I used to make pies, back in the day, but have decided over the years that a galette, in the French tradition is somehow more satisfying - as well as being faster and easier. You can make a galette on the fly. From anything. Really. All you need are some discs of the pâte brisée dough tucked away in your freezer.
When I need galette dough, I'll make half a dozen discs for the freezer. Making the dough takes perhaps an hour ... leisurely. It's craft, so I take my time and enjoy the ride, and feel of the perfect dough in between my fingers. Not too dry. Not too wet. This is your chance to achieve 'perfection', to feel like a 'pro'.
In all things related to baking, measuring is important. More important than other types of cooking, since baking is more sensitive to the ratios of fat to flour to water. And, yet, there is some direct input that will be essential. I live in the driest state in the U.S. Flour dries out in the pantry. On a drier day (mid-winter, for example) when the humidity is in single digits, I'll need to add more water to the dough. Not a lot. But some.
And, you must use your hands. There's no tool or gizmo that can replicate the 'feel' of when the dough is 'right'. Along these same lines, using your hands will help you avoid 'overworking' the dough. You don't want to develop the gluten as you do with breads. This helps keep it tender.
Fat is essential to a flaky, tender pie crust dough, or pâte brisée - which refers to a rich pastry dough used for tarts, pie shells and, bien sûr, pâte brisée! The general rule of thumb is 3-2-1. Three parts flour. Two parts fat. One part water. The fat and water must be cold! As a plant-based person, I'd like to think that I could use plant-based fat for this dough. I'm not going there. The tiny bit of butter that I use in my galettes over the course of even a year isn't going to change the world - or my health - for the worse. The wisdom of Paracelsus guides me on decisions like this: "All things are poison and nothing (is) without poison; only the dose makes that a thing is no poison". If I can get really good butter - Beurre d'Isigny from Normandy, I'll use that. If you want to go with plant-based butter alternatives, it will work. You could also use the cultured vegan butter such as Miyoko's Organic Vegan Butter. I just prefer the flavor of 'real' butter. I should probably get over that, but I'm old. And, set in my ways.
UPDATE (January 2022): Apparently old dogs can learn new tricks. I've gone to vegan butter - EarthBalance. It works just fine.
As I mentioned, you can make galettes savory or sweet. Caramelized onions kill! Any sliced fruit will work. Berries are da bomb. Thin slices of potato will work. Or, zucchini squash! What about lightly sautéed wild mushrooms? This is why I don't put much sugar in my galette dough. I want it both ways. So, let's get with it.
Measure out your ingredients carefully. And, get your cold water handy. I put crushed ice in mine. Plus, remember that the butter needs to be cold. I cut mine up, and put it back into the fridge to keep cold until I need it.
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into ½-inch pieces
7 tablespoons ice water
Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl. I use a fork or a whisk to do this. Now, 'cut in' about 4 tablespoons of the butter using a pastry cutter. You really do need an inexpensive pastry cutter for dough making. Nothing else quite works. Don't spend a lot on one. Work gently through, cutting the lumps of butter, until It resembles cornmeal. Butter, well-dispersed through the flour, is what makes a dough tender.
As you cut in the second batch of butter (that just sounds good, doesn't it? "batch of butter") you'll see larger pea-shaped lumps. That's good. Really good. When those moisture-laden lumps of butter feel the heat of the oven, the water expands and lifts the layers of pastry. That's how you get a flaky crust.
Next, you'll begin to add the water - 7 tablespoons, or ½ cup minus one tablespoon. But, remember what I said about your local humidity. You might need more. Or, less. Feel the dough and you'll know. That sorta rhymes? Snort.
I drizzle in a couple tablespoons of water at first, then a couple more, then one at a time. Feel the dough occasionally.
Put the pastry cutter out of reach. You don't want that now. Use your hands to gently toss the dough after each addition of water. Try not to pinch or mash the dough any more than you must, as that will toughen it.
You're looking for a 'ropey' dough to develop. It's doesn't take long. Then, divide into rough discs. The recipe I've given you will make two discs like this. When I'm making dough for the freezer, I'll make three batches. It goes pretty fast when you're on a roll.
I vacuum pack my dough discs for the freezer, using a Food Saver Vacuum Sealer. I've used this for many years, in fact, my original gave up after about 20 years and I finally had to buy a new one. The newer one is better in that it has a gizmo that sucks the air out of a resealable bag using a nozzle. It works really slick.
Now, for making your crust. You'll need a rolling pin. The one you chase your husband with will do. I use one of the classic French-style rolling pins. If you are going to roll out the dough now, but sure to let it rest, tightly wrapped in cling wrap, in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes (an hour is better). This allows the gluten to relax and the flour to thoroughly and evenly hydrate.
I keep the flour handy to dust the rolling pin with, but just rubbing a bit into the wood. Roll the dough out on parchment paper or clean newsprint, until it's about ⅛ inch thick. You're after a circle that measures about 14 inches across. Don't sweat exact on this. And, as you can see, I've dotted the fruit with butter. Oh. Well.
Arrange your filling on the rolled out disc, leaving about 1-½ inches around the perimeter to fold over, pleating with your fingers, around the disc after you've filled it.
You can brush the folded over part with a bit of plant milk, and sprinkle it with a bit of sugar if you're going 'sweet' rather than 'savory'. Pre-heat your oven to 350-375 degrees.
I bake my galettes on a pizza stone. With the parchment paper or not. Your choice. I also use a pizza peel to get it in and out. Don't spend a lot on a pizza peel. I found mine at a garage sale years ago. If you don't have one, go over to a restaurant supply and get one for a lot less. Having one for baking is a good thing. You can pull delicate, hot stuff out of the oven without undue anxiety. P.S. - I've also successfully baked galettes in a BBQ using a pizza stone and a very good BBQ thermometer.
You'll want to bake the galette for about 45 minutes in all, rotating a couple of times, depending on if your oven has 'hot spots'.
Let your galette cool for about 15 to 30 minutes after you take it out of the oven, and then happily slice it into wedges to serve.
Above, you're looking at slice pears, topped with some oats. You can use nuts and seeds, of course.
A reader contacted me about substituting almond flour for wheat flour. This isn't a good idea for a couple of reasons. First - make it with wheat flour so that you have a 'benchmark' (a standard or point of reference against which things may be compared or assessed). You know how it is supposed to be before you begin experimenting. Almond flour also doesn't have the gluten needed to give the crust structure. It also won't be flaky. If you want to play with other 'flour' types, add them in gradually. Try adding something like almond, or whole wheat, as perhaps, a quarter of the entire amount of flour. So, for this recipe: 1-¾ cups all-purpose flour and ¼ cup of other flour. Try it and see if you like it, and how it holds together.
This isn't pie. Don't load it up with a lot of filling. In a pie, you're using a baking dish to help support the weight of a lot of filling. You don't have that with a galette. Less is more in terms of filling. Keep it short and sweet, so to speak. The filling shouldn't need a lot of time to 'set'.
Then, if you are using something that will produce a lot of juice - strawberries or peaches are a good example - mix in a little thickener like cornstarch. Blueberries produce a lot of juice, but because of their higher natural pectin and skin to juice ratio, they don't produce a filling that can get too wet. This should not ever be an issue with vegetables/savory galettes.
Galette crust will brown quicker than regular pie crust. It's thinner. And, more exposed to the heat of the oven. This is another reason to keep your filling 'short', but also bake in the 350 to 375-degree range and you'll be fine.
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