Recipe: Swiss Pumpkin Pie – Tarte à la Courge

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Are you looking for a dairy-free dessert for Thanksgiving? If so, please check out my recipe below for an elegant Swiss tart that can be made with either squash or pumpkin.

Our Third Swiss Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving week has arrived, and 2014 marks our third time celebrating this very American holiday in Switzerland. This Thursday, my son will go to school and to his piano lesson. My husband will go to work. In the evening, we’ll all meet back at home for a small-scale version of Thanksgiving—although this year our turkey may be in the form of Fondue Chinoise (the boys love it, and it’s easy for a weeknight!).

I feel thankful this year for many things, but in terms of food allergies, I’m overjoyed that my son is “only” allergic to milk, and there’s a good chance he’ll outgrow it. We had three food challenges this year, two of which were negative and allowed us to introduce new foods into his diet—almonds and raw/undercooked eggs. Then, in January 2015, he’ll begin a new round of milk-based food challenges, starting with baked milk. With cautious optimism, I’m beginning to imagine what life could be like for my son, if he outgrows all of his food allergies. Fingers crossed!

In the meantime, we’re still living dairy-free in Switzerland for him. Our Thanksgiving will be free of milk products again this year, but I love being able to use eggs without any concerns—especially when making a Swiss-style pumpkin pie: Tarte à la Courge.

Courge actually means squash in French, but you can use pureed citrouille or potiron (pumpkin) instead. When I made it this week, I used one large potimarron squash, like those shown in the photo below. This tart has a delicate squash flavor that’s complemented by a cinnamon and sugar topping and a thin, sweet layer of crushed speculoos cookies underneath.

Please note: If you’re looking for a dairy-free, egg-free and soy-free pumpkin pie, we used a recipe last year from the Kids with Food Allergies Foundation’s online community.

Tarte à la Courge (Squash Tart)

Recipe adapted from Recettes du terroir neuchâtelois by Francis Grandjean (2002).

Makes one large tart in a 28-cm (11-inch) diameter pan.

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350 grams dairy-free pâte brisée (i.e., an American-style pie crust. My husband makes this for me, as I have absolutely no patience to do so. His favorite recipe calls for vodka and comes from Cook’s Illustrated.)

50 grams dairy-free speculoos biscuits, crushed (I used Biscoff cookies)
2 eggs
50 grams sugar
7 grams vanilla sugar (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
200 ml almond milk
50 ml soy cream (or another non-dairy cream)
50 grams all-purpose flour
700 grams squash or pumpkin puree (I roasted and pureed a potimarron squash)

A few dashes of cinnamon
100 grams sugar

1. Grease the pan with dairy-free margarine and line it with parchment paper. Roll out the dough for the crust and gently lay it in the pan. Using your fingers, press the dough into place in the pan, making sure it’s evenly spread out.

2. Prick the crust in several places with a fork, and then sprinkle and spread the crushed cookies on top of the dough—only on the bottom, don’t worry about the sides.

3. Whisk together the eggs, almond milk, sugar, vanilla sugar, soy cream and flour until well-blended. Then, stir in the squash or pumpkin puree. Pour the mixture gently into the prepared pan, and spread evenly.

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4. Sprinkle some cinnamon over the top of the filling, and then sprinkle the sugar evenly over the cinnamon.

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5. Bake at 200°C/400°F for 35-40 minutes until filling has set, and the crust has browned slightly. Allow to fully cool and then serve with a generous dollop of dairy-free whipped cream.


Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! If you have any allergy-friendly recipes to share, please leave a comment below. I’m still planning our menu for Thursday…


Thanksgiving 2013

Yesterday marked our second Thanksgiving in Switzerland. I know some expats wait until the weekend to celebrate when they’re not working or in school, but for some reason I have this steadfast rule about celebrating holidays (and birthdays) on the actual day they occur. Last night, after we finished up our Thanksgiving-themed playdate with eight rambunctious children, I quickly pulled together a turkey dinner for our immediate family.


Rather than preparing the whole bird, I just cooked up some turkey breasts with fresh sage. We also had stuffing, potatoes with red onions from the Zibelemärit, arugula salad, chestnut rolls and pumpkin pie. My pie-baking husband made the pumpkin pie, which we also served during the playdate to some non-American friends who had never tried it before. He used an excellent pumpkin pie recipe I found from Kids with Food Allergies (dairy/egg/soy-free).


