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Give me a choice between a pretty, perfectly symmetrical pastry and a rustic and obviously homemade one and I'll pick the rustic one, every time.
Give me a choice between making my own pie and buying one, though, and I'll buy one. Even though they're rarely very good. Because making pie is not my thing. The dough scares me. I never think I'll get it right, so I don't even try.
Then I came across this recipe. Simple — yes. Delicious — yes. Alice Waters? I'll follow her anywhere.
I love that this pie — or galette, which is essentially the free-spirited, non-rule-following sister of the prim and proper pie — is so pretty without even trying, so effortlessly classy. I never worry that the butter is too warm, because it says right there on the recipe to use butter that's just barely softened, contrary to strict pie-making rules that call for cold butter and nothing else. I don't worry that my body temperature will ruin the dough as I massage it into a ball for refrigerating. Because the crust still comes out perfectly flaky! And I still want to eat all of it!
The filling is so straight-forward, so dressed down. Just apples, some butter and a sprinkling of sugar. The trickiest part about the recipe — slicing the apples and arranging them for the heart of the galette — is not tricky at all. It just requires some repetitive slicing. The first time I tried this recipe, I fretted and fretted over how to fan the slices just so to make the galette look as pretty as Deb Perelman's on www.smittenkitchen.com. (P.S. If you haven't been to this food blog, go now. It's OK — I'll wait. This is hands down my favorite food blog. I have never been disappointed by any of Perelman's recipes, and I drool over 99.9 percent of every recipe she ever posts.)
But then I realized that I can simply keep the slices together in the shape of the apple halves and lay them down on the dough and have the galette come out quite handsomely, thank you very much.
One thing: I did omit the last step in Perelman's recipe, which is to use the apple peels and cores to make a sugary glaze that you then pour over the baked galette. I found the glaze was always too watery and, when used, didn't really enhance the flavor of the final product, so now I skip that step entirely.
I'll eat a quarter of this galette in one sitting. Actually, I could probably eat the whole thing, but that would be wrong... wouldn't it?
Adapted from smittenkitchen.com (an Alice Waters recipe)
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, just softened, cut into small pieces
3½ tablespoons cold water
3-4 apples (use a tart, firm apple. I used McIntosh apples), peeled, cored, and sliced thinly
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons sugar
Combine flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of the butter, then use a hand mixer to blend the ingredients. Add remaining butter and mix until the butter chunks are pea-sized. (I didn't think the hand mixer was really necessary, and who wants more dirty dishes? I'll try using a fork next time to blend the butter into the flour.)
Dribble in water slowly while stirring, until the dough starts to hold together. Use your hands to incorporate the ingredients and form dough into a rough ball. (The dough has ranged from incredibly easy to handle to very wet and sticky. Both come out delicious.)
Flatten the dough into a disk and refrigerate in a zip-top plastic bag for at least 30 minutes, but longer if possible. You want the dough to be chilled well for a flaky crust.
While the dough is chilling, heat oven to 400 degrees.
Prepare the apples. Peel, cut in half and use a melon baller to core the apples. Thinly slice the apple halves, keeping the slices together to maintain the shape of the apple halves. (This will make transferring the apple slices onto the dough easier and will make your galette look prettier and more elegant than if you haphazardly dump the slices onto the dough.)
Roll the dough in the plastic bag to flatten further, then remove from bag and place on a lightly floured surface and roll until the dough is about 14 inches in diameter and about 1/8 inch thick.
Place dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Arrange apple slices in a circle about 2 inches from the edge of the dough, spiraling inward if possible. (I usually just arrange the slices in a circle, then add more slices to fill the center hole.)
Fold edges of dough over the apples. Pour melted butter over the apples and dough, then sprinkle sugar over the entire galette, making sure to get some over both the apples and dough for maximum deliciousness. (Use more or less sugar to taste.)
Bake in center of oven for about 45 minutes, rotating every 15 or so minutes.
Like Pavlov’s dog, the start of fall triggers an unhinged desire to buy more apples than one person can responsibly eat, and drink gallons of apple cider, and wrap myself in cozy sweaters and read by pumpkin-scented candles.