Making Alternative Crostoli (Gluten-free, Egg-free Crostoli)

Every family has their “It’s not Christmas without…” recipe, in our family that recipe is my Mum’s crostoli dipped in homemade wine syrup (otherwise known as vino cotto). But the original version is made with wheat flour, and some people even make them with egg. So a few years ago when my niece was diagnosed with coeliac disease I developed a gluten-free recipe. That original recipe had egg and,  I said at the time that one day I’d give an egg-free version a try. Here is the outcome of that experiment…

Christmas “Crostoli”

Ingredients

  • 250g Orgran® All-purpose gluten-free flour (due to my own food sensitivities, I haven’t tested this recipe with other gluten-free flours).
  • 2 ½ tablespoons demerara sugar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or refined liquid coconut oil (liquid coconut oil is an isolated coconut oil that doesn’t set at cold temperatures, see Top Tips)
  • ¼ -½ cup water
  • Olive oil for frying

Toppings

Method

  1. Measure flour out onto a flat surface (you’ll need a bit of room and its going to get very floury!). Make a well in the centre of the flour and add the sugar, and olive oil; mix together to make a dough.
  2. Add warm water (10-20ml at a time) until the dough is stretchy, but not sticky.

3. Roll the pastry dough out with a rolling pin to ~1cm thickness and cut in strips ~4cm wide. Use a pasta machine to roll the pastry through the thickest setting and then repeat through thinner settings until the final thickness is ~1-2 mm without tearing it. If you don’t have a pasta machine, use your rolling pin with a lot of flour and patience. My family makes the crostoli very thin, but I’ve seen them also prepared much thicker and biscuit-like.

4. Using a pastry cutter or a knife, cut the thinly rolled pastry into ribbons ~2-3 cm wide and 6-8cm long for a bow or holly-shaped crostoli and 10-12 cm long for wreath shapes. If making holly-shaped ones, just pinch the centres. For wreaths, pinch every 2 cm along and then cross over 1 pinch in each end to make a wreath. Although, because the gluten-free dough is not as flexible as the wheat-based dough, I’d recommend not cutting the strips too wide (so they don’t break when you pinch the centres) and not making wreaths as they may break when you’re cooking them.

4. In a frying pan, heat approximately 250-500ml olive oil. Don’t add the crostoli until the oil is hot otherwise they will become soggy and taste too oily (also the vino cotto or molasses won’t stick). The oil is hot enough when the pastry sizzles and floats; if the pastry sinks and looks sodden, it isn’t hot enough.

5. Once the oil is hot enough, place enough crostoli to cover the pan’s surface; as soon as they turn a golden colour turn them over (just be very careful of oil splashing; I use tongs) and remove when both sides are cooked (try not to overcook or allow the flour to burn because the taste of the burnt flour sediment permeates the cooking oil and detracts from the flavor of the pastry).

6. When the crostoli are removed from the heat, place them onto an airing rack for a few minutes and then transfer to a separate rack where they are directly on a paper towel to remove some of the oil. Change the paper towel to absorb the excess as needed. The crostoli may be served at this point by sprinkling vanilla sugar and some ground cinnamon atop.

DIPPING THEM IN VINO COTTO

  1. Although you can eat them “plain” with a little vanilla sugar, my favourite way to eat them is dipped in vino cotto (cooked wine). To do that, heat 250 ml of vino cotto in a frying pan on low (don’t let it burn or it will taste very bitter) and dip the crostoli for 5 seconds on each side when the syrup is runny.
  2. Transfer the dipped crostoli to a plate (or a glass container) and sprinkle with ground cinnamon. If you have enough to layer, sprinkle the ground cinnamon between the layers.

DIPPING THEM IN MOLASSES

  1. Since not everyone has access to my family’s special homemade vino cotto, a couple of years ago, I found that an alternative was to dip them in molasses. Yes, the taste is slightly different, but they still taste pleasant (although, considering how many memories are tied up in the vino cotto version for me, that will always be my favourite:-). Anyway, to coat the crostoli in molasses, heat 250 ml of molasses in a frying pan on low (as with the vino cotto, don’t let it burn or it will taste very bitter). Once heated up and runny, dip the crostoli for 5 seconds on each side in the syrup.
  2. Drain off the excess syrup and then transfer the crostoli to  a plate (or a glass container) and sprinkle with ground cinnamon. If you have enough to layer, sprinkle the ground cinnamon between the layers. I find the taste evolves and they tasted even more like mum’s traditional wine syrup the next day!

Top Tips

If the crostoli are too oily the vino cotto won’t “stick” so make sure you soak up what you can with paper towels first.

My mum makes her crostoli very thin, these wont be as thin as those because the dough isn’t as stretchy as the wheat-based dough. So I’d suggest using the thinnest setting on your pasta machine that you can without making the dough tear as you roll it through.

If you find the molasses too thick, you can thin it out with carbonated water  (use ¼ cup soda water to 1 cup of molasses).

You could make the crostoli with olive oil, or any liquid oil, suitable for cooking, that you like the flavour of. I made this batch with a new liquid coconut oil as an experiment, but my Mum’s original recipe contains olive oil and I’ve made them with olive oil previously.

You can find this crostoli recipe in The Little Book of Italian Recipes (available in January 2018).

If you’d like some more “traditional” Christmas Recipes (e.g. ginger bread, shortbread, Christmas pudding with custard and more, check out The Little Book of Allergy-Friendly Christmas Recipes (2nd Edition)(available now).

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