Even though we weren’t with our family in the United States yesterday (although Skype certainly helped), cooking and eating these Thanksgiving foods somehow made me feel more connected to them. These traditional foods and our memories of past Thanksgivings also help teach our boys about this very American holiday, even though we’re celebrating in Switzerland. We have so much to be thankful for, and I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

I also wanted to say a big thank you to Hansine Johnston at World Radio Switzerland for letting me talk briefly on-air about Dairy-Free Switzerland yesterday. While I rambled on a bit during my first radio interview, I really appreciated this opportunity. Bon week-end!

Bundt Day 2013

Happy Bundt Day! To celebrate this wonderfully ridiculous holiday, I made three Bundt Cakes (my fourth cake was particularly bad, so I won’t even mention it). Today’s cakes do not contain milk, eggs, tree nut or peanuts.

Bundt #1: Fresh Currant Bundt Cake

I served this Bundt for breakfast. Honestly, it didn’t turn out as well as the last time I made it back in August. Therefore, I won’t be posting a recipe for this one today. I need more practice!


Bundt #2: Chocolate Bundt Cake with Speculoos Glaze

Last night, I made a vegan chocolate Bundt cake using a recipe from Tasty Kitchen. For the glaze, I used my favorite speculoos treat—Karamellgebäck Creme (a.k.a. Biscoff spread). The boys and I ate this for dessert after lunch today, and both of them gave it two thumbs up.


Bundt #3: Butternut Squash Bundt Cake with Spiced Vanilla Icing

I made several substitutions for this recipe from Fine Cooking, and after two others cakes, I finally got it right today. It takes time to grate all the butternut, but it’s worth it. We especially like the icing and candied ginger combination. I’ll post the recipe with my substitutions next week.


I hope you all had a wonderful Bundt Day 2013! My train for Geneva leaves soon, so I need to get packing. Bon week-end!

Halloween 2013: Spiderweb Cookies and Savory Monsters

Yesterday was Halloween. Since we’re Americans, we had to eat a ridiculous amount of candy and wear silly costumes—even though we live in Switzerland, where the holiday only has a subtle influence. For example, my 6-year old made a bat at school filled with a small bundle of chocolate candies. At the same time, none of the students went to class in a costume.

I tried to convince my son to dress up as Clark Kent with his Superman t-shirt peeking out of a button-down shirt. It seemed like an easy way to celebrate Halloween at school, without drawing too much attention to himself. He still wasn’t buying it. So, like last year, we donned costumes during a festive Halloween dinner at home. We ate by carved-pumpkin candlelight.

Halloween Dinner

For dinner, I made “Spooky Shepherd’s Pie” with savory little mashed potato monsters. I was inspired by Isa Chandra’s vegan version. Instead, I used Joy of Cooking’s Shepherd’s Pie recipe with ground beef. Since they were out of cilantro at the store, I pureed some spinach to color the mashed potatoes. Finally, I made the arms (or horns, depending on your point of view) with pretzels instead of fresh thyme because it was a little easier/faster, and I thought the boys would like it too.


After dinner, we trick-or-treated in our apartment, if you can imagine that. My husband handed out candy from behind our bedroom doors. He played a different character each time he opened to door to our boys, who enthusiastically yelled “Trick-or-Treat!” Our 2-year old got a few Enjoy Life chocolate bars, and our 6-year old got some mini-candy bars.

For dessert, I made Chocolate-Cinnamon Spiderweb Cookies. It’s a recipe I ripped out of Cooking Light years ago for my son when he was going through a Spiderman phase. This time, I added cinnamon and made them dairy and egg-free. The recipe makes a small batch, so it’s quick to prepare.



Chocolate-Cinnamon Spiderweb Cookies

Adapted from Cooking Light’s August 2003 recipe.


1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup dairy-free margarine, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla sugar
3 tablespoons canola oil

2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons soy or rice milk

Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F.

1. Combine flour, cocoa, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt, stirring well with a whisk. Place softened margarine and sugar in a separate mixing bowl and beat together until fluffy. Add vanilla and canola oil, beat well. Add flour mixture; beat until well blended.

2. Turn dough out onto wax paper or aluminum foil; shape into a 6-inch/15-cm log. Wrap log in wax paper or aluminum foil. Freeze 2 hours or until very firm.

