Here at Food52, we love recipes -- but do we always use them? Of course not. Because once you realize you don't always need a recipe, you'll make your favorite dishes a lot more often.
Today: With these 7 steps, you won't need a recipe to make rustic, free-form fruit tarts -- through summer and beyond.
A galette is a rustic tart with hand-folded edges. The first one I made was apricot and involved an elaborate mixture of ground nuts and apricot kernels sprinkled under the fruit and was out of this world. But afterwards I thought to myself: what happens when the apricots are gone? What else can I put on top? Can't I make it even a little more rustic? The dough is so simple, so flaky, so versatile. Since then, I've basically put every fruit and a lot of vegetables you can think of on top to make both sweet and savory galettes. The small amount of effort it takes to get ga-ga reactions out of dinner guests is incredible.
If the fruit you're using is particularly juicy, you may want to experiment with sprinkling some insurance onto the dough before arranging the fruit so that the bottom doesn't get soggy. I've used all different combinations of hazelnut flour, pecan flour, brown sugar, turbinado sugar, shredded coconut, you name it -- just a couple tablespoons of anything you think might soak up fruit juice and taste good.
One important thing to keep in mind is that toppings lower in moisture (like raspberries, goat cheese, figs -- things that can't take 45 to 60 minutes at 400° F) should be added on partway through baking instead of from the beginning.
My personal favorites have been apricot, seckel pear, Italian prune plum (absolutely gorgeous, cut in halves and laid open face up), and savory ones with potato and goat cheese. Let your imagination run wild!
How to Make any Galette (or Crostata) in 7 Steps
1) Heat the oven to 400° F (if you have one, place a pizza stone on a low rack). Cut cold, cubed butter into your flour using a pastry cutter, two knives, or your fingers (the ratio I use from Chez Panisse Fruit is 2 cups flour -- with a pinch of salt and a tablespoon of sugar -- to 1 1/2 sticks of butter). If you use your hands, work fast; airy texture of the baked dough really benefits from cold butter pockets steaming during baking, so try to keep it cold! It's really okay if it looks hodgepodge here -- the largest pieces of butter should be about the size of a pea.
2) Sprinkle ice cold water across the dough and shake the bowl to distribute. Usually I dive my hand in here very briefly to mix in the driest patches. It's not necessary for the dough to be uniformly wet at this point, though, since the moisture will spread during resting time in the fridge and while it's getting rolled out.
3) Press the dough into a flat, round disc (or two, depending on how many you want to make), cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for 30 minutes or so. (Supposedly the dough will keep for a couple weeks in the freezer, but mine has never made it to the freezer!)
4) While the dough is chilling, prep the fruit (or veg, or whatever is going on top), taking care not to let things oxidize too much in the meantime -- apples and pears will go dark on you if they sit too long, but lemon juice can combat that. After much experimenting, my preferred composition is wedge slices arranged in concentric fans -- they hold moisture well, and look the nicest after baking. With smaller, juicier fruit like summer berries, you can just toss with a couple spoonfuls of sugar and a thickener like flour, cornstarch, arrowroot, tapioca flour, etc.
5) Roll out your dough. I like a roughly 12-inch diameter circle-ish shape, about 1/8-inch thick. I use a knife to slice off errant blobs and roll them back into patches where they're needed. Take care not to roll too much, since those butter pieces need to remain intact in order for the dough to stay light and flaky.
6) Arrange the fruit on top, leaving about 1 1/2 inches clear around the edge of the dough. To fold the edges, fold the edge nearest to you toward the center. Rotate the galette and lift the adjacent piece of edge, and fold toward the center. The important part is really that there are no cracks where the juices will leak out during baking, so don't worry if it looks "rustic" ... it's supposed to! (If you do have a bad hole situation, you can always take some of the other portion of dough out of the fridge and patch it up.)
7) Brush melted butter, cream, milk, or beaten egg thinned with water on the crust edges. Sprinkle sugar on the edge (I know it seems like a lot of sugar, but don't skip this part). Place in middle rack for about 45 minutes, possibly more depending on how caramelized you want things. You can rotate halfway through; keep an eye on it to see how it's going, sometimes different edges brown more than others and you don't want them to start burning before the rest is done.
When it's done, lift the parchment paper with the galette onto a cooling rack. Wiggle the galette loose from the paper (it's hot, careful!) and gently pull parchment paper out while sliding galette to stay on cooling rack. This is important because it helps air out the underside, which can get soggy. Wait as long as you can until cutting the first slice, and enjoy! It's also really, really good the next morning for breakfast.
We had a breach in the edges on this one and some juices escaped, and that's okay! Just remember: rustic, rustic, rustic.
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Photos by James Ransom