Yesterday, I pulled the zip-top bag out of the freezer and let it thaw on the counter. Later, I saw that my friend Malena had posted a snapshot of a family-favorite recipe on Instagram. It was for a fruit cake – named "fruit torte" since fruit cake would throw people off – adapted from one of the New York Times most popular recipes, the original plum torte. There is a reason that this recipe is one of the paper's most popular: It's one that everyone should keep handy, flexible enough that almost any soft fruit (berries, sliced peaches, and, especially, plums) can be put on top.Read More
The summer of 2015 was the summer of the galette. They were all over my instagram feed, and I contributed to a couple of them, too. When my mom and I was up in Seattle visiting my sister's family and helping out after my nephew was born with an unusual developmental condition called Prader Willi Syndrome, I baked galettes. Seattle, it should be said, is one of the world's best places to bake. And while we were still in that scary phase of learning what the diagnosis would mean, at least we had something comfortingly familiar to eat. (It's actually been a year since my nephew was born, and he is doing amazingly well thanks to the work my sister and her husband have dedicated to him. He's also just naturally a sweet, happy kid.)
Back to baking: I will never give up on pie, but lately it’s hard to get away from galettes. They allow you to be creative in ways that classic pie cannot. They are also convenient: They can be big or small, they bake faster, and they are easy to freeze. And since markets are reaching Peak Fruit and you're going to need something to do with the peaches, plums, or berries, wby not go all in with galettes? .
Before you start, a few tricks I’ve learned:
- When you make your pie dough, experiment with rye flour, buckwheat flour, or cornmeal. Try swapping out 1/4 cup all-purpose flour for one of those alternates. I made an all-whole wheat crust, too, which was great. But I thought it needed a tablespoon of sugar to balance it a bit.
- With really juicy fruit, like strawberries, try macerating the fruit for at least an hour or overnight with some sugar. The fruit will lose some of its liquid as it absorbs the sugar. You can cook the liquid down into a syrup, if you’d like, and stir it back into the fruit. (Or you can simply save the juices for a summer drink with sparking water.)
- To further sop up fruit juices and ensure the crust doesn't get soggy, I mix a bit of almond meal with sugar and place it at the base of the galette before piling on the fruit. But don't get too crazed when juices run over the edge of the galette. It comes with the territory. That's why...
- do line the baking sheet with parchment paper. Consider aluminum foil if parchment paper is unavailable. Cleaning up fruit juice that has caked itself onto the pan is a pain.
- To avoid allowing the galette to glue itself to the parchment paper as it cools, lightly coat the paper with nonstick spray and/or nudge the galette slightly to the side once it’s out of the oven to dislodge it a bit. This saves having any paper stick to the bottom of the galette.
- Chill the dough after rolling it out and before putting the fruit on it. It gives the dough a better texture and allows it to relax in between rolling and baking.
This recipe makes 4 (8-inch) plum galettes and requires 1 recipe for double-crust pie (I make one from a previous blog post with 2 cups flour, 14 tablespoons butter, pinch of salt, and 1/4 cup ice water). The same recipe can be used to make other fruit pies using the same quantity (about 8 ounces) of fruit per galette.
- 1 recipe for a double-crust pie dough
- 2 lbs / 908 g plums, pitted and sliced
- About 1 cup / 195 g granulated or organic cane sugar
- 8 tablespoons almond meal or finely ground almonds
- Divide the dough into 4 even pieces and pat into small hamburger patties. Refrigerate 1 hour or overnight.
- Combine plums with 1/2 cup sugar. In a separate small bowl, mix together 4 tablespoons / 40 g sugar with almond meal.
- Heat oven to 400 degrees F. For each galette, let dough round sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes, then flatten into a disk on a floured surface. Roll the dough into a 12-inch round, then transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet and chill for 15 minutes. (It is easiest to work in batches, shaping and baking 2 galettes at a time.)
- Sprinkle almond meal/sugar in the center of each round. Taste fruit; if it is very tart, plan on sprinkling more sugar on top before the fruit bakes. Pile the fruit in the center, leaving a 2-inch border. Fold edges over and crimp. Brush the crust with water or egg white and sprinkle the crust and the fruit with sugar. You should be able to fit 2 galettes on one half-sheet pan.
- Bake, rotating the pan halfway through, for 45-50 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the fruit juices are bubbling.
I never really paid much attention to the Whole30 diet until fairly recently when a couple of friends started talking about giving it a go. I had heard about what it entailed: no grains, even the no-gluten kind, no legumes, no sugar, no alcohol, no dairy; plenty of protein (mostly animal and egg, because soy = legume), plenty of vegetables, plenty of fruit, plenty of nuts, plenty of good-for-you fat. Caffeine (black coffee/black or green tea) OK. The caffeine part, that was good news. I could actually do the Whole30 if I didn't have to give up morning coffee (which I drink black anyway). But for now, I'm reluctant to be that strident about what I eat this summer, and I also like grains and legumes too much to go without (and wine, for that matter). Anyway, this is not a Whole30 post.