3. Cut log into about 15-20 slices, and place slices on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake for 10 minutes or until set. Remove from pans; cool completely on wire racks.

4. For the icing, combine powdered sugar and milk substitute in a medium bowl; stir well with a whisk until smooth. Spoon into a small plastic bag; seal. Snip a tiny hole in 1 corner of the bag. Working with 1 cookie at a time, circles onto each cookie. Starting at center circle, pull a wooden pick through other circles at regular intervals to create a “web.”


I hope you all had a happy and safe Halloween. Bon week-end!

My Husband’s Dairy-Free Apple Pie

My husband doesn’t do a lot of the daily meal preparation, especially since I became a stay-at-home mom over a year ago. Even so, he’s an accomplished baker, particularly when it comes to pies. He originally picked up the talent from his mother, who as a former home economics teacher, had him baking at a young age.

Since we learned about our son’s multiple allergies over a year and a half ago, my husband hasn’t tried making an allergy-friendly pie—until last weekend.


The Impact of Food Allergies on Marriage

When it comes to managing my son’s food allergies, I generally take the lead—planning the menu, reading labels at the store and preparing the meals, for example. This works for my husband and I, but managing our son’s food allergies can add a layer of stress to our marriage once in a while, even though it’s become so much easier for us over time.

Apparently, we’re not alone. A 2010 study found 1 in 4 parents of food-allergic children reported that food allergies caused a strain on their marriage. I can’t imagine a marriage or relationship in which managing a child’s food allergies wouldn’t have some impact. I’m curious about other current research, if any, on this topic. If I find out more, I’ll be sure to share it.

Fresh Apple and Currant Pie

After my long run on Sunday morning, I came home and found my family around the dining room table making pie. It was a wonderful sight, for so many reasons. Our 5-year old was cranking the peeler/slicer/corer with apples picked up at the farmers’ market the day before. Our 2-year old was stirring a huge bowl of the sliced apples mixed with sugar, cinnamon and lemon juice. My husband had made the pie crust already, which was chilling and firming up in the fridge.



My husband made his favorite pie crust recipe dairy-free with vegetable-based margarine. Other than that, he didn’t have to make any other substitutions for my son’s allergies (milk, raw egg and almond). When asked about sharing his recipe for the apple and fresh currant filling, he responded with this: “I didn’t measure, I didn’t taste. I just mixed and dumped.”



So, while my husband and I don’t always have the same approach to managing our son’s food allergies, we always make it work. He’s my partner in parenting and always has been. Among so many other things, I feel grateful for his help and support. Plus, he certainly knows how to make a great pie the whole family can enjoy. I’m very lucky.

This week, I’ve been foraging for elderberries and also working on a new Bundt cake. More to come! Hope you’re having a good week.

Independence Day and Summer Vacation

Yesterday was the Fourth of July here in Switzerland. No fireworks, no grilling and no patriotic desserts. I had considered baking a flag-themed cake—like the gorgeous one below my friend made in Massachusetts—but didn’t have the patience to do it.

patriotic cake

Instead, I talked with my 5-year old about the Fourth of July. We also checked out a podcast and some videos from Colonial Williamsburg, which another friend had recommended. Per usual, I made a cake for the holiday, but it was a dairy and egg-free hazelnut tart that still needs perfecting.

Summer vacation officially starts today, as it’s my 5-year old’s last day of school. At the schools here, it seems traditional to hold a serious fête for the last day with costumes, parades and dancing, etc. We’ll be attending our son’s “cortége” or parade this afternoon, which winds its way through downtown. I’m washing up his blue Superman shirt now, so he can wear it with his dragon costume.

After today’s school festivities, I’ll be heading to Montreux for the first night of the jazz festival, and then off to Interlaken in the early AM. As always, I hope to discover some new Swiss culinary treats. Bon week-end, everyone!

Remembering Boston Creme Pie

On Sunday afternoon, I was listening to Leonard Cohen and baking a Boston Creme Pie. Beantown was on my mind last week—starting with the explosions on Marathon Monday and ending with the manhunt that caused an unprecedented, citywide shutdown. We had friends and family running and watching the marathon that day. While I was confident they would all be okay, we had some tense moments waiting to know for sure.

