Contending with a gluten-free diet can be a serious challenge, especially when it comes to dessert. Even treats that are mostly free of flour, such as cheesecake, often contain gluten in the crust. Rather than giving up such indulgences altogether, try making a rich, crumbly alternative that uses ground nuts as a substitute for wheat flour.
Although you can create a gluten-free crust that consists only of ground nuts, sugar and melted butter, the crust isn’t likely to hold its shape without a less oily ingredient in the mix. An Epicurious.com recipe suggests combining 1/2 cup of ground walnuts or pecans with 1/2 cup of brown sugar, 1/3 cup of melted butter and 1 1/2 cups of dry quick oats, which you can leave as flakes or pulse in the food processor to create a finer texture.
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Nut crusts may have rich flavor, but their crumbly texture doesn’t always hold up well when you’re cutting into a cake or trying to carve out a bite. If it’s important that your cheesecake have stability as well as substance, consider mixing ground nuts with a product such as gluten-free flour mixture, gluten-free cereal or gluten-free cookies that you’ve pulsed in the food processor. Toss the ground nuts and flour or cookie crumbs with about 1/2 cup of brown sugar and drizzle in melted butter until the crust is stable enough for you to press it into a springform pan. Bette Hagman, author of “More from the Gluten-Free Gourmet,” suggests mixing ground nuts, melted butter and brown sugar with crushed gluten-free corn flakes, shredded coconut and rice bran.
Not all gluten-free nut crusts need to be baked. If you’re making a raw cheesecake, just choose a no-bake recipe, prepare your crust ahead of time and pour in the filling when you’re ready to let it set. However, if your recipe calls for a lot of nuts, you can get a richer flavor and a crispier texture by toasting the nuts ahead of time or baking the crust at high heat for a few minutes before pouring in the filling and baking again.
Because nuts are naturally high in fat and calories, a gluten-free cheesecake crust that features them isn’t light. An AllRecipes.com crust that calls for only ground walnuts, butter and sugar contains about 150 calories and 14 g of fat per slice without any filling. Another recipe that combines crushed pecans with sugar, butter and cinnamon has closer to 265 calories and 25 g of fat per serving without filling. To save fat and calories with nut crusts, cut small slices and serve them without accompaniments such as ice cream and whipped cream.
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