A few years ago my nephew and sister interviewed my Mom, asking her questions about many things, including how things were when she was growing up. One of the things I remember from her answers was her description of food shopping in New York City. She lived in the Bronx in an apartment and this was before there were super markets. Instead of a huge store with all kinds of foods for sale, there were lots of small stores that specialized in meat, staples like beans and rice and flour and sugar, fruit and vegetable sellers, and so on. She mentioned that people generally didn't bake much because it was so convenient to by baked goods at bakeries. The exception in her family was pies. Her mother apparently made great pies. I think she inherited that skill because my Mom makes exceptional pies. My Dad's favorite dessert was always fruit pies, with the fruit changing according to what was in season.I enjoy making pies, too, especially small pies. It isn't that I don't enjoy full sized pies, but there is something winsome about a personal pie, sized just for one. Sometimes I make mini-galettes, a kind of open faced little freeform pie, made without a pie pan. Sometimes I use a tart pan and make small tarts. A favorite is hand pies where you fold the dough over the filling and seal it...and it is always a small pie to fit your hand. Today I made some mini-galettes and one hand pie (although the hand pie was a bit larger than usual).
I used the apricots that Sweetie bought out on Highway 12 from the strawberry farm for some of the galettes. I used some plums from our tree for others. The hand pie had sliced strawberries from that farm near the Grange.
They all had 'moondust' on the bottom to soak up the fruit juices that are released when the fruit heats up.
It's a combination of almond flour and amaretti crumbs which give a nice almond accent to the fruit, plus flour and sugar. It's one of the secrets from Chez Panisse. When baking the galettes or hand pies, it's also helpful to use a baking or pizza stone if you have one because, for these small pies, the crust is just amazing! It's tender, buttery, and flaky. If you bake the pies on the hot stone in a hot oven the bottom crust is also nicely crisp.
When I was a girl and wanted to learn how to make pies, the first thing I had to do was to read about 6 pages in The Settlement House Cookbook on making pie crust dough. Then my Mom quizzed me on what I had read. That may seem like a bit much, but , truly, pie crust dough making is all about technique. Too much working of the dough and it gets tough. Too little water and it is hard to roll out. Too warm a water and the butter starts to change consistency, so you lose the flakiness. I like this Galette Dough recipe from Chez Panisse because they divide the butter and cut 1/3 of it in very fine for tenderness, then cut in the rest so that butter pieces are larger, for flakiness.
This crust is phenomenal. If you follow the recipe carefully you will have mini-galettes (or a large galette if you prefer) that everyone will rave over. If you pack them carefully you will have an excellent dessert for any picnic or for 4th of July gatherings. For the 4th you can combine white peaches, blueberries and raspberries for the fruit. Just remember to make extra because one barely seems like enough...they are that good! You can even think fondly of my grandmother when you bake yours...I do.
Now don't be shy. You can make a cherry pie, or an apricot one, or peach, nectarine, raspberry, blackberry and so on. It's the perfect time of year for it and here is the perfect recipe.
An open face tart/pie with fruit filling, from Chez Panisse Fruit
10 oz. galette dough, rolled into a 14-inch circle ( or into 4 6-inch circles for mini galettes), and chilled (see recipe below)
1/4 cup almond-amaretti powder (see recipe below)
1 1/2 pounds ripe fruit, single or a mixture.
Apricot, nectarine, peach, plum, pluot, apple, cherry, or any kind of berry are all good
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place a pizza stone, if you have one, on a lower rack.Remove the prerolled dough from the refrigerator or freezer and place on a buttered or parchment-lined baking sheet. Evenly sprinkle the almond-amaretti powder over the pastry, leaving a 1 1/2 -inch border unsprinkled. (For mini-galettes, leave about 1 inch unsprinkled.)
Cut the fruit in half, quarters, or slices, making sure to remove any pits. Peel fruit if desired. Arrange the fruit (skin side down if there is skin) in concentric circles on the dusted dough, making a single layer of snugly touching fruit pieces and leaving the border bare.
Sprinkle 1/4 cup sugar over the fruit evenly. (For the mini-galettes, use 1 tablespoon sugar, sprinkled, for each of 4 mini-galettes.) (Note: my fruit was so ripe that I used about 1/4 teaspoon per mini-galette.) While rotating the tart, fold the border of exposed dough up and over itself at regular intervals, crimping and pushing it up against the outer circle of fruit, creating a containing rim that resembles a length of rope. Pinch off any excess dough. This rim must act as a dam, preventing juices from escaping while cooking, so make sure there are no folds or wrinkles that would permit such a breach. Brush the border gently with melted butter and sprinkle it with 2 tablespoons of sugar. (For mini-galettes, create the rope border, as described above, for each one, brush with melted butter and sprinkle each with 2 teaspoons sugar.) (Note: I didn't create the rope, just folded the dough into pleats as I went around the galette.)
Bake in the lower third of the oven, preferably on a pizza stone) for about 45 - 50 minutes (25 - 30 for the mini-galettes), until the crust is well browned and its edges are slightly caramelized. As soon as the galette is out of the oven, use a large metal spatula to slide it off the baking sheet or parchment paper and onto a cooling rack. This keeps the pastries from steaming and getting soggy. Let cool for 20 minutes.
If desired, glaze the tart by brushing with melted, strained jam or jelly. Apricot or apple is traditional for light fruits, raspberry or currant for darker fruits. Let the glaze set before serving the tart(s).
Almond-Amaretti Powder (Moondust)1/4 cup ground almonds
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup amaretti, pulverized
Toss all the ingredients together. Stored in an airtight container in the fridge, this keeps for a few months. One galette uses 1/4 cup (1/4th) of this recipe.
Galette Dough2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
7 tablespoons ice water
Follow the directions carefully. This is one of those recipes where the technique and quantities really affect the outcome.Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl. Cut 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) of the small dice of butter into the flour mixture with a pastry blender, mixing until the dough resembles coarse cornmeal. (Butter is dispersed throughout the flour in tiny pieces makes the dough tender.)
Cut in the remaining 8 tablespoons (1 stick) of the small dice of butter with the pastry blender, just until the biggest pieces of butter are the size of large peas - or a little larger. (These bigger pieces of butter in the dough make it flaky.)
Dribble 7 tablespoons of ice water (that's 1/2 cup less 1 tablespoon) into the flour mixture in several stages, tossing and mixing between additions, until the dough just holds together. Toss the mixture with your hands, letting it fall through your fingers. Do not pinch or squeeze the dough together or you will overwork it, making it tough. Keep tossing the mixture until it starts to pull together; it will look rather ropy, with some dry patches. If it looks like there are more dry patches than ropy parts, add another tablespoon of water and toss the mixture until it comes together.
Divide the dough in half, firmly press each half into a ball, and wrap tightly in plastic wrap, pressing down to flatten each ball into a 4-inch disk. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling out. (The dough will keep in the freezer for a few weeks.)
When you are ready to roll out the dough, take one disk from the refrigerator at a time. Let it soften slightly so that it is malleable, but still cold. Unwrap the dough and press the edges of the disk so that there are no cracks. On a lightly floured surface roll out the disk into a 14-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. Brush off excess flour from both sides with a dry pastry brush. Transfer the dough to a parchment-lined baking sheet and refrigerate at least 1/2 hour before using. (the rolled-out circles can be frozen and used the next day.)
Makes about 20 oz. dough, enough for 2 open galettes or tarts or 1 covered tart or 12 mini galettes.