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Today: Pie is great. Galettes are better. Associate Editor Marian Bull is here to explain why.
We all know how wonderful and lovely and perfect pie is. It is butter’s highest calling, and fruit's most appealing vehicle. It is the greatest breakfast I know, since it’s basically just toast with butter and jam, morphed into something even more perfect.
But pie is not easy, and you shouldn’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Pie is a fickle lover that betrays us in many ways: A soggy crust is your most likely downfall, but then there’s a soupy filling, or a crust that’s too chewy, or a fire alarm that happens to go off when Thanksgiving dinner should have happened thirty minutes ago and there’s a baby asleep in the other room and bubbling fruit is burning at the bottom of your oven.
Here is the good news, though: We have galettes.
A galette is a lazy woman's pie. A galette is a happy woman's pie. A galette is much less likely to make you cry than pie. And it is objectively better than its fussy, double-crusted, much-lauded cousin. Here’s why:
Most importantly, you have a high surface area-to-volume ratio on your side, which means almost zero chance of a soggy crust, since there’s so much crust to caramelize, and more space for water to evaporate, and more of the crispy outer to flank the chewy inner.
Galettes are also easier: There’s only one crust to roll out, and no latticework or pastry decoupage required. It need not be perfect; the word “rustic” is a band-aid for all jagged edges and bubbly leaks and awkward angles. In the words of Phyllis, “Galettes are sexy and beautiful and oozy. They are not for people who have problems with mess.” Free-form means you get to construct your own rules of geometry, rather than color inside someone else’s lines.
More: If you're completely anti-pie and anti-galette, try a schlumpf instead.
And then there is the fact that a galette is not really a recipe. Mix whatever fruit you like with a handful of sugar and a tablespoon or so of flour, plus any other flavors that strike your fancy. Let them sit until extraneous juices pool at the bottom of the bowl, and strain them thoroughly. Fold them into your rolled-out dough -- I like something with some whole-wheat flour in it, for structure and also for wholesome breakfast reasons, but use whatever crust you love. Add an egg wash and a sprinkle of salt and sugar; please do not forget the salt. You want salt in your butter, you want salt in your crust, you want salt in your filling, you want salt to rain down on this thing before you slip it into a very hot oven.
I’ve gotten into the habit of mixing together a crust when I get home from the bar late at night, when I tend to be a bit lackadaisical about my butter-cutting technique. Here’s what’s important, though: Leave some bigger pieces; toss with flour as you go; don’t overmix; don’t freak out. Make enough crusts, and you’ll find your own rhythm. Forgive yourself for the less flaky ones, and mask them in ice cream.
Bake a pie after a few too many spritzes and you’ll be crying into a soggy, bubbly mess, spooning forkfuls into your mouth out of desperation, burning your tongue, waking up with berry stains on the sundress that you slept in. Bake a galette in the same scenario, though, and you’re wild and free, and so is your galette, and you’re dancing in your kitchen with no pants on at 3 AM, and the world is a beautiful place, full of stewed fruit and butter.
So while the internet witnesses a war between team pie and team cake, I’ll be on the sidelines, cheering for neither, eating galette with my hands, embracing the mess. Come join me.
Makes one 10-inch (or so) galette
For the crust:
8 tablespoons (1 stick) salted butter (I like Plugra or Kerrygold, but the regular stuff works too)
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons ice water
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
For the filling and assembly:
2 pounds plums (or other baking-friendly fruit), sliced into small pieces
1/3 cup sugar (I like something coarse, like the organic stuff, or demerara)
1 heaping tablespoon flour
1 pinch salt
Zest of one lemon (optional)
Splash of vanilla (optional)
Dash of cinnamon (optional)
1 egg, beaten
Flaky salt and coarse sugar, for sprinkling
Photos by Eric Moran