Boston Marathon 2013: Elite runners in Brookline, before the explosions

Boston Marathon 2013: Elite runners in Brookline, before the explosions. Photo: C. Stacy

According to an article from yesterday’s Washington Post, the Greater Lowell region—where we lived before moving to Switzerland—was hit hard by the terrible events in Boston. If you would like to make a donation to help those most affected by this tragedy, Boston Mayor Menino and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick have established The One Fund. Or, you can make donations directly to those in need, as we have done for Celeste and Sydney Corcoran, a mother and daughter badly injured by the explosions.

When bad things happen, I often seek out opportunities to cook and bake. Situations like these can make you feel helpless, but you can always bake a cake for your family, friends or neighbors who may need support or just some general cheering up. So, when Nordic Ware posted on Facebook recently about making a Boston Creme Pie to honor its namesake city, I decided to try an allergy-friendly version.

We ate the original Boston Creme Pie almost a year ago at Parker’s Restaurant in Boston when my mother was visiting us from Minnesota. I remember it as a light and fluffy cake with just the right balance of delicious creme filling and chocolate frosting. Their recipe calls for seven eggs, along with lots of butter, cream and toasted almonds—ingredients we avoid these days because of our little guy’s allergies.

To create a safe version of this famous dessert for my family, I modified an allergy-friendly recipe I found online. Even though the pastry creme in the middle didn’t achieve the fluffiness I had hoped for, the finished product still resembles the real thing in taste (and hopefully a little in appearance too?!).

Dairy/Egg/Nut-Free Boston Creme Pie

Dairy/Egg/Nut-Free Boston Creme Pie

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend. My husband is back home after spending all of last week on a work trip. While we’re thankful to be together again as a family, our thoughts are with everyone affected by the tragic events in Boston last week. Be Strong Boston!

Lots of Gâteaux and Homemade Easter Chocolates

On Saturday, we finished our grocery and farmers’ market shopping early to avoid the crowds. Everything shuts down on Easter Sunday and Monday, so we stocked up in preparation for the holiday. As usual, one of our local chocolatiers had the most beautiful treats, including some gorgeous Easter cakes.

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Inspired by these beautiful cakes, I tried adapting three gâteaux recipes over the weekend. While my baking experiments tasted good, their appearance needs some perfecting. Stay tuned…

Once again, my beleaguered family had to endure all of my baking. We’ve had so much cake recently, my youngest son assumes every meal involves cake. The other night when my husband put corn bread on the table to accompany our chili, the little guy shouted with glee, “Cake! Cake! Cake!” He has most definitely inherited my sweet tooth.

Homemade Easter Egg Truffles

Yes, it’s true. I should have ordered some dairy/egg/nut-free chocolate bunnies in advance from an online retailer for Easter. However, I already had some allergy-friendly jelly beans from the United States my mother brought during her last visit. So instead, I ended up making my own little chocolate egg truffles, using cocoa powder and some of the only allergy-friendly chocolate I’ve found in Switzerland so far (that’s actually made in the UK).

First, I made some vegan chocolate fudge. Then, as it cooled, I shaped it into little eggs (or what I hoped looked like eggs). After that, I put them in the freezer, and while they hardened, melted some dark chocolate in a bowl over some boiling water. Finally, I dipped the fudge-eggs into the melted chocolate and cooled them on a wire rack. Some got sprinkled with cocoa powder.


I was delighted when my food-allergic son first saw them on Easter morning and said, “egg,” because I really thought they looked more like poop. The chocolate didn’t totally harden, so maybe another round in the freezer would have helped. Regardless, the chocolates tasted good and were (thankfully) well-received by both my boys.


I hope you had a happy and safe Easter! I’ll try and post one of my new favorite cake recipes this week. Just a little more practice to get it right…

Thanksgiving Playdate

For our first Thanksgiving in Switzerland, I decided on a whim to host a playdate with some of my oldest son’s classmates. It was wonderful having our apartment filled with friends for the holiday. I served some homemade, allergy-friendly snacks and even had Thanksgiving-themed bricolage for the kids.

For my food-allergic son, it always seems easier hosting guests at our place. I can control the menu to make sure his food is safe by avoiding individual ingredients and any potential for cross-contamination. This just seems too much to ask of someone else who’s not used to it.

Not only does hosting help to lessen my worries, it also lets me to try out some new dairy, egg and nut-free recipes on folks other than my family. As usual, I made way too much food, including a Quince Tarte Tatin that I didn’t serve because one of the guests brought an apple tart that looked so much better. Instead, we ate my dessert later that night after our turkey dinner. Real butter would have probably helped the caramel and the crust, but it still tasted good.

