I am not ready for full blown fall weather yet, but I am ready for some fall foods. Salads with beets and walnuts, apple anything, and cinnamon brown sugar oatmeal, I will consume with gusto. To help usher in the new season I made a pear galette. A galette is a free form pie, pastry crust filled with fruit and baked on a baking sheet.
I selected pears as this week's ingredient because enjoying slices on salads constitutes the extent of my pear consumption. The pear is an old world fruit, native to Europe, Asia, and North Africa. Pears have been consumed since prehistoric times. Today, China is the largest cultivator of pears, accounting for three-quarters of world production. Within the United States, Washington state leads, growing half of the domestic supply.
When selecting pears look for fruit that is firm but not hard. Squeeze near the stem when testing firmness. Many pears do not have uniform color so look for skin that is free of blemishes and soft spots. Store ripe pears in the fridge and under ripe pears in a paper bag.
I made my galette in two stages last Sunday afternoon. The dough was prepared before heading out to run errands, it took roughly 15 minutes.
This was my first time making pastry dough from scratch. I have been told for years that pastry dough can be fickle and difficult to work so I did a little research before getting to work. The most important takeaway from my readings, don't overwork the dough. It shouldn't be perfectly uniform, small unmixed chunks of butter are desirable. They lead to a flaky crust.
Sweet Galette Dough
Adapted from David Lebovitz's article in Fine Cooking
1 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter (4oz) - do not soften
1/3 cup cold water
To avoid overworking the dough, I began by combining the flour, salt, and sugar in mixing bowl. I next took the butter out of the refrigerator and cut it into small chunks.
You can mix the butter and flour mixture together with a food processor, electric mixer, or pastry blender. The goal is to evenly distribute the butter while simultaneously not over mixing, easier said than done if you ask me. My best advice, use the less is more philosophy.
I mixed my dough in the food processor, there is a special blade just for working dough. I pulsed the ingredients for 30 seconds or so before scraping the sides and giving the contents a few more pulses. My dough resembled loose sand at this point.
The last step in dough preparation, adding the cold water. I added the water in all at once, just like the recipe instructed, and pulsed the dough for 10 to 15 seconds until it started to come together.
At this point, I gathered the dough into a ball / disk, wrapped it in saran wrap, and placed it in the refrigerator to set. The dough must set for at least one hour before it can be rolled and baked.
When I returned from my errands I got to work preparing and baking my galette.
Pear Galette Filling
3 to 4 ripe pears - I used Bartlett Pears.
1/3 cup walnut pieces
4 oz package goat cheese
2 tbp honey
I began by taking by dough out of the fridge, placing the oven rack in the middle position, and pre-heating the oven to 400 degrees. While the oven was heating, I peeled, cored and sliced the pears. Next, I mixed the goat cheese and honey together in a small bowl.
With the filling prepared, I took a few calming deep breaths and prepared to roll out the dough. I generously dusted both my countertop and rolling pin with flour before unwrapping the dough and dusting it with a touch of flour. Dusting with flour keeps the dough from sticking to the counter and rolling pin.
When rolling out dough, roll from the center out and apply light pressure. Roll the dough a few times, rotate the dough a quarter turn, and roll a few more times. Continue this pattern until you have reached the desired thickness or you can’t easily turn the dough. If you can’t turn the dough, vary the direction of your rolls to simulate turning. If this is your first time rolling any kind of dough I would watch a few instructional videos on YouTube.
The galette dough should have a diameter of 15 inches when properly rolled out, mine came in an inch or 2 under. I didn't want to risk rolling my dough too thin and making a colossal mess.
When rolled out, place the dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or dusted with flour. Spread the goat cheese mixture on the dough, keeping a border of roughly 2 inches. Sprinkle the walnuts on the goat cheese mixture and top with a layer of pear slices.
Fold the edges of the dough up on to the pear slices, slip a few extra pear slices under the crust or in any bare spots at this time. Gently brush the dough with a bit of water or melted butter and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. The galette is done when the crust has turned a light golden brown. Let the galette cool at least 30 minutes before serving.
Overall, I was pretty happy with how the galette turned out. The crust was soft and somewhat flakey and the pears, goat cheese, and walnuts complemented each other nicely. This is a great dessert for anyone who likes fruit and cheese plates or more savory flavors.
I think the desert could have been improved with a touch more sugar on the crust and something to make the pears a little less dry. I am glad I took the plunge and made my own pastry dough. Now that I have, I look forward to gaining more expertise in this arena.