Food, Guest Authors, Recipes

Baking for All Occasions

Pastries can be grandly architectural in their form—think napoleons, croquembouche, and Paris-Brest—but they can also be charmingly simple, even rustic, in shape and scale. Case in point: the galette – a flat, usually round—but sometimes square or rectangular—free-form pastry made from a simple dough that holds an equally simple filling. This cousin of pie is a feel-good dessert. It’s satisfying to construct and easy to serve. If you’re a beginning baker who needs a confidence-boosting recipe, a galette is for you. Prepare the dough and filling ahead and you’ll be even farther down the road to success.

Let’s start with the dough. It’s quickly assembled using your food processor. You’ll notice that the recipe has a couple of tablespoons of sour cream. Its acidity keeps the dough tender, but it also slows browning; sprinkle some sugar on the pastry to counteract this tendency.

Now the filling. At this time of year, pears are a natural choice. Select fruit that’s firm but ripe. Pears ripen from the inside out, so they should yield to gentle pressure near the stem when they’re ready. Since they’ll be baked, you can use pears that are firmer than you would want to eat. In other seasons, try peaches, nectarines, or even pineapple.

Of course pears are not without their complications. As they bake, they ooze delicious juice which could, without some planning, make the pastry bottom rather soggy. Thanks to a suggestion by Evie Lieb, baker extraordinaire and dear friend, this can be prevented – by spreading a layer of almond filling—spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg—onto the dough before adding the sliced fruit, which is also flavored with cinnamon and nutmeg. Finally, minced dried apricots and crystallized ginger are scattered over the top to lend equal parts tartness and subtle heat. After it’s baked, I’ve found that the galette doesn’t even get soggy the next day (make-ahead fans, rejoice), should it last that long.

If the words “easy” and “delicious” aren’t flashing in your mind by now, I’m not sure how else I can convince you. Did I mention you don’t need a special pan? And that you don’t even need a rolling pin? To be honest, I’ve used a wine bottle to roll out the dough in a pinch. Served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, this galette will be a popular comfort dessert that you will make again and again.

Pear-Almond Galette

Dough
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons (3 1/2 ounces) unsalted cold butter
2 level tablespoons sour cream
4 to 5 tablespoons ice-cold water

Spicy-Almond Layer
1 cup (3 ounces) sliced almonds, blanched or natural
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) unsalted butter
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon mixed with
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons finely chopped (about 2 large) moist dried apricots
2 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger

Fruit
2 (each about 7 ounces) firm yet ripe Bartlett pears,
peeled, cored and cut crosswise into 1/4 inch slices
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons granulated sugar

Dough: In a food processor, combine the flour, sugar and salt and pulse 3 or 4 times to blend them. Cut butter into 1/4 inch slices. Scatter the pieces over surface of the flour mixture and pulse with 1-second bursts until the mixture includes a variety of chunks the size of small lima beans, peas, and lentils (about 20 bursts). In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream and 4 tablespoons of the water. Sprinkle one tablespoon at a time over the mixture, each time pulsing once or twice until small separate curds form and the dough feels evenly moist and holds together when pinched between fingers. If needed, sprinkle the last tablespoon of water over any dry areas of the crumbly mixture. To bring the crumbly dough together, scoop the moistened particles together using the side of the bowl to shape it into a cohesive 4-inch disk.

Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 2 hours before rolling. (No need to clean the bowl if making the spice-almond layer next.)

Spice-Almond Layer: Combine all ingredients except the cinnamon, nutmeg, apricots and ginger in the processor and process until smooth.

If using right away or within 2 hours, cover and set at cool room temperature. To prepare ahead, refrigerate for up to 5 days.

To assemble: Center rack in the oven and preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Flour the work surface and roll the dough into a 14- inch circle 1/8 inch thick. Transfer the dough to the prepared baking sheet.

Spread with the spicy almond mixture, leaving a 2 1/2 inch border. Sprinkle the cinnamon-nutmeg evenly over the spicy almond layer. Scatter the dried apricot and crystallized ginger pieces on top. Very gently toss the fruit with the flour and cinnamon and nutmeg.

Arrange the pear pieces on top of the spicy-nut layer, overlapping the fruit slightly. Sprinkle any remaining dry mixture in the bowl and 2 tablespoons of the sugar evenly over the fruit. Fold the border up and over the fruit, leaving a 1/4 inch space just inside the folded area, free of filling to help avoid juices leaking out as the galette bakes. The border will form a kind of pleated ruffle around the fruit filling as you fold. Lightly brush the pastry’s border with water; sprinkle with the remaining 2 teaspoons of sugar. Bake until golden and crisp, about 45 to 50 minutes. Slip a wide spatula (or small rimless baking sheet under the galette, and carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Yield: one galette, about 8 servings

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