For someone who used to bake pies for a living every day, I rarely, if ever, make them anymore. I used to pride myself on my ability to coax impossible flake and tenderness out of flour and butter — handling finicky dough into picture-worthy lattices that crackled before giving way to a toothsome filling with each bite.
It’s not that I lack the resources or inspiration. Farmers market aside, a step out my door presents plum trees burdened with fruit on every corner and gnarly vines of blackberries fringing the sidewalks and ledges. In fact, promise of fruit-laden pastry makes it impossible for me not to jump into the bramble, emerging from my raid rich in spoils — as well as scratches, twigs and leaves all over (a small price to pay, in my book).
I’ve turned my back on my once-beloved pastry because I’ve found, well, why fuss with pie when I can make a galette? For half the effort, I’m rewarded with a rustic and charming tart that’s just as impressive and delicious.
I don’t have to deal with cajoling the dough into a dish or precariously setting it just right over a filled pan. No need for par-baking, and no holding my breath while the pie cooks, lest my painstaking crimps break or shrink. Simply roll (one disk, not two!), fill, fold the edges (no need to get nitpicky, it’s free-form, remember?), slide it into the oven — and voila!
Of course, some basic tenets of pastry still apply: The dough needs to be chilled at all times, given plenty of rest and not overworked. Overdoing it on the filling or using one with too much liquid are also no-nos and would be a direct path to the dreaded soggy bottom. But, with these rules in mind, anyone can master the art of the open-faced tart.
So, to aid you on your own journey of discovering this pastry’s virtues, I offer you a blueprint: an endlessly adaptable recipe. Cornmeal adds texture, heartiness and a touch of sweetness, while sour cream keeps the crust tender and flaky. Use the butter-flecked dough to encase the season’s last stone fruit and berries; and as fall descends, figs, apples and pears. Or layer it with a bed of herbed ricotta or caramelized onions before reaching for gem-toned heirloom tomatoes from the farmers market, wilting greens in need of saving, or that mound of wild mushrooms foraged and generously gifted by a friend.
The galette, in short, will have you baking from summer right into fall. Need to indulge a sweet tooth? Check. Satisfy a hankering for savory? Double check. Bring a dose of golden, buttery sunshine to a rainy afternoon? It’s on it. Feed unexpected guests? They’ll be singing your praises in no time. And the best part? It won’t be as easy as pie — it’ll be easier.
2cupsflour, plus more as needed
1⁄2cupmedium or finely ground cornmeal
16tablespoons(2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1⁄4cupsour cream (may substitute buttermilk or plain yogurt)
Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl. Add the cubed butter and toss to coat. Use a pastry cutter or forks to cut the butter into flour until mixture resembles coarse meal.
Mix the water and sour cream in a cup, then drizzle a few tablespoons at a time over the flour-butter mixture. Use a flexible spatula to stir in the water, adding a few tablespoons at a time, until the dough is hydrated but not sticky; when you pinch the dough into clumps, it should hold together.
Gather the dough into one mass, then divide it in half, forming 2 disks. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, and up to overnight.
Lightly flour a work surface. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll out 1 disk of dough into a 13-inch circle, about 1/8-inch thick. Transfer to the baking sheet. Refrigerate while you prepare the filling. (See baking directions in the related recipes.)
From baker Polina Chesnakova.
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick; email questions to email@example.com.
The nutritional analysis is based on 12 servings (dough only).
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Calories: 240; Total Fat: 17 g; Saturated Fat: 10 g; Cholesterol: 45 mg; Sodium: 100 mg; Carbohydrates: 20 g; Dietary Fiber: 1 g; Sugars: 0 g; Protein: 3 g.