easy as pie? give me a break

I am not a baker, and am in fact intimidated by most things involving a cake pan and eggs. Easy a pie is a preposterous expression—unless your grandmother showed you how to make one (and I was too busy eating her grilled cheese sandwiches to pay adequate attention), it’s more complex than the phrase suggests. And easy to mess up, I’ve learned through the years.

This delicacy is much simpler than pie. No pie plate, no layers of dough, no fluting, no venting—it’s a piece of cake. A galette, to be more accurate.

Galette. It’s a gorgeous French word, and if you know me you may be thinking it was my sole motive for making one. Perhaps.

I bought this box of juicy nectarines with the intent to do something exciting. I thought about grilling them and topping with feta, making a fruity salsa, tossing them in a fresh green salad. All fun ideas, but I remembered this nectarine galette I placed on my mental culinary bookshelf a year ago and from there I could dream of nothing else for my precious peach-siblings.

I could not agree more with Deb (of the brilliant blog Smitten Kitchen) that nectarines “unfairly play second fiddle to peaches”. Since childhood, my own love for nectarines has been more profound than peaches—for raw eating, that is.

Nectarines have all the sweet and juicy qualities of the peach, but bless their smooth skin!

My dear friend Eva and I went peach-picking for many years, ending the afternoon with orchard-fresh peach ice-cream. Then, each birthday, Eva standing tall on my doorstep, a hot peach birthday pie in hand (a tradition more challenging since she relocated to The American South). Though I have many fond memories of our peach-picking days, I cannot forget the awful itching of the peach fuzz—one I still experience trying to enjoy a raw peach. And thus began my peach prejudice.

I marveled at Eva’s homemade peach and apple pies growing up. In the kitchen together (as early as elementary school), she was throwing flour into a bowl and producing the most incredible pie crusts without measuring a thing. Even as her pupil, I never succeeded in pies and am still intimidated by the task. Free-form galettes, however, are a simple marvel. Less work, less time, and certainly more forgiving in form.

Prepare for the easiest and most reliable crust you’ll ever need. (Oh and so flaky I can’t even tell you in words).

Crust

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick or 3 ounces) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 1/2–inch pieces

and you’ll definitely want a pastry blender

My previous tart dough was always made in my mixer or food processor. A pastry blender (which I borrowed for the most appropriate occasion) does produce the flakiest crust, and honestly it is much quicker by hand than by machine. Between the assembly and cleaning of machine parts, believe me this dough is a four-minute flash by hand. I know I’m never going back…

Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a large, wide mixing bowl. Cut in six tablespoons of the coldest butter with a pastry blender, mixing until the dough resembles coarse cornmeal.

Dribble four tablespoons ice water over the mixture, using a rubber spatula to pull the mixture together. Gather the dough into a mound (either in the bowl or on a counter) and gently knead it together, for just a few seconds. If it’s not coming together, add ice water, a tablespoon at a time, until it does. (Don’t be tempted to add too much water—mine was barely holding together but still rolled out perfectly). Wrap the dough in a flat disc in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling out.

You could slice your nectarines in the meantime (I promise time flies). Pastry dough must, must be cold—hence all the refrigerating required in this recipe. But between brushing all the flour off the counter, slicing the nectarines, and lugging all the bakeware out of your oven so you can preheat it, the waiting time is brief and the galette a sweet afternoon activity.

When you are ready to roll out the dough, take one disc and let it soften slightly so that it is malleable but still cold. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the disk into a 14-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick.

ANOTHER OPTION

Perhaps my affinity for small things is related to my own small stature (surely remedied when I grow to be 5 feet tall one day…) I like small portions, especially when it comes to dough—personal-sized pizza crust and mini cakes are right up my alley. My friend Michele even specializes in mini cakes (The Tiny Kitchen LLC), so it can’t be just me.

I sliced my chilled dough in half and rolled out two mini rounds (using that word loosely). One galette for you, one for a friend! Then I just used half the filling ingredients on each and it produced two lovely little galettes—besides decreasing the baking time.

