So what exactly is the challenge this month?
The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.
The basic design is thin layers of pasta, layered with béchamel and ragu sauces, of course I can't use the normal pasta and béchamel sauce but they had thought of that and supplied gluten free recipes which was utterly fantastic of them!
With great regret I didn't use their ragu sauce as I couldn't get half the types of meat in it but do go and check out one of the hosts blogs to see the original recipe as it sounds fantastic. Instead I made my own sauce which I have added to the recipes at the end of this post.
So what was making fresh gluten free pasta like? Surprisingly unpainful and the end result was well worth it. Considering how time consuming lasagne is anyway making the pasta from scratch as well isn't really that much more time and while we were warned it would be much more brittle than normal pasta I still managed quite easily to make sheets big enough to cover the whole of my pan. The corn base made a very tasty pasta and I have plenty left to try other ways.
I also learnt a new way of making béchamel as I've always made a rouge. In future I will be using this method and certianly suggesting it to himself to use.
#1 Gluten Free Egg PastaThe choice of the first flour is personal. Mary suggested corn flour because the subtle taste blended well with the dish. However, this is a matter of personal taste – please feel free to substitute a different flour for the corn flour but don't subsititute a starch.
150 gr corn flour or masa in North America - yellow with a slightly gritty feel (250 mL, 1 cup) NOT a starch
100 gr corn starch* (3/4 cup, 187.5 mL)
100 gr tapioca flour* (225 mL, 9/10 cup or a little over 7 volume ounces)
150 gr of potato starch* (250 mL, 1 cup)
100 gr of glutinous rice flour* (200 mL, ¾ cup) (I didn't have this so subbed half and half corn starch and tapioca starch.)
10 gr of Xanthan powder (1.5 tsp, 7.5 mL)
10 gr of salt (1 tsp, 5 mL)
6 extra large eggs (60 gr each or 2.5 oz in weight, 1 fluid oz in volume)
3/8 cup of water (95 mL)
50 mL of extra virgin olive oil (1/5 cup)
Note: If you add cooked chopped spinach to this recipe, you may have to reduce the water. The recipe was not tested (yet) with the addition of spinach.
*fine white powder that squeaks when rubbed between fingers
Plastic wrap or parchment paper for your work surface
Aluminium foil to cover the lasagne
Sift all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients.
Whisk together 3 eggs, the water and/or spinach, and the oil. Pour into the middle of the dry ingredients. Mix with a sturdy wooden spoon, gradually drawing more of the flour mix into the wet ingredients. Add each egg as needed. The dough will be crumbly at the beginning but will gradually come together as you add the eggs. You will need to use your hands to squeeze and mix the dough.
The dough will be firm and stick together when ready. It will not have the elasticity of gluten dough therefore it will crack when kneaded and pushed. Form it into a smooth ball, oil it lightly, and cover securely with plastic wrap. Let it rest for an hour.
Put a sheet of plastic wrap on your work surface. This is very important as the dough will not hold together very well when lifted. Have flour ready for dusting (corn flour etc) and dust the surface lightly. Cut a piece of dough about the size of really large egg – it doesn’t matter the size but start small for the first one to gauge how much space you need. Keep the remaining dough covered so it does not dry.
Roll the dough into a ball and flatten into a disc with your hands. Put it on your work surface and flatten with your hands. Use a rolling pin and gently push the dough down and out ward from the centre. You may have to place one hand on the plastic wrap as you push the dough down and away. Gluten free dough does not stretch like wheat dough therefore it needs gentle flattening and pushing. If it breaks, pat it back together. If it is too dry, dab a little water with your finger.
The gluten free dough will be thicker than wheat dough and you will barely be able to see your hand through the dough. Once it is flattened, cut into strips or squares that will fit your pan.
Set the dough aside on the plastic sheet. There is no need to dry the dough. But if you do dry the dough, it will not be able to hang because it will break. Stack the rolled out dough with plastic sheets in between.
Stack the sheets when dry and wrap securely. Store in the fridge until ready to use. Freezing will make the dough crumbly and difficult to work with – so freeze only as a last resort!
This dough does not need to be precooked before being assembled into the lasagne.
#2 Gluten Free Béchamel - White Sauce2 & 2/3 cup milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter or Extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons corn starch (fine white and squeaky) – another starch can be substituted
Salt and pepper to taste
Freshly grated nutmeg
Mix the corn starch with ½ cup of cold milk. Heat the rest of the milk in a small sauce pan until steaming but do not boil. Add the milk/cornstarch mixture to the steaming milk. Stirring constantly, raise the heat and heat the mixture until thick. Once it is thick, remove it from the heat and add the butter, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Have the béchamel warm or at room temperature ready to assemble the lasagne. Whisk the sauce occasionally if it becomes stiff or thick.
#3 Ragu - meat sauce
- beef mince
- a shallot
- several cloves of garlic
- passanda (tomato purée)
- salt and pepper
Assembling the Gluten Free Lasagne
The assembly is the same as the regular lasagne with the addition of water. Gluten free lasagne noodles need a little more moisture for the lasagne, so you will be adding a little bit of water to the lasagne.
Before assembly, pour plain water into the pan, enough to form a thin film of water over the bottom. A 9 x 13 inch or 25 x 33 cm pan required almost ½ cup (125 mL) of water.
Spread a thin layer of béchamel over the bottom of the baking dish. Arrange a layer of about four overlapping sheets of pasta over the béchamel. Spread a thin layer of béchamel (about 3 or 4 spoonfuls) over the pasta, and then an equally thin layer of the ragu. Sprinkle with about 1&1/2 tablespoons of the béchamel and about 1/3 cup of the cheese (I used cheddar). Repeat the layers until all ingredients are used, finishing with béchamel sauce and topping with a generous dusting of cheese.
Once the lasagne is assembled, pour a tablespoon or 15 mL of water into each corner of the dish. Cover the lasagne tightly with aluminium foil. Be careful not to touch the top of the lasagne with the foil.
Cover the baking dish lightly with foil, taking care not to let it touch the top of the lasagne. Bake 40 minutes, or until almost heated through. Remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes, or until hot in the center (test by inserting a knife – if it comes out very warm, the dish is ready). Take care not to brown the cheese topping. It should be melted, creamy looking and barely tinged with a little gold. Turn off the oven, leave the door ajar and let the lasagne rest for about 10 minutes. Then serve. This is not a solid lasagne, but a moist one that slips a bit when it is cut and served.
This lasagne was baked in a glass baking dish. Adjustments in time and temperature may be needed if your dish is metal!