Saturday, July 15, 2017

Basic Galette, Pie, or Tart Instructions


When I teach someone to cook, I like to teach a skill rather than a recipe. If you learn a recipe, you know how to make one dish, but if you learn a skill, the whole world opens up. When teaching a newbie to cook, I often make Goldenrod Eggs. That teaches two important skills: how to hard boil an egg and how to make a bechamel. From those two skills, you can make a wide variety of dishes for a wide variety of circumstances.

When I teach someone to bake, I aim to do the same thing and galettes are the perfect intro to baking. Even for someone who has been baking for years, the endless variations make this one of my favorite dishes to bake. The hardest part of this recipe is making a good pie dough, but even if you take the cheater's way out and buy a pre-made crust, it will still turn out good. (Moment of confession: I did use a store-bought crust once because I was doing my last-minute grocery shopping for company coming over in a little over an hour). The recipe is super flexible and can be modified in a nearly infinite number of ways.

First, make a nice pie crust. I always use the King Arthur recipe: 2 c AP flour, 1 T sugar (leave out if making a savory dish), 1 t salt,  2 sticks of butter cut into pats, 1 egg, 2 T milk. If it is really hot, you can toss the ingredients into the freezer to prevent the butter melting (which would result in a tougher, less flaky crust, which no one wants). Sift together AP, sugar and salt, then cut in butter just til it holds together if you squeeze it, but you still want to see little lumps of butter as this will result in a flaky crust. Gently mix in the egg and milk just until moistened and no more. Divide in two, shape, wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least a half hour or up to 2 days. You can freeze if desired. I've found that this batch of dough will make several galettes, so freezing the extra can make it much easier to whip up a dessert later.

Generously flour your work surface and roll out your dough to roughly 1/8 inch thick (it doesn't have to be perfect). When making galette, I usually pull off a chunk of dough and roll it into a really rough circle, about 8-9 inches across. Once I have the dough rolled, I put it back in the refrigerator to rest while I make the filling.

I use a basic cream cheese filling for a lot of my fruit galettes. I can't remember where I found the recipe originally, but most recipes are just variations of this recipe: 1 8-oz package cream cheese, softened, 1/2 cup sugar (leave out if making a savory dish), 1 egg and a tsp of vanilla. This recipe is pretty flexible. You can use a little less cream cheese or a little more egg or reduce the sugar and it will still turn out. Beat together well. If you do it by hand, it will feel like it is taking forever, then all of a sudden it is ready. It doesn't have to be perfectly smooth and it will still bake fine. This recipe is enough for 2-3 galettes and it stores well for a few days in the refrigerator. If you want to make a smaller batch, just halve everything and you can either use the full egg (I've tried it and it works fine) or use about half the egg and use the other half as an egg wash (which makes for a great color and allows you to sprinkle the crust with some grainy sugar). This filling is really forgiving which is why I love it.

I spread a layer of filling over the middle of the dough, leaving about an inch around the edge. You can do a thin layer (makes for a less filling dessert) or thicker (cooks up fine and you can serve smaller slices). Layer on some fruit. Basically use whatever you like that you have on hand. I love to use apples or peaches. Sometimes I mix a variety of fruits, placing in a pretty design. Whatever you do, either slice thin (pears, apples, peaches, plums) or cut in half (larger blueberries, cherries) if needed so they cook through. Smaller berries can be left whole.

Fold over the extra dough around the edges. Don't make it too pretty. I like having some variation. Some slices of galette have less crust, others more so everyone can get a piece they like best (I like the extra flaky crust). Plus if you try to make it perfect, you really need to make it perfect. If you aren't trying to make it perfect, there's less pressure. Every little "mistake" just gives it more rustic charm.

If you'd like, you can brush some egg wash onto the edges and sprinkle with some grainy sugar. The egg wash will give a nice shine and color to the crust, but left bare it has more ruggedness.

Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown. You want the bottom to be nicely golden as well.

Beef Pot Pie is an easy way to give
life to leftover beef stew.
I love how flexible this recipe is. If made free-form and flat, you have a galette. You can make a rustic pie by quickly placing the dough in a pie plate and coarsely folding the excess pie dough back in. You can make a large tart or little tartlets. Put the filling on just one half, then fold over, crimp the edges and you have a hand pie. Roll dough into a rectangle, cut into smaller rectangles, put filling on one and top with another rectangle and you have pop tarts. Put into a pie plate and add a savory custard for a great quiche. Put in a pie plate, add some leftover beef stew and cover with another layer of crust for a quick beef pot pie.
I placed some curly garlic scapes
on top of this quiche for great
presentation as well as flavor.

