30 March 2011

Don't Forget Apple Galette

I don't even remember when I made this, but it was around a year ago, and I just ran into the photo in Andi's facebook photo album. I completely forgot that I was obsessed with Apple Galette for several months, and its rich, crumbly, salty-sweet goodness.

It's a bad time to be posting this, it being spring and not apple season at all, but I knew I would forget later, and you could consider filling it with asparagus or caramelized onions (both?) instead. I would If I were you.

Here's Jacques Pepin's recipe, which is definitely the best, and one of the only recipes I've ever truly followed. (Because when Jacques says jump, you say, "How high?")

Makes 8 servings

1/2 recipe pate brisée (see recipe)
5 large apples
1/4-cup sugar
3 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
4 tablespoons apricot preserves
1 tablespoon Calvados or Cognac (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

1. Make pâte brisée. Roll out the dough 1/8 to 1/16 inch thick, in a shape that fits roughly on a cookie sheet—approximately 16 X 14 inches. (The best cookie sheets are made of heavy aluminum that is not too shiny.) If the dough is not thin enough after you lay it on the cookie sheet, roll it some more, directly on the sheet.

2. Peel and cut the apples in half, core them, and slice each half into 1/4-inch slices. Set aside the large center slices of the same size and chop the end slices coarsely. Sprinkle the chopped apple over the dough.

3. Arrange the large slices on the dough beginning at the outside, approximately 1 1/2 inches from the edge. Stagger and overlap the slices to imitate the petals of a flower. Cover the dough completely with a single layer of apples, except for the border. Place smaller slices in the center to resemble the heart of a flower.

4. Bring up the border of the dough | and fold it over the apples.

5. Sprinkle the apples with the sugar and pieces of butter, and bake in a 400-degree oven for 65 to 75 minutes, until the galette is really well browned and crusty. Do not remove the galette from the oven too soon; it should be very well cooked. It should be very crusty, thin, and soft inside. Do not worry about the discoloration of the apples after you peel and arrange them on the dough. The discoloration will not be apparent after cooking.

6. Slide it onto a board. Dilute the apricot preserves with the alcohol (or use 1 tablespoon of water if the jam is thick and you prefer not to use spirits) and spread it on top of the apples with the back of a spoon. Some can also be spread on the top edge of the crust. Follow the design so that you do not disturb the little pieces of apple.

Serve the galette lukewarm, cut into wedges.

Pate Brisee
Recipe From: Jacques Pepin
“Everyday Cooking”

Makes Enough for 2 Galettes

3 cups all-purpose flour (dip the measuring cup
into the flour, fill it, and level it with your hand)

1 cup (2 sticks) sweet butter, cold, and cut with a knife into thin slices or shavings

1/2 teaspoon salt

Approximately 3/4 cup very cold water

“In a well-made pâte brisée the pieces of butter are visible throughout the dough. If the pieces of butter get completely blended with the flour so that they melt during cooking, the pastry will be tough. The flour and butter must be worked and the water added as fast as possible to obtain a flaky pastry. If you work the dough too much after adding the water, it will be elastic and chewy. If you use too much butter and not enough water, it will resemble sweet pastry dough and will be hard to roll thin and pick up from the table; it will be very brittle before and after cooking, sandy, and with no flakiness.

This is deceptively simple dough. You may get excellent results one time and an ordinary pastry the next. Try it a few times to get a feel for it. Wrapped properly, it can be kept in the refrigerator for 2 or 3 days, or it can be frozen.”

1. Mix the flour, butter, and salt together very lightly, so that the pieces of butter remain visible throughout the flour.

2. Add the ice-cold water and mix very fast with your hand just enough that the dough coheres.

3. Cut the dough in half. The pieces of butter should still be visible. Refrigerate for 1 or 2 hours or use it right away. If you use it right away, the butter will be a bit soft, so you may need a little extra flour in the rolling process to absorb it.

For one galette, roll half the dough between 1/8 and 1/16 of an inch thick, using flour underneath and on top so that it doesn't stick to the table or the rolling pin. When the dough is the desired shape and thickness, roll it onto the rolling pin and unroll it on the pie plate, tart form, or cookie sheet that you plan to use. Repeat with the other half or reserve for later use. Bake according to the instructions for the particular recipe.

27 March 2011

Strawberry Shotcrop

If you know Christian's mom Pat, you'll know she likes word-play a lot in it's many forms. So that's how the dessert known as Strawberry Shortcake came to be called Strawberry Shotcrop at our house.

And here's the story of today's dessert: several weeks ago I started getting obsessed with the pastry chef at Communal, Joseph McCrae's, biscuits. Every time I've made them, they've been pretty damn good, but have fallen short of the tall, fluted rounds he serves at breakfast downtown next to cute little ramekins of soft butter and homemade strawberry preserves. I guess there's a reason some people are pastry chefs while others are mere home cooks. My biscuits are always light, fragrant and tender, but I crave the tall layers of feuilles-like buttery crumbs and the delicate toothsome bite in the real deal. Maybe some time Joseph will invite me over and show me how it's done? Hi, Joseph!

Anyway, this week's discovery involves adding two extra tablespoons of sugar to his recipe, sanding the top of the biscuit with raw sugar, splitting them in half, and then filling them with mounds of strawberries and cream. I made them for my students last week, and Karl said it was the best thing he'd ever tasted. He may have been exaggerating, but not much.

One last note about these biscuits: working with the dough is like holding a pound of freshly bathed baby flesh in your hands. It's almost unbearably fun to touch. You might get addicted.