PIE-A-DAY #49

Amelia Saltsman is the author of the Santa Monica Farmers Market Cookbook. Hear her this week on the PieCast and this Saturday on Good Food’s Market Report.

galette close-up smEvery summer, my husband and I head up to the Masumoto Family Farm near Fresno to harvest our adopted Elberta peach tree. And each year, I experiment with new ways to showcase this old-fashioned variety. One recipe hasn’t budged from our roster of favorites since our first crop in 2006: individual peach galettes. See how each palm-sized pastry encases its glistening golden-orange peach half. Full disclosure: when I’m in a super hurry, I bake one large galette.

elberta peaches-1.06 smI love making galettes, small or large. Easier, quicker, and more forgiving than traditional two-crust or lattice-topped pies, galettes are basically free-form open-faced pies whose “rustic” qualities are seen as a virtue, not a liability. And, because so much of the fruit’s surface is exposed, the juices thicken through evaporation and don’t need any additional starch. Or a lot of sugar.

Elbertas work particularly well here because they hold their shape, color, and sweetness, even with long cooking. They are also very easy to peel and pit. Once the canning peach, their buttery taste and silky texture remind me of comforting childhood flavors, but without the “heavy syrup.” There are other Elberta-type varieties as well. Ask your favorite peach grower what he or she might have that fits the bill.

Like any pie, these galettes are best served the day you bake them, but leftovers are not too shabby eaten out of hand or with a little plain yogurt for breakfast the next morning.

Here’s the recipe. After serving as a judge at last year’s KCRW pie contest, I decided to include more pastry-making instruction. I’d love to hear whether you find this helpful or cumbersome. Would you rather see pie crust hints as a stand-alone guide? Please let me know.

Individual Peach Galettes
Makes 8 to 9 galettes

For dough:
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 Tablespoons sugar
3/4 tsp salt
2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons cold butter cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 to 2/3 cup ice water

For filling:
4 to 5 large peaches, 6 to 8 ounces each
1/4 cup ground almonds
1/4 cup sugar
3 Tablespoons butter, melted

Make dough: Have large sheet of plastic wrap ready. In a large mixing bowl, stir together flours, sugar, and salt. Scatter butter pieces over flour mixture and toss to coat. Cut in the butter using a pastry blender or your fingertips (my preferred method) until the mixture resembles coarse sand with some flattened pieces of butter still visible. This will keep your dough flaky. (Here’s the fingertip move: using your fingers and thumbs, lift bits of flour-butter mixture and squeeze, smear, and drop them back into bowl, tossing mixture as you go and working your way around the bowl to reach the entire mixture. The smearing action flattens the butter.)

Sprinkle 1/2 cup water over flour-butter mixture and use a fork to stir until dough just sticks together when pressed with your fingertips. Add more of the water as needed to reach this point, but try to be sparing. Less water keeps dough tender. Gather dough into a shaggy ball and place on plastic sheet, folding ends over to enclose dough. Using the heel of your hand, press dough into large flat disk about 1-inch thick about the size of a dinner plate. As you work, rotate dough as you go and flip over dough package from time to time to work the other side. This starts to bring the dough together. Chill dough for at least 15 minutes, or up to a day. Resting the dough in the refrigerator allows the water in the butter to further moisten your dough to make it easier to roll out.

To make galettes: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. You’ll need a 6-inch round template (a small plate or a round lid you can trace with a knife tip works well). If your dough has been in the fridge for half a day or more, bring it out to warm up for about 10 minutes. Stir together the ground almonds with 2 tablespoons of the sugar and set aside. Melt the butter. Line a couple of sheet pans with parchment paper (this makes galettes easier to remove after baking and makes pans easier to clean). Bring a pot of water to boil. Dunk peaches, 2 or 3 at a time, into boiling water for 30 seconds to loosen skins. Set them aside to cool while you deal with the dough.

Divide dough into 2 pieces for easier handling. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to about 1/8-inch thickness. Using template, cut 6-inch circles of dough and arrange on parchment-lined sheet pan (you should get about 4 circles per dough half with a little extra left over). You can prepare the dough up to this point up to a day ahead and keep refrigerated. Bring dough out about 10 minutes before proceeding.

Scatter almond sugar mixture evenly over dough circles, leaving a generous 1-inch border all around. The almonds act as a barrier between peach juice and dough. Peel peaches and cut in half. Remove seed. Place a peach half, cut side down, in center of each circle. Pleating as you go, fold edges of dough up, almost to top of peach (dough will settle as it bakes to expose more of the peach). Press together any cracks in dough to prevent juices escaping. Brush galettes all over with the melted butter and sprinkle with remaining sugar. Galettes can be prepared to this point up to 2 hours ahead and refrigerated.

Bake at 425 degrees on middle rack of oven for 18 minutes (if you need to use 2 racks, switch and rotate pans halfway through). Lower oven temperature to 375 and bake galettes until crusts are golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes longer, switching pans/racks halfway through baking time, if needed. If you stored them in fridge before baking, they may need a bit more time in the oven.

Remove pans to a cooling rack and let stand a few minutes to set. Use an offset spatula to loosen galettes from the pan and cool at least 15 minutes before serving.

© 2010, Amelia Saltsman.

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