Like many aspects of married life, joining into a family-in-law requires a certain amount of adaptation. In my case, that meant extending my idea of "birthday cake" to include a variety of other birthday desserts. I haven't queried just how this tradition began, but by the time I entered the picture, most of my husband's family birthday get-togethers included the celebrant's choice of pie. And not just plain-jane apple pie. Favourites include strawberry, pumpkin, turtle, grasshopper, and, as you might have guessed, French Silk: a creamy, chocolate custard over a crushed pecan and vanilla wafer crumb crust. I still ask for cake on an annual basis, but I have no qualms with eating my fair share of other sweet confections, nor with trying my hand at making them.
Somewhere along the line, however, my brother-in-law's health required going on a rather restrictive diet, and I was adapting again. For the most part, this has meant calling on my sister-in-law to make something her husband could eat while I made dessert for the rest of us, but now that his list of food sensitivities has settled down to a few rememberable items (wheat, milk, and refined sugar), that's started to feel like a cop-out.
Thankfully, I stumbled upon this almond flour crust recipe from A Simple Haven, and realized that wheat-less baking didn't have to be as hard as I'd assumed. Almond flour, or meal, was available in the natural foods section of our local Superstore, and the coconut oil was just down the aisle. The combined nuttiness of those two ingredients meant I could forgo finely chopping pecans, and adding an extra glug of vanilla extract beats pulverizing Nilla wafers any day. For the filling, I simply substituted coconut oil for the butter and evaporated cane sugar for the regular white stuff - otherwise, it's the same recipe I got from my mother-in-law. I found out later that my brother-in-law could, in fact, eat butter, but the coconut oil version made for such a flavourful fudgy concoction that we all agreed it was better this way.
Meet my new go-to dessert:
Gluten-Free Dairy-Free French Silk Pie
1 1/2 cups blanched almond flour
1/4 tsp (scant) table salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 Tbsp honey or whole cane sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk wet ingredients and add to dry. Stir together until thoroughly combined. Press into pie plate or parchment-lined spring-form pan. Bake at 350ºF for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool.
3/4 cup coconut oil, room temperature
1 cup + 1 Tbsp evaporated cane sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla
3 squares melted unsweetened chocolate, cooled
3 eggs, coddled
1 handfull pecan pieces (optional)
Cream coconut oil and sugar. Add vanilla and chocolate, stir until combined. Using an electric mixer, beat in eggs one at a time on medium speed, 4 minutes per egg. Pour onto cooled crust and smooth out with a spatula. Sprinkle with pecan pieces. Cover and refrigerate until set.