rustic squash tarts

When I write, I listen. I do the same when I cook. While I write with silence or should I say white noise and even on occasion Beethoven or Rachmaninov, I cook to music. Which changes, depending on the recipe. Today it’s alt-rockers The Cuban Cowboys’ latest album, Diablo Mambo.

The band is frenetic, as if the Pixies, Tom Waits, and the Buena Vista Social Club morphed into one. A mix of Latin, punk, and surf rock defines the band. Their second album titled Cuban Candles is as slow as their first is frenetic.

Singer and guitarist, Jorge Navarro writes songs about his Cuban heritage and the Cuba he recently visited for the first time, which differs the 1950’s version his family knew.

In the words of George Bernard Shaw (as quoted on the Cowboys’ website), “If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance.”

And cook.

Music becomes the layer of sound before the dryer’s hum and beneath the whisk’s clanging inside an aluminum bowl.

Rustic squash tarts. They’ll be on our Thanksgiving menu this year, minus my go-to pastry made with white spelt flour. On occasion, I cook and bake gluten-free. Not from necessity, but from desire to share good food with everyone at the table, regardless of a wheat or gluten sensitivities or intolerances.

I turn to Shauna and Danny’s new cookbook Gluten-free Girl and the Chef for guidance on making gluten-free tart dough and adapt a sweet tart recipe from the book. You can enter to win your own copy of the book on Shauna’s blog as well as other kitchen must-haves like a Kitchen Aid stand mixer and a collection of gluten-free flours to bake with among others.

Two months ago, I sat at a table with them at Hancock Shaker Village for a book signing which was more of a discussion about food and what we all like to cook. I picked up a copy of the book and within a week, I had read it cover to cover. The recipes call you to the kitchen, as do the stories. I drank in every word and breath of it before I baked their crusty gluten-free bread and eggs with taleggio.

Now, the tart dough.

squash filling for rustic tarts

After preparing the squash filling, I begin the work of fine-tuning gluten-free tart dough. I don’t mess with the recipe too much. Ground walnuts are added while a bit of sorghum flour is subtracted. The cinnamon is out along with a tablespoon of sugar.

gf tart dry mix

I weigh a mix of gluten-free flours: sorghum, tapioca, sweet rice with potato starch, ground walnuts and a hint of sugar and salt.

grated butter on gf tart dry mix

Sift, twice. Then grate frozen butter over the mound of fine grains.

gf tart dough with egg

Add the egg and ice cold water. Mix until the dough comes together.

gf walnut tart dough

Shape the dough into a flat round and chill overnight.

gf tart dough cut

Bring the dough to room temperature. Cut the dough into sixths.

Roll out the dough. Fill with squash.

Fold the dough over the filling and pleat.

Brush with an egg wash and bake until golden brown.

gf rustic squash tarts

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Either way, you won’t miss the gluten.

Rustic Squash Tarts
adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison
Yield 6 servings

Gluten-Free Tart Dough, see recipe below
2 ½ pounds butternut squash (or other winter squashes such as buttercup, red kuri
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 cup onions, finely diced
1 small head garlic, cloves separated but not peeled
12 fresh sage leaves, chopped, or 2 teaspoons dried
½ cup freshly grated gruyère cheese
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
sea salt
fresh ground pepper
1 egg, beaten

Prepare the Gluten-Free Tart Dough. Preheat the oven to 375F. Cut the squash in half, scrape out the seeds, and brush the cut surface with oil. Stuff the garlic into the cavities and place the squash cut side down on a sheet pan. Bake until the flesh is tender, about 40 minutes. Scoop out the squash and squeeze the garlic cloves. Mash them together with a fork until fairly smooth, leaving some texture.

Heat the butter and olive oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sage and cook until the onion is soft and beginning to color, about 12 minutes. Add it to the squash along with the grated cheese and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and bring it to room temperature, about 1 hour.

Divide the dough into 6 smaller pieces for individual pastries. Shape into balls, and wrap the unused pieces of dough on the counter wrapped in plastic wrap. Roll out each piece of dough between 2 pieces of parchment paper, into 4-inch rounds. If the dough falls apart or sticks to the parchment, it’s okay– repair any open seams with extra dough (and unlike gluten flours, you can’t overwork the dough). Spread the squash filling over it, leaving a border of 1 ½-to 2-inches. (Note: you will have extra filling, enough for three more individual tarts, so you may want to make two batches of dough and roll it thicker). Pleat the dough over the filling; brush the pastry edges with beaten egg. Bake until the crust is golden, about 30 minutes.

Gluten-Free Tart Dough
adapted from Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef by Shauna James Ahern & Daniel Ahern
Yield 6 individual tarts

½ cup raw walnuts, ground
¼ cup sorghum flour
½ cup tapioca flour
½ cup potato starch
½ cup sweet rice flour
1 tablespoon raw cane sugar
½ teaspoon sea salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) frozen unsalted butter
1 large egg
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon ice-cold water

Grind the walnuts in a coffee grinder until fine. Sift the sorghum flour, tapioca flour, potato starch, and sweet rice flour into a large bowl. Stir in the sugar and salt. Sift into another bowl and add the ground walnuts.

Grate the frozen butter into the dry ingredients. Use your hands to mix the dough just until it feels like cornmeal.

Whisk the egg and water together in a small bowl. Make a well in the center of the flours. Stir in the egg mixture until you can bring the dough together into a ball. Press it into a disk, wrap with plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour, or overnight if possible.

For more holiday menu inspiration, check out these Gluten-Free Thanksgiving Dishes.


  1. Tara Barker says

    These sound and look delicious! I love the combo of sage and squash. And anything baked in a tart dough is bound to be good, in my opinion. 😉

  2. Mr. Jackhonky says

    Oh it looks fantastic! I bake and cook to music as well, and I often mention what I listen to when I'm baking for my blog posts. I'm so glad I'm not the only one!

    Ground walnuts sounds like a great addition to the squash tart! I use a lot of almond flour, but it never occurred to me to make other "nut flours"! Lovely! Thank you for that inspiration!

  3. FOODalogue says

    Congratulations on top 9 today. I'm not a baker but just asked my readers for advice on how to slide into baking. This is perfect b/c I want to meld savory with sweet.

  4. Mariko says

    This is beautifully written. I rarely come across blog posts that are as tasty to read as eat.
    If there is such a musician (a mix of the pixies, waits and buena vista) I am definitely going to check it out. Sounds like a dream.

    Oh, and the tart. :)
    Looks divine. As inadequate as that word is, here.

  5. Lexie | Lexie's Kitchen says

    Well, you've taught me something new. Grating butter. Thanks for that super tip! Enjoyed your post and your site.

  6. Amy says

    I love Shauna's blog! I've been meaning to pick up the book for many months now…I think I shall be going on Amazon tonight.

    The tarts look amazing…thanks for sharing! I'm starving.

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    I love browsing your site for the reason that you can always bring us fresh and cool things, I think that I should at least say a thank you for your hard work.

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