 tsp.Freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp. Pink Himalayan salt
1 to 2 Tbs. dried gluten-free bread crumbs
– In a medium bowl, stir together all the ingredients until well-blended
5 Tbs. unsalted clarified butter
A dash of Pink Himalayan sea salt
About 12 sage leaves
Grated Manchego cheese for serving
Pour the clarified butter into a small fry pan and place over low heat. Add the sage leaves and heat until the butter is saturated with the flavor of the sage, 3 to 4 minutes.
100 g Authentic Foods Superfine Brown Rice Flour
100 g One Degree Organics Non-GMO Sprouted Corn Flour
100 g Tapioca starch
Egg yolk as needed
For The Pasta Dough:
-Place the dry ingredients in a food processor.
-Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
-The dough should form a silky, smooth ball at this point; if it’s too dry, add one
egg yolk and blend well. If the dough is still to dry and doesn’t form a nice,
smooth ball, add another egg yolk and blend well.
-One the dough is the right consistency (silky smooth, firm, yet pliable), form it
into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap, and let it rest at least thirty minutes.
-To make the pasta sheets, cut the disk into quarters. Keeping the quarters you are
not using covered, work with one quarter at a time-Flatten the quarter dough and feed it through your pasta machine on the zero (or
I run the piece of dough through this setting three or four times, folding the sheet of dough like a letter before sending it back through. This method prevents ragged edges.
-Lightly flour the pasta sheet as needed, to prevent it from sticking to the machine.
-Send this sheet of pasta through the machine three or four times, moving the machine setting incrementally, until you reach setting 4 or 5. When the sheet of pasta begins to tear when you send it through the machine, you have it thin enough. I find that either setting 4 or 5 leads to the best results with either ravioli or fettuccine. Sprinkle the pasta dough with tapioca starch or rice flour, if necessary, to keep it from sticking to the machine.
-Carefully lay the pasta sheet on a lightly floured surface (I use rice flour or tapioca starch sprinkled on my silicon non-stick pastry rolling sheet). Without cutting the pasta sheet, lightly mark the middle of the sheet with the tip of a
-Place the pumpkin filling evenly spaced on the bottom half of the pasta sheet.
-With a finger dipped in water or egg wash, moisten the pasta sheet around the mounds of filling, so that when you fold the top end of the pasta sheet over the filling, you can press the dough to seal before you cut it.
-Using at least a two inch ravioli cutter, a cookie cutter, or a fondant cutter, carefully cut the pasta, making sure the filling mound is centered in the cutter you are using.
-Press lightly together any edges that don’t seem sealed, to prevent the filling from oozing out while the pasta cooks.
-Lay the cut ravioli in a single layer and let set while you prepare the boiling water.