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Top Shelf: Coconut and thyme short-crust pastry

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Over the past few years, my preference sheets have become more and more restricting as awareness of popular food trends and allergies increases. This means that either I split myself in five and make individual meals for everyone, or I make dairy-free, vegan and gluten-free appealing to everyone.

This recipe, which is vegan and dairy-free, has some hidden benefits as well. By replacing the butter with coconut oil, we add the health benefits that coconut oil offers (healthy support for brain and heart, skin, immune system, metabolism, etc.) with absolutely no sacrifice in taste or consistency. The filling can be either savory or sweet, and the flour can even be replaced with a gluten-free alternative. This recipe makes 10 mini muffin-sized pies.

Healthy is the way forward, so get on board with it and make it delicious.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (plus more for rolling)
  • 1/2 cup fresh thyme leaves (no stem)
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1 cup coconut oil (not liquid form, chill it a little to reach a more solid state)
  • 5-10 Tbsp. cold water

Top Shelf: Coconut and thyme short-crust pastry

*Optional: 1/4 cup egg wash (or milk, or water) for binding and glazing pastry.

Place all ingredients except the oil and water in a food processor and blend for one minute. Add the coconut oil and blend again for 30-60 seconds, until the texture resembles that of bread crumbs.

Set the food processor to low speed and slowly pour in the cold water a little bit at a time. The dough will form a ball and come together — this is when to stop adding water.

Remove the dough ball from the food processor, wrap it in cellophane and (ideally) let it sit in the fridge for at least one to two hours.

When ready, place the dough on a floured surface and roll it out until it is 1/4″ thick.

Cut 4″ rounds, place them in a greased muffin tin and bake them blind (using parchment paper topped with weights or dried beans to prevent the pastry from bubbling up and to create a protective barrier so we can place a filling into our pies).

Bake at 375⁰F for 15 minutes, remove the parchment and beans, and add the desired filling (see note on fillings below).

Roll out 10 rounds of dough, each 1/2″ thick and 3″ in diameter, and place them over the filled parcels. Use an egg wash (or milk, or simply water) with a pastry brush to seal the lid to the base and poke a few holes in the pastry tops to allow moisture to escape while cooking and to ensure a crisp pie top.

Add a little more egg wash (or milk or water) to the tops of the pies and a sprinkle of sea salt, then bake for a further 20-30 minutes at 375⁰F, or until golden brown.

Serve immediately or cool completely and freeze.

Note on fillings:

You can be creative with the fillings, depending on the dietary restrictions at hand.

The pictured pies are filled with curried potatoes, sweet garden peas, fresh cilantro and reduced coconut cream. This fragrant filling totally detracts from the fact that these are vegan. By simply braising the potatoes slowly in coconut cream with sautéed onions and curry spices, then adding the cilantro and garden peas when the coconut cream has reduced by half, there could not be an easier filling with such flavor yield.

I have also used such fillings as charred leek with kale and feta; blistered tomato with smoked mozzarella; and a cooked mixture of 12-hour braised lamb shank with spinach, mushrooms, red wine Demi and feta.

Mark Godbeer has been a yacht chef for more than 10 years (chefmarkgodbeer.com). His recipes are designed for the owner and guests. Comments are welcome at editor@the-triton.com.

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