It IS however, a Whole30-friendly post. Enter baked peaches. This might be one of my favorite desserts to make in the summer. Not only is it dead easy to get right but it's also especially revelatory on just-okay, not-very-tasty-on-the-verge-of-being-mealy peaches. Baking them takes the bland pulp and makes it sweeter, with complex, caramel undertones. Gotta hand it to the Maillard reaction on this one: as the peaches bake and the fruits' sugars caramelize, their flavor naturally concentrates almost as if they had been glazed with syrup.
You could do this with with peaches alone: simply halve the peach, remove the pit, put on a rimmed baking sheet cut-side up, and bake at about 350 to 400F for 20 minutes. If you happen to be stuck on the Whole30 regimen in the summer, this might become your favorite dessert.
But it's even e little better with a little honey or maple syrup drizzled on top before baking.
Word to the wise: peach juice does get sticky, so I like to line the pan with either foil or parchment paper for easier cleanup.
For texture, add some unsweetened coconut flakes and/or slivered almonds in the final few minutes of baking. And that's about all you need to do. Peach dessert that tastes much better than you'd ever think it could.
Since the weight of the plums in the recipe is based on pitted plums, start with 3 pounds of plums. To water-bath can the jam for longer storage, scald about 4 half-pint jars and soak canning lids in a pan of hot water to soften the rubber seal. Pour the jam into jars, leaving a ½-inch space from the rim. Seal with the lids, screw on the bands, and lower into a pot with the rack and enough water to cover the jars by about 1 inch. Bring the water to a boil and process the jars for 10 minutes (start the timer when the water reaches a boil). Remove the jars from the water and cool.
Vanilla Plum Jam
Makes 4 cups
2.1 lb / 945 g pitted, coarsely sliced plums
- 2 cups / 400 g turbinado or granulated sugar
- 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
- Juice of 1 lemon
In a large, heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over high heat, bring the plums, sugar, vanilla, and lemon a boil, giving the pot a couple of good stirs. Let sit 30 minutes or refrigerate for up to 5 days. Chill a plate in the refrigerator to test the jam’s thickness later.
Mash the plums with a potato masher to break up the pieces. (The plums will completely lose their shape.) Bring the pot to a boil and continue cook over medium-high heat until the water has reduced to more of a syrup and the color has deepened significantly, 10-15 minutes depending on the pot and the burner strength.
Put a drop or two of the jam on the chilled plate to check if it sets. If the juices run all over, then continue to cook down the jam-but avoid cooking it to a point where the sugars start to caramelize and the jam turns brown. It's OK if the jam is more like a compote for putting on yogurt, etc.
Pour the jam into 2 clean, glass pint jars, one large quart jar, or several small jars and let cool. The jam keeps in the refrigerator for several weeks.
A decade ago when I worked as a cookie baker at La Farine, a French bakery in Oakland, the tart bakers always looked like they were having more fun than the rest of us. I think I know why: once the crust was baked and the pastry cream prepared, making tarts was more like decorating than baking. To finish each tart, the gals brushed a light apricot glaze over the fruit to give it a nice sheen. If there were fruit tarts left at the end of the day, we could take them home (the crust became soft if refrigerated). Days that ended with free fruit tarts were happy days.
While flipping through Craig Claiborne's The New York Times Cookbook, by Craig Claiborne and Pierre Franey (Times Books, the 1979 edition), I came across a recipe for a strawberry tart. It had been a while since I had access to free fruit tarts, so I figured I was well overdue making one myself.
Makes 1 tart
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 vanilla bean
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 3 egg yolks
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 baked tart shell, cooled
- 2 cups strawberries, hulled and halved or quartered
- 1/2 cup apricot jam
1. To make the pastry cream, combine the milk and vanilla bean in a pot and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, cover, and keep warm.
2. In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the sugar and eggs until golden yellow, forming a ribbon when the whisk is removed from the mixture. Whisk in the cornstarch.
3. Remove the vanilla bean from the milk. With the mixer on, pour the milk into the eggs and sugar and whisk until combined. Pour the mixture into a pot over barely simmering water (ensuring that the water doesn't touch the bottom of the bowl) and cook, stirring with a spatula, until the pastry cream is thick enough to coat the back of the spatula. (It will become thicker as it cools. If it looks a little lumpy, strain it and discard the lumps. The recipe makes a generous amount for one tart.)
4. Spoon the pastry cream across the base of the tart shell. Arrange the strawberries, cut side down, in concentric circles within the tart.
5. Stir the apricot jam with enough water to thin it. Bring to a simmer and cook briefly until it reaches syrup consistency. Cool for a minute, then brush over the strawberries while still warm.