Of course, I also made a bundt cake. This time, I used an adapted version of Martha Stewart’s Spicy Pumpkin Bundt Cake. Instead of eggs and buttermilk, I used 4 tablespoons flax meal mixed with 12 tablespoons water and I cup of rice milk mixed with 1 tablespoon cider vinegar.

Overall, I hope people had fun at our little Thanksgiving playdate. I’m so grateful for the new friends we’ve made here. I particularly appreciate them putting up with my limited French and my constant questions about life in Switzerland.

As a reminder, please “like” the new Facebook page for Dairy-Free Switzerland to receive and share information about living with food allergies in Switzerland and beyond. Thanks so much!

Celebrating Bundt Day 2012

Yesterday was National Bundt Day, a wonderful holiday started in my native Minnesota that celebrates the start of the holiday baking season. Every year, my sister and I bake three bundt cakes each. This year marks my first time making all allergy-friendly cakes free of eggs, dairy and nuts for my food-allergic son. Unfortunately, my little guy misses out on lots of Swiss sweet treats. Luckily, he can still have delicious homemade bundts! Here’s a quick rundown of the day’s activities and the recipes for my three cakes.

6:21 AM – Put bundt cake #1 in the oven. I adapted this recipe from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas (1988). It was so easy to make, and we all loved it.


Swedish Sugar Cake

2 cups flour
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons flax meal mixed with 9 Tablespoons water
1 cup + 2 tablespoons rice milk mixed with 1/3 cup melted dairy-free margarine

1. Mix all ingredients together well in a large bowl. Butter and flour a 10-12 cup bundt pan. Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake at 350°F/180°C for 55-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean. Cool for about 15-20 minutes and remove from pan. Dust with powdered sugar.


12:25 PM – Put bundt cake #2 in the oven.

Blueberry-Ginger Bundt Cake

The original recipe from the Cake Duchess called for lemon zest and juice. However, I had somehow imagined purchasing a lemon because none could be found in my kitchen. I need more sleep! I had fresh ginger on hand, so I finely grated about 1 Tablespoon of it and increased the liquid by another ¼ cup or so.

For the glaze, I mixed powdered sugar with vanilla sugar and rice milk until I got the right consistency. With the glaze, the cake tasted at little like a blueberry doughnut. Everybody loved this one, and I’ll definitely try making it again with a lemon.

1:00 PM – Put courge (pumpkin-like squash) in the oven to bake. I can’t find canned pumpkin here, so I made my own pumpkin puree for bundt cake #3.

3:00 PM – Dropped off oldest son at his piano lesson.

4:30 PM – Gave food-allergic son some Benadryl after he broke out in red hives around his mouth. We weren’t eating anything, so the cause is unknown. It happened right after we returned from the grocery store, and he was in the stroller the entire time. He’s teething now (about 5 teeth are arriving all at once), so his hands are constantly in his mouth. Maybe his brother had something on his hands and touched him? It’s so frustrating (and scary) not knowing what causes his reactions sometimes, and that such a small amount can have such an effect. The hives eventually went away, and he was fine, but I kept my eye on him closely for about an hour.

6:30 PM – Attended a “welcome event” sponsored by the Ville de Neuchâtel for newcomers, which included a children’s choir, mother-daughter Zumba performance (apparently the city sponsors these classes?) and wine and cheese reception.

9:55 PM – Took bundt cake #3 out of the oven.

Chocolate-Pumpkin Bundt Cake

I always make at least one chocolate cake for Bundt Day. This year, I found a Vegan Chocolate Pumpkin Bundt Cake recipe online, and it was also an easy one. The baking time of 60-70 minutes surprised me, but I wish I would have followed these instructions. My cake is a little too moist and stuck to the pan a bit, but the flavor is great. Thankfully, a little powdered sugar covered up most of the imperfections.

Overall, we had another successful Bundt Day. I’ve had to learn a new way of baking bundts because of my son’s food allergies, but we didn’t have to give them up altogether. When I asked my family which of the three bundts they liked the best, they couldn’t pick a favorite. ­­­I will continue to search for and share new allergy-friendly bundt cakes because at our home we enjoy them all year long, not just on November 15th.