Is there anything more wonderful on this earth than a perfectly ripe peach? When you walk by the display and you can smell them from three feet away, you know that heaven is only a moment away. I live for the day when stone fruits come into season and my favorite baking of the year can begin.
One summer during college, I took a job working at the local cannery. It was peach season and the entire area smelled wonderful. I would replace anyone who called in sick, so I did all kinds of jobs around the plant. I worked on a line sorting the fruit, discarding any that were marred. After watching the fruit flow by for awhile, suddenly the fruit was standing still and I was the one moving! I actually felt nauseous from motion sickness and had to take a break, LOL.
My favorite job was working around a bin of halved peaches, removing the pits by hand. It was quieter there and you could carry on a conversation with the other workers. Those ladies had some really interesting and funny stories to share. To this day I am still really fast with a peach pitter!
Today’s recipe is for a French dessert called a galette (gal-et). If the thought of dealing with pie dough is scary, you are going to love galettes. They are free-form pies that don’t need to be perfectly formed. In fact, the more rustic looking the better. If you want an even easier version, you can make it with frozen and thawed puff pastry instead of making your own dough. They can be either sweet or savory and I love both. Occasionally I will make an entire meal of galettes, starting with mini appetizer versions, then a larger savory pie, and finishing with a sweet, fruit dessert.
These peach delights are from Flo Braker, one of my favorite bakers and a national treasure. She has designed these to be small, hand held versions of the more traditional large galettes. These are elegant and fun to make and eat. They are a little like a homemade pop tart or Toaster Strudel. Because they hold at room temperature and when wrapped in plastic, travel beautifully, they are perfect for picnics and barbecues. For the 4th of July you could make a variety of them using raspberries, blueberries, cherries, and blackberries for a red and blue dessert buffet.
Don’t let the length of the recipe scare you. When a recipe is long, it is usually because the author has given detailed instructions to help you have success every time you bake. Beginning bakers should actually look for longer recipes because they will have more information to help you.
There are so many things you can make with fresh fruit. In addition to a pie or galette, you can make a crumble, crisp, betty, slump, grunt, cobbler, pandowdy or clafouti. I love all these old-fashioned desserts and work my way through the list every summer. If you have ever wondered about the differences, here is your chance to learn.
Betty – A dessert that dates back to colonial times, it is baked fruit layered with sweetened buttered breadcrumbs or pieces of bread. The most common version is made with apples.
Buckle – The bottom is a layer of cake batter topped with fruit, and that is topped with a streusel mixture. Blueberry Buckle is the most prevalent.
Clafouti – A French dessert is more like a pudding. You pour the batter into the baking dish, top it with the fruit, and as it bakes, the fruit sinks and the batter expands. It is very elegant looking.
Cobbler – The fruit filling is on the bottom and topped with a biscuit dough, usually dropped in dollops over the top.
Crumble – Similar to a crisp, the topping of flour, sugar, and butter is crumbled over the fruit filling.
Crisp – The fruit filling is topped with a crunchy mixture, often including oatmeal and chopped nuts, that crisps as it bakes.
Grunt – A cross between a pie and a cobbler. A biscuit dough is rolled out and laid on top of the fruit. As it bakes the filling bubbles up around the edges, partially submerging the topping. The name comes from the sound the bubbling fruit makes from underneath the dough topping.
Pandowdy or Pan Dowdy – The pastry or bread dough topping is rolled out but as it bakes it winds up more crumbly that doughy. You can also bake the topping separately and place it on top of the baked fruit before serving.
Slump – Similar to a Grunt, the difference is that a slump is baked uncovered. It has a tendency to slump when it is served, thus the name.
With the warm summer weather here and fruit piling up at the farmers’ markets, stock up on the sweet ripe fruit and fill your home with the aromas of freshly baking pastries, cakes, and pies!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
The more you bake, the better you will get. When it comes to working with doughs, practice truly does mean perfection. You will learn how a dough should feel and know when it will be easy to work with and when it is going to be challenging. You will learn the idiosyncrasies of your oven and exactly how long each item takes. Always make notes on your recipes when you are baking so you can customize it for your kitchen and ingredients.
Kitchen Skill: Rolling Pie Dough
Rolling out dough takes a little practice to become comfortable with, but is not hard to do. Start with dough patted into a round disk – why start with a square that you have to turn it into a circle! If you’re working with a butter dough, it must stay cold so the butter doesn’t melt. A vegetable shortening dough is a bit more forgiving for the beginner. Start by rolling out regular pie dough to practice. You can brush it with melted butter, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, roll it up and slice into rings. Bake it off for a fun treat, but the primary focus is making and rolling dough. It won’t take long before you are an expert!
