My first restaurant job was making sandwiches and salads at a small cafe that served healthy, seasonal and really delicious food. A few times a week the pastry chefs from the main restaurant would deliver baked goods to fill the large pastry case at the front of the cafe. While making sandwiches and salads wasn’t all that exciting, I always looked forward to the pastry delivery.
The pastry case was full of customer-favorites such as chocolate chip cookies and salted caramel cupcakes, but I was most excited by the mixed berry galettes that were nearly the size of my head. Ripe berries were stewed to a thick, jammy consistency and wrapped up into an envelope by golden brown pastry crust spinkled with coarse sugar crystals.
While these were by far the most delicious and beautiful item in the pastry case, the intimidating size and tough competition meant they were not a best seller. I rarely made it out of a shift without buying something from the pastry case, but the best days were the ones where I got to take home a galette that did not sell.
Unfortunately the cafe was short-lived and is no longer in existence. I often crave the food we served and find myself thinking about the pastries. I picked up some apricots at the market last week without knowing what I was going to do with them. On my drive home I passed the former space of the cafe and knew immediately where those apricots were headed – straight into an apricot galette.
So, what is a galette exactly? Galettes are ‘the oldest of all pastries’ and can be traced back to the Neolitic period according to Larousse Gastronomique. It gets a bit complicated because the term galette is used to refer to many different round baked goods.
A galette breton is a buckwheat crepe filled with a savory filling such as ham, cheese, or a fried egg. A galette de rois (king cake) is a flaky puff pastry cake with a frangipane center eaten in France on the day of Epiphany. And if you order a galette in Normandy, you may find yourself eating a crisp sablé butter cookie.
My favorite type of galette is the rustic French country dessert, a free-form fruit tart that is less fussy and formal than a traditional pie or French tart. Fruit is placed in the center of a round sheet of pastry and the dough is folded in to enclose the fruit. You get a larger ratio of crust to fruit and a great contrast between the crisp pastry crust and the jammy fruit.
Galettes are a great way to get more comfortable with making pie dough. You get the practice of making the dough and rolling it out but don’t have to mess with lining the pie plate, crimping the edges, or blind baking. Galettes look effortlessly sophisticated and are sure to impress your friends and family.
The base of this galette is my favorite all butter pie crust. Before you get started, be sure to review these pie crust tutorials:
Start by rolling out the pie dough and transferring it to a parchment lined baking sheet. Try to get the dough placed evenly on the baking sheet so that when you add the fruit and fold the edges, the galette will be in middle of the baking sheet.
The dough will get folded over so it is not a big deal if your dough is not a perfect circle – it’s actually better if it’s not!
I’ve used apricots in this galette, but you can fill it with any fruit that is in season. To make the filling, the apricots are sliced and then tossed together with some sugar, vanilla extract and spices. I let the mixture sit and macerate while the dough chills. Be sure to taste the filling and adjust the sugar accordingly, adding more or less depending on the sweetness of the fruit.
Pour the apricots into the center of the dough. I arranged them a little bit to make sure they were in a singular layer. You can get fancy and arrange them in concentric circles but I appreciate the rustic free-form look. Don’t forget to pour the accumulated juices over the top of the fruit.
Galettes are meant to be rustic. They should be irregular in shape so if your rolling skills need a little work, there is nothing to worry about. You can fold the dough over as much or as little as you like. Some galettes have a small edge and let the beautiful fruit show though while others are folded so that the dough covers the fruit almost completely. I tend to go somewhere in the middle.
Continue folding and working your way around the galette. You can add pleats where they occur naturally in the dough. There is no right or wrong way to fold and pleat the dough. You can get particular and make even pleats all the way around but I just let the dough go where it happens to fold naturally.
Brush the edges and sides with egg wash and sprinkle the entire galette generously with crunchy sugar such as demerara or turbinado. Chill the galette for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 hour before baking.
The galette will bake for about 35-50 minutes. You know it is done when the fruit is bubbling and the crust is crisp and a deep golden brown. Let the galette cool for a few minutes in the pan and then use the parchment paper to carefully transfer it to a cooling rack.
Galettes are best served straight from the oven when the crust is crisp and the fruit is warm. Slice it and add a scoop of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. Leftovers can be wrapped and left at room temperature for 2 days. A slice of apricot galette makes a perfect breakfast.