Thursday, November 29, 2007
Pear & Calvados Galette - a Recipe
Well I think I’ve finally emerged from my Thanksgiving turkey coma – hope you all had a great holiday! While I was on break earlier this month, I left a poll up so that you all could vote on your favorite November crop. The choices were chestnuts, parsnips, leeks, pears, and fennel, and, though chestnuts and pears were neck and neck for a long time, in the end pears won out.
This galette is one I love making at the back end of pear season, when the weather’s turned cold and the holidays are within sight. I adore the crust, a gently sweetened pâte sablée, which bakes into a rustic, crumbly shell reminiscent of sugar cookies. This pear recipe’s based on the flavors of Normandy, a northwestern French region that lies on the southern coast of the English Channel.
Normandy’s cuisine celebrates the region’s exquisite cheeses, butter, cream, seafood, and apples and pears, which usually feature in the area’s stunning pastries. And, of course, there is Calvados – the amber apple brandy that’s heady with oak, apricot, nuts, and maybe even a little chocolate. The proportion of tart apples to bitter and sweet varieties that are pressed for distillation is closely monitored, and so Calvados is far more complex and sophisticated than liquors like apple jack, which is far too sweet for my palate. Often up to 100 different apple types are used in this process.
Calvados is used to flavor all manner of dishes in Normandy, from mussels in cream and lamb stew, to pastries and sweets. And the brandy also features in the region’s traditional le trou Normand, or “Norman hole.” Here, during longer meals with multiple courses, a dram of Calvados is sipped while each dish is cleared and the next is served in order to rouse the appetite. Sounds a bit more fun than our sedate spoonful of lemon sorbet, doesn’t it?
Pears are included in one of the appellations for Calvados (AOC Calvados Domfrontais), but I think all 3 Calvados appellations work wonderfully to enhance the flavor and earthy fragrance of the fruit. Here I’ve mixed one apple with the pears to echo the complexity of the brandy. And I think you’ll agree that the sprinkling of citrus zest melds with the Calvados - not only letting the pears sing, but also making this a gloriously seasonal dessert. One whiff, and a little surge of anticipation of the upcoming holidays is sure to follow. Serve with crème fraîche and pour glasses of Calvados for an authentic Norman end to any cold weather supper.
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tbsp granulated sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
1/8 tsp baking powder
7 tbsp cold butter
2 eggs, cold
½ tsp good vanilla extract
3 large, firm pears (Bosc works well here)
juice of 2 lemons
1 apple (nothing too tart – I use Honeycrisp)
zest of 1 lemon
zest of 1 small orange
2 tsp Calvados
Crème fraîche for serving (optional)
In a food processor, pulse the flour, a pinch of salt, sugar, and baking powder to combine. Dice the butter into small cubes with a sharp knife. Add to the food processor and pulse just until the mixture looks like coarse oatmeal. Add one of the eggs and the vanilla, and pulse until just combined and the dough just starts to come together. Do not overwork.
Turn the dough – which may be quite sticky – out on a sheet of parchment and press into a disk. Use the tips of your fingers for this rather than the palms of your hands – the less heat and movement the dough is subjected to, the more tender it will be. Wrap the disk of dough in more parchment and refrigerate for 1 hour or up to 3 days.
Meanwhile, make the filling. Using a sharp paring knife, peel a pear and halve it lengthwise. Trim the stem and blossom, and use a melon baller to scoop out the core. Turn each half over and slice fairly thinly. Immediately transfer the slices to a bowl and spritz with plenty of lemon juice to avoid browning. Repeat with the remaining pears and with the apple, making sure all are coated with plenty of lemon juice. Add the lemon and orange zest and gently toss with your fingers to combine.
Preheat the oven to 425 F.
Let the dough come back up to room temperature for 15 minutes. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper, dust a rolling pin and the dough with a little flour, and roll the dough out on the paper to a circle about 12 inches across.
Pile the fruit in the center of the dough. Fold the sides of the dough up over the filling, working around the circle, so that each fold overlaps the last (see the photo above). If your dough cracks, it’s a little too cold still. Let it rest for 5 minutes and try again. If your dough is too sticky, use a bench scraper or the side of a chef’s knife to fold over the edges. Place the baking sheet in the fridge and chill for 15 minutes.
Sprinkle the Calvados over the exposed fruit, and sprinkle with another pinch of salt. Mix the remaining egg with a little water and brush over the crust. Sprinkle the crust with a few pinches of granulated sugar.
Bake the galette in the oven for 30 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Cool on a rack for 10 -15 minutes before serving. The galette is also delicious at room temperature.