 The basic cream cheese filling goes brilliantly with a variety of fruits, or you could leave out the sugar and make a savory galette. It would be perfect to mix in some fresh herbs or scallions before layering on some roasting tomatoes (especially heirlooms in a variety of colors), caramelized onions, bacon, ham or asparagus. Garlic scapes or fern fronds would make unbelievable presentation.

You don't have to stick with cream cheese filling. I like to use a goat's milk caramel when I make apple galettes. Try real maple syrup, honey, jelly or jam. Spread nutella on the dough under strawberries.

Use fresh fruit. Use frozen fruit. Cook down some overripe fruits into a lovely compote. Add nuts. Make a streusel topping. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Sprinkle with salt and freshly cracked pepper if making a savory dish or sprinkle some cheese around the edges.

Make it your own. Make it for breakfast, brunch, a light lunch, appetizer, dinner entree or dessert. Make it tonight!

Have fun baking!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

This Week...Beyond Money June 2017

For me, a life beyond money is making choices so that you can live the best possible life, regardless of your income level. Obviously, you have to make a living, but there are many ways to improve your quality of life without increasing your income levels and correspondingly your expenses. This regular post will be some of the ways that we improve our quality of life beyond just trying to make more money.

Life has been a little crazy for a bit, so I'll be scaling back this post a little. I'll stick mainly to highlights in each category, rather than the journal-type entries I'd gotten in the habit of writing.
Gardening:
* I planted more goodies and have started harvesting bits of greens and peppers. It looks like it will be a good pepper year. The basil is going gang busters. I transplanted lots of plants into containers that I have growing all over the house. I foresee lots of pesto and caprese in our future, so life is good.

Cooking/Groceries:
* A few times I made galettes using fresh fruit (either from the farm or Aldi), a basic cream cheese filling and my pie crust. I used half an egg as a wash over the crust. They turned out fantastic each time. They are sweet enough to count as a dessert for me, but not too sweet to make a lovely breakfast. I love how easy it is to pull together while still having some "wow" factor for entertaining.
* I hit the farm stand a few times. Mainly, I've been scoring little cukes and carrots. We love having fresh veggies on hand, chopped and ready for snacking.

Fun:
* We took my parents out for my dad's birthday. He generally likes boring meat-and-potatoes type meals, but absolutely loves hibachi. The Japanese steakhouse near us is pretty pricey, but we bought a $60 Groupon for $30 which lowered the price enough. We all ate half of our meal and took half home for lunch the next day. Afterwards, we took them to a local garden park and laughed a lot as we walked around. We finished off the evening getting frozen yogurt at a local place. It was a really fun evening.
* We caught a blues concert at a coffee house near us. We used a BOGO coupon for our coffee, so it ended up being a pretty frugal date.
* Daisy came over once for crafting and she and hubby came over for dinner and movies another night.
* We went out with one of my coworkers and his family to the drive-in theatre. We brought snacks and drinks from home. He brought sports stuff so for a couple hours before the movie started, we played football or catch. When dusk came, I broke out some sparklers I bought at the grocer for $2 and the kids had a blast.

Nature:
* We went hiking several times. The best one was a park about an hour away. It seems like just a normal little park, but hidden in the park is an osage orange tunnel. Farmers used to plant osage oranges as a living fence. It was a positively magical hike.


Work:
* I finally got the phone call. I got hired on for full time at my job. For the last six months I've been a temp. I interviewed 5 months ago. Sometimes people would wait several years for an interview and a couple years between interview and getting hired on, so I'm really happy with the timing. This job will pay significantly more, provide extensive benefits and will eventually give me 7 weeks of paid time off a year. They generally try to keep you in the same area you are currently working (which would be ideal), but could move me anywhere in the company, as needed. The main change will be switching from first shift to second shift. I am a little nervous about it, but I think I will adjust okay eventually. I will miss my current coworkers desperately, but am glad that we will become a lot more secure now. My dad has worked for the company for going on 35 years, and I believe it will provide a good life for my family as well.

Community:
* I can't remember if I included this in an earlier post or not. My dear friend's partner was gifted some items from his client's parent's estate. They couldn't use all of it, so they gave us two beautiful bar stools and a ridiculously gorgeous lamp. These are very high-end pieces that we would never, ever be able to afford. I am super excited because I've been passively looking for some bar stools for the island since we bought the house five years ago.

How was your week?
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