Transfer the dough to a parchment-lined baking sheet (or two sheets, in my case) and refrigerate at least 1/2 hour before using.

Filling

1 tablespoon ground almonds
1 tablespoon flour
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar (I used Sugar In The Raw which made for big, beautiful caramelized crystals)
1 tablespoon
amaretti cookies, pulverized — or — 1 extra tablespoon ground almonds plus an extra teaspoon sugar
10 ounces galette dough, rolled into a 14-inch circle and chilled
1 and 1/2 pounds ripe nectarines (about 4 large)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup sliced almonds (optional)

and you’ll really want a pizza stone

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place a pizza stone, if you have one, on a lower rack. Toss the ground almonds, flour, one tablespoon of the sugar, and pulverized amaretti (or mix of extra ground almonds and sugar) together. I used ground almonds + sugar.

I've said it before, I can't make a circle to save my life

Remove the prerolled dough from the refrigerator or freezer and sprinkle the almond mixture evenly over the pastry, leaving a 1 1/2 to 2-inch border uncoated. (Doing this right on the pizza stone or baking sheet makes life a whole lot easier).

Cut nectarines in half, removing pits, then each half into thirds (you’ll get six wedges per nectarine—though I sliced mine even thinner).

Arrange the fruit, in concentric circles on the dough, making a single layer of snugly touching pieces, leaving the border bare. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the sugar evenly over the fruit (I used less as this fruit was so ripe—just two large pinches).

While rotating the tart, fold the border of exposed dough up and over itself at regular intervals, crimping and pushing it up against the fruit. Pinch or trim off any excess dough. (Make sure there are no breaks that will let juices leak.) Brush the border with melted butter, and sprinkle it with two tablespoons sugar (or just two pinches of coarse turbinado sugar).

ideally, it looks more like this

If you are a novice baker like me, here’s another reason to make two mini tarts (four generous slices each). One is bound to be less… attractive. (See photos for proof). Serve the pretty one to someone you love and keep the ugly—yet equally delicious—one for yourself 🙂

Bake in the lower third of the oven (preferably on a pizza stone) for about 45 to 50 minutes (less for Lindsey-sized galettes), until the crust is well browned and its edges are slightly caramelized. If you wish, sprinkle sliced almonds over the galette 15 minutes before the baking time ends, so they get toasty and extra-crisp. As soon as the galette is out of the oven, use a large metal spatula to slide it onto a cooling rack, to keep it from getting soggy. Let cool for 20 minutes. If you want to glaze the tart, brush the fruit lightly with a little warmed peach (or nectarine, if you have it) jam. Serve warm, with vanilla ice cream or with plain yogurt—for a perfect breakfast.

Do ahead: This galette keeps at room temperature for at least two days, and even longer in the fridge. The unbaked dough, wrapped in plastic, will keep in the freezer for a few weeks, the fridge for a day or more. Rolled-out dough may be frozen and used the next day.

Again, I highly reccomend making two small tarts out of this. And make a second batch of this easy four-minute pastry dough to freeze and make more! Of course once you see how absurdly easy it is, you’ll be eager to try your own variations. For now, I’m still working on that box o’ nectarines…

See Deb’s nectarine galette over at Smitten Kitchen. My heartfelt thanks to Deb for the confidence booster!

…a peachy galette just a week later

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3 Comments

Filed under dessert, the basics

3 responses to “easy as pie? give me a break

  1. Alice

    Thanks for the delicious nectarine gallete! It was wonderful for dessert, but I honestly think I preferred it even more for breakfast this morning. I thoroughly enjoyed two of the remaining three pieces with my coffee! What a nice way to start my day:)

  2. Hey Lindsey! We do something similar for just about every “fancy dinner.” We even make it with whole wheat flour and rosemary for a savory veggie tart. I LOVE this type of dough. 4 ingredients, 30 seconds in a food processor and your done. Freaking fantastic!

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