An Apple Galette, i.e., My Attempt at French Baking

I don’t consider myself to be much of a baker. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth. I don’t find cake (or cupcakes) particularly interesting. Basically, I’ve dismissed baking sweets as something I don’t really do. As a result, baking is not a skill I have really developed (with the exception of bread, but that is another matter). However, the tides are turning and I am taking a bigger interest in the possibilities that flour, butter, and sugar have to offer a home cook.

Last week I had a potluck with a small group of friends and I signed up for dessert duty with the intention to exercise my weak baking muscle. And since I was going through all of the trouble to bake something for my friends, I decided to bake enough for my coworkers as well. Double the practice, right?

I wanted to make something that would be easy to transport to work, but I didn’t want to bake cookies or brownies. Too obvious. Too plain. I wanted something fancy. But easy-ish. I was making this on a weeknight after all. I ended up choosing to bake Jacques Pepin’s plum galette (i.e. a fruit tart) which is certainly fancy, simple enough in theory, but not the best for traveling via public transportation. I chose to ignore this last fact because I’m stubborn and wanted to make what I wanted to make, even if that meant cutting the thing in half and stacking the pieces into my largest tupperware. (True story, I really did have to do that.)

I liked this recipe because the dough comes together very quickly. Literally 30 seconds. I also liked this recipe because the ingredients are simple. Flour, sugar, butter, fruit, and some almonds and jam for extra flavor. The most time consuming part of the recipe was cutting the apples (I swapped the plums for apples because apples are in season).

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The hardest part of the recipe is rolling out the dough. The recipe says to roll it out on a floured surface. So I dumped it on my countertop and did my thing. When I went to “drape the dough over the rolling pin” I found that the dough had completely stuck to the counter. There was no saving it, even with a dough scraper, and I had to start all over. A number of things probably went wrong here:

  • I didn’t flour the counter enough.
  • I handled the dough too long and it got too warm.
  • I rolled out the dough too thin, despite the recipe saying to roll it into a 16 x 18 inch oval, 1/16 to 1/8 inch thick (that’s thin!).

Rather than try again on the countertop and risk a second failure, I had the brilliant idea to roll the dough directly onto my large rimless baking sheet. It worked like a charm. What wasn’t charming was my French rolling pin skills. This awkward shape is supposed to be a oval, and this was my second galette of the two I made.

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But apart from my dough and rolling pin issues, the rest of the galette was easy to put together. Spread a mixture of sugar, flour, and ground almonds over the dough.

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Add the apple slices on top. Then dot with butter pieces, and cover with more sugar.

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Then fold the edges of the dough over the apples. The dough naturally pleats so you really don’t have to do much in that regard. My problem was that I didn’t roll out the dough evenly and it was quite thin in places. This caused the dough to tear when pulling it off the baking sheet, resulting in not so pretty pleats. The unevenness of the edges was also a problem as it didn’t cover the apples adequately in some places. Below you can see where the dough tore (bottom right corner) and how the crust is larger in some places and smaller in others.

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But after the galette was baked and brushed with raspberry preserves, the cosmetic flaws were a little less noticeable. But more importantly, it tasted good. The crust was buttery and flaky, the fruit sweet. Between the two galettes I made, I had no leftovers to bring home. So while it didn’t score the most points in presentation and technique, it did well in taste, which is what really counts in my kitchen.

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Jacques Pepin’s recipe as taken directly from Food and Wine. (My notes are in parentheses.)

Ingredients

Pate Brisee (aka dough)

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup ice water

Filling

  • 1/4 cup plus 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons ground almonds
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 pounds large plums—halved, pitted and cut into 1/2-inch wedges (or whatever fruit you’d like, though apples, cherries, and stone fruits work best. Depending on the fruit you choose you may not need exactly 2 1/2 pounds. Use your best judgement on how much would give you a good 2 layers of filling.)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small bits
  • 1/2 cup good-quality plum, apricot or raspberry preserves, strained if chunky or seedy (I used raspberry preserves and skipped straining the seeds because I’m lazy. Feel free to be lazy with me.)

METHOD

  1. MAKE THE PATE BRISEE Put the flour, butter and salt in a food processor and process for 5 seconds; the butter should still be in pieces. Add the ice water and process for 5 seconds longer, just until the dough comes together; the butter should still be visible.
  2. MAKE THE PATE BRISEE Remove the dough from the processor and gather it into a ball. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a 16-by-18-inch oval 1/16 to 1/8 inch thick. Drape the dough over the rolling pin and transfer it to a large, heavy baking sheet. Chill the dough until firm, about 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400°. (I rolled the dough directly onto a rimless baking sheet to skip the hassle of transferring the dough. See also my problems with the dough in the above post, 100% caused by user-error.)
  3. MAKE THE FILLING In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup of the sugar with the ground almonds and flour. Spread this mixture evenly over the dough to within 2 inches of the edge. Arrange the plum wedges on top and dot with the butter. Sprinkle all but 1 teaspoon of the remaining 1/3 cup sugar over the fruit. Fold the edge of the dough up over the plums to create a 2-inch border. If the dough feels cold and firm, wait for a few minutes until it softens to prevent it from cracking. Sprinkle the border with the reserved 1 teaspoon of sugar. (The almonds are not 100% necessary so if you need to be mindful of nut allergies you can leave these out. I also am tempted to reduce the 1/3 cup sugar to a 1/4 cup. It was almost too sweet for me and one of my coworkers, but other tasters thought it was just right.)
  4. MAKE THE FILLING Bake the galette in the middle of the oven for about 1 hour, until the fruit is very soft and the crust is richly browned. If any juices have leaked onto the baking sheet, slide a knife under the galette to release it from the sheet. Evenly brush the preserves over the hot fruit; brush some up onto the crust, too, if desired. Let the galette cool to room temperature before serving. (It’s really best served the same day you make it. The next day the crust gets a little softer and loses some of it’s great flakiness.)

 

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