- All-Butter Flaky Pastry Dough
- 2-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 8 oz (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices
- 10 to 12 tbsp ice water
- 1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1 tbsp apricot jam
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans
- 1 small, firm but ripe peach, peeled, halved, pitted, and cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch thick slices
- 1 cup red raspberries, picked over for stems
- 1 medium bunch seedless red grapes, halved
- Make the Dough: In a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, and salt and pulse 3 or 4 times to blend. Scatter the butter pieces over the flour mixture. Pulse in 1-second bursts until the mixture includes a variety of chunks the size of small lima beans, peas, and lentils. This will take about 25 pulses. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Alternately, whisk the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, scatter the butter pieces over the top and cut in the butter with a pastry blender.
- Sprinkle the ice water, 1 tbsp at a time, over the mixture, tossing gently with a fork, preferably a blending fork (a fork with wide, rounded tines), after each addition. Aim each tablespoon of water at a section of the mixture that appears to need more moisture, and continue to add water and toss the mixture until the dough is evenly moist and masses roughly together. The butter pieces should still be visible and remain about the same size.
- With your hands, scoop up the dough and transfer it to a slightly floured work surface. Gently pat and coax the mass into a cohesive dough. (If the dough is sticking to your rolling surface, lift it with a bench scraper.) Gently flatten the dough with your hand (lightly flour the top if it is sticky) into a roughly 7 x 5 x 1-1/2 inch rectangle. Lightly flour the work surface and top of dough if necessary, and roll it out into a 16 x 8 inch rectangle about 1/2-inch thick. As you roll, lightly flour the dough and work surface as needed; lift and move the dough to make sure it is gliding and expanding on the surface, not sticking to it; and never roll over the edges.
- Fold the dough into thirds like a business letter; working from the short end, lift the bottom 1/3 of the rectangle up of the center and then fold the top third down to cover, forming an 8 x 5-1/2 inch rectangle. Rotate the dough 90 degrees, lightly flour the work surface, and again roll the dough out into a 16 x 8 inch rectangle. Fold the dough again into thirds, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to firm the butter and relax the pastry before using.
- The dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. For longer storage, overwrap the plastic with aluminum foil, label with the contents and date, and freeze for up to 1 month. Thaw in the refrigerator for at least 8 and up to 24 hours and then use well chilled.
- After resting in the refrigerator, set the dough on the counter to warm up slightly while you make the filling.
- Make the Filling: In a deep, medium bowl, stir and mash the cream cheese with a rubber spatula until smooth. Add the sugar and mix until incorporated. Stir in the egg, jam, and vanilla until well blended. Stir in the walnuts. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed. You should have about 1-1/2 cups filling.
- Before Baking: Center a rack in the oven and preheat it to 400°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
- To Roll Out the Pastry: On a lightly floured work surface, roll out 1 dough disk into a 14-inch circle about 1/8-inch thick. Using a 4-1/2 inch round cookie or biscuit cutter (or other template) cut out 7 circles close together. Reserve the dough scraps. Transfer the dough circles to the prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 1-1/2 inches apart. Repeat with the remaining dough disk, and add the circles to the baking sheet.
- Combine the dough scraps from the two disks by stack the leftover rolled portions (rather than mashing or kneading them together in a tight ball), and then gently shaping the dough into a round disk. Don’t worry if the dough doesn’t seem cohesive. As you roll it, it will come together. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough into an 8-inch circle about 1/8-inch thick. Cut out 3 or 4 additional circles and place them on the baking sheet.
- To Form the Hand Galettes: Spoon about 1 tbsp of the cream cheese filling in the center of each dough circle. Using a small offset spatula spread the filling thinly over the dough to within 1/4-inch of the edge.
- Cut each peach slice crosswise into 5 small pieces and place the pieces in a medium bowl. Add the raspberries and grapes and toss to mix. Place 5 to 9 pieces of fruit (about 1/4-cup), depending on the size of the pieces, on top of the filling on each circle. With your fingertips, gently lift the edges of the dough circle and pleat them up over the fruit. Then, with your palm, cup the pastry to form a neat round package reminiscent of a money pouch, but don’t pinch the top edges together to seal. The galettes will open during baking, exposing part of the filling, which is part of their charm. Each one opens differently, creating its own “personality.”
- Bake the galettes until the pastry is golden and fruit is soft and appears juicy, 19 to 25 minutes. Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack and let cool completely on the pan. Serve the galettes at room temperature. They are best eaten the same day they are baked.
- Yield: about 18 hand galettes.
- You can also make these into larger galettes and cut into slices to serve.
- You can change the fruit to whatever is in season that you like. My father-in-law grows blackberries, so they show up in a lot of my desserts.
- To add sparkle to the crust, after forming the galettes, brush the dough with a little milk or cream and sprinkle with coarse sugar before baking. I like the extra crunch and sweetness this adds.