Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Apple Galette

The month of November has barely begun and already infringing on it are those 'I am determined to keep them nameless' December holidays. With life already moving at what seems like warp speed, I can't seem to understand how anyone would want to rush the autumnal season or not savor every day where there is still some color in the landscape (and not just browns and greens). How the fall became one of those seasons I look forward to may have something to do with my birthday (no matter how old I get my birthday is cause for favoritism) and Thanksgiving, my most beloved of all holidays. From as far back as I can remember, the significance of Thanksgiving has never been lost on me. What is not to love about a day created to enable us to count our blessings, to reflect on what and who matters most to us, to embrace traditions (and create new ones), and last but not least, to share a memorable meal with family and friends?

Cesar Chavez may have unintentionally captured the spirit of thanksgiving when he said 'If you really want to make a friend, go to someone's house and eat with him...the people who give you their food, give you their heart.'  This is so true. The time, energy, and love that go into the planning and preparation of the Thanksgiving meal is no more or less than what goes into creating a meal for friends. The scale may be different (or it may not be) but there is an intimacy to sitting around the dinner table sharing a home cooked meal with friends. It almost always is a memorable experience as well. How the table is set or how the food tastes doesn't matter as much as how everyone feels during and long after the meal is over.

When I saw the recipe for the Apple Galette in the November (2014) issue of Bon Appetit I knew I was destined to make it. Although I have been known to make something for the 'first' time when having family or friends for dinner, I couldn't wait for either my next dinner party or Thanksgiving to make this galette. Not because I didn't think it wasn't going to be delicious or turn out on the first try, but because I was anxious to see how baked Pink Lady apples tasted in this galette. Additionally, I wanted to figure out what adjustments (if any) I needed or wanted to make to it.

I have a tendency (or rather a bias) toward using Granny Smith apples in most 'baked' apple dishes, frequently ignoring the apples recommended (as if I 'always' know better). But this time, I put my affinity for Granny Smith apples aside (subliminally maybe I didn't want the Pink Lady apples to work) and made the galette with these 'unfamiliar' to my taste buds apples. Let's just say I have not only been depriving my taste buds but also the taste buds of those who I love having at my dining room table. But that is all about to change.

A galette is nothing more than a free-form pastry. It is rustic simplicity at its' best (and in making this galette the first time I managed to epitomize its' rustic-ness as evidenced by the photos in this blog posting). A galette is easier to make than a pie or a tart, but it is no less delicious. After one bite of this Apple Galette, I decided it needed to be added to my 'last meal' short list. I also discovered the addictive sweet-tart flavor of baked Pink Lady apples.

Whether savory or sweet the deliciousness of a galette relies on both the topping ingredients and the choice of crust. Hearty crusts or those made with whole-wheat or rye flours or cornmeal form the base of most savory galettes, while slightly sweeter or more sugary crusts are the foundation of sweet ones. Making the tart dough in the food processor instead of by hand did not seem to affect its' tenderness or roll-ability (is that even a word?). However, when making this galette again (and it can't be soon enough) I will double the tart dough ingredients as I felt there was barely enough dough. By doubling it, I will have more than enough dough for a thin crust galette. Any remaining dough can be saved for a smaller galette or used to make some tart dough cookies. 

Browned butter infused with vanilla is brushed over the thinly sliced Pink Lady apples before they are sprinkled with light brown sugar. Bon Appetit's recipe called for using half of a vanilla bean split lengthwise, but I decided to substitute 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla paste instead. It worked.

Before baking the apple galette in a preheated 375 degree oven, the sides of the dough are brought up over the apples, then brushed with an egg wash and sprinkled with sugar. Instead of granulated sugar I used India Tree's white sparkling sugar. That worked too.

The galette bakes for 40 to 50 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. My baking time was 45 minutes. This galette is best enjoyed while warm, however, if made earlier in the day, it can be reheated in a low temperature oven or in the microwave. Be prepared for this galette to be completely devoured. The sweet/tart apples and crisp/sweet crust makes for an incredible taste combination.

A maple whipped cream was recommended to be served with the galette (I didn't make it in the trial run of the recipe). But I thought this apple galette needed to be served with ice cream. Not just any ice cream, but ice cream made in the gelato style from Rococo's in Kennebunkport, Maine (sometimes you just need to go all out for a dinner party). Rococo, an artisan ice cream shop, is not just my personal favorite, it also just happens to be ranked as one of the top ten ice cream parlors in the country. While I was at Rococo's in mid-September, I learned they had recently begun shipping their ice cream. This was music to 'my living in the midwest' ears (although this ice cream is so phenomenally 'shut the front door' insanely delicious it would be worth considering a plane ride or even a road trip to Maine. Okay that may be frivolously ridiculous, but how else can I convince you of why you need to experience this ice cream?)

The stars were aligned the day I called to order the ice cream as it was the last day they were taking shipping orders (so make plans now to call them or visit them in May). The ice cream arrived today (perfectly packaged and still froze). I can hardly wait to serve this apple galette with Rococo's salty sweet cream ice cream and watch everyone's first taste reactions. I am thinking it will be better than watching someone open a hoped for gift on one of those upcoming 'shall remain nameless' holidays. Once my coveted supply of Rococo ice cream is gone (that will be a sad day), I guess I will serve the apple galette with the maple whipped cream as it would a genuine hardship to have to wait five months to make this apple galette in the cold, colorless months ahead. Just like it would be a travesty to rush the month of November.

Apple Galette (slight modifications to Bon Appetit's Apple Galette recipe)

Tart Dough
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus additional for rolling out dough
6 Tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces 
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Note: Strongly recommend doubling the tart dough ingredients.

1/4 cup salted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla paste (or 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 to 1 1/2 pounds Pink Lady apples (3 to 4 apples), peeled, cored and cut into 1/8 inch thick slices (or use any other baking apple of your choice)
3 Tablespoons of dark brown sugar (or dark muscovado)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon half-and-half, water or whipping cream
1 generous Tablespoon of sparkling sugar (or granulated sugar)

2 cups heavy whipping cream and 2 Tablespoons of pure maple syrup (for maple cream, beat cream to medium-soft peaks, fold in maple syrup)

Tart Dough
1. In a food processor, pulse together the sugar, salt and flour until combined.
2. Add butter and pulse until the mixture is crumbly.
3. Add egg and process until dough begins to come together and forms a loose ball.
4. Form dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and chill until firm (at least 2 hours or overnight). Note: Allow to sit at room temperature for at least five minutes before rolling out to prevent cracking.

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. In a small saucepan place butter and vanilla paste. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the butter browns (approximately 5-8 minutes). Set aside. Note: If using a half of a vanilla bean, scrape seeds into the butter and add pod. When butter has browned, remove the pod. 
3. On a lightly floured surface, roll out tart dough to a 14 inch by 10 inch rectangle slightly less than a 1/4 inch thick. Note: If doubling the tart dough, roll out to a 16 inch by 12 inch rectangle.
4. Transfer dough to a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
5. Leaving a 1 1/2 inch border, arrange apples in 3 to 4 rows on top (overlapping slices).
6. Brush apples with browned butter.
7. Evenly sprinkle brown sugar over apples.
8. Lift edges of dough over apples, tucking and overlapping to create a rectangular shape.
9. Brush edges of dough with egg wash, sprinkle with sparkling sugar (or granulated sugar).
10. Make in center of oven, rotating baking pan once, for 40 to 50 minutes or until crust is a golden brown.
11. Let cool slightly before slicing and serving with side of Maple cream (or Rococo ice cream)

Bicycles on Martha's Vineyard (photos taken in September 2014)

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