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!

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