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.

Serves 6

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
kosher salt
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.


Julia said...

Oh that looks and sounds so good Amanda. Another great dish to add to my list to try!

Joanne Rendell said...

too delicious, 'manda!

Cynthia said...

Always a pleasure visiting and learning something new, Amanda. Thanks for the introduction to Calvados.

Mercedes said...

I'm so glad you're posting again, you've been missed! I've been cooking so much middle eastern food lately, and the one thing I've really missed is cooking with wine and liquors. It can add such an oomph to things. Lovely.

Joanna said...

Our town is twinned with a town in Normandy, and everyone involved in the twinning has bottles and bottles of Calvados, much of it homemade ... so this is a really useful recipe!

Lovely to have you back

I'm sure I won't be the only one, but I have nominated you for the 2007 Food Blog Awards ... details on my blog if you don't know about this


Patricia Scarpin said...

I have never tried making a free form tart/galette, Amanda - yours looks so beautiful and delicious!
And with fruit as filling it's gotta be good. :)

Wendy said...

Welcome back, Amanda. I've been missing your posts!
I'm not very adverturous with pears. Usually just eat them whole. I love sound of this though. :)

Andrea said...

I made a galette one time and loved it because they are so easy! Yours looks and sounds yummy!

winedeb said...

As you know from my previous post, I adore galette's. So simple to make and so rustic. I love your addition of Calvados! I will be trying that one on my next galette!
Nice presentation!

David Hall said...

I love this technique, so much easier than making a pie! Just fold it over your choice of fruit and bung it in the oven, great unfussy food, delicious!


Figs Olives Wine said...

Julia, thank you! Let me know how it goes if you have a chance to try it.

Jo, thanks! Glad you like.

Cynthia, thank you, you lovely lady! Calvados is such a treat, and I hope you get the chance to try it sometime soon.

Mercedes, thanks! I missed your blog while I was taking a break too! It takes such restraint for me not to use the wine/ liquor in my cooking when I'm cooking recipes from that part of the world. It does open up other options, which I know is good for me, but my natural
instinct is always to reach for the booze haha.

Joanna, how incredibly kind of you to think of me! I'm so flattered that someone whose work I admire so much would think highly of mine! And to be twinned with a town in Normandy must be phenomenal! How incredible to have access to homemade Calvados. I'd love to hear what sorts of recipes and cocktails you use it for! Thanks so much, Joanna.

Patricia, thank you! I love galettes too. They're rustic, delicious, and true homecooking. Hope you have the chance to try this one soon.

Wendy, fresh pears are so fabulous - I don't blame you. That's like me and fresh figs. I can never believe there's a way to improve on them.

Andrea, thank you! I love galettes too - they're so fun to make and so delicious.

Winedeb, thanks! Great minds think alike, yet again! So pleased you like.

David, agreed! And honestly I like the way it looks better too. Somehow more tactile and approachable. So pleased you like!

Barbara said...

I've never made one of these free form tarts. Come berry season I'll make one. It looks wonderful Amanda.

Captain Cat said...

Oh bother, now my mouth is watering. I have memorised the potato dish because I can find those ingredients here. But as for some of the others, I will have to wait. Thank you for all these wonderful recipes (I found you on Mariam's My Marrakesh blog).

Figs Olives Wine said...

Barbara, a berry galette is a glorious idea! I can't wait to read all about it.

Captain Cat, welcome! I'm so glad you found Figs Olives Wine - isn't Maryam's site fantastic?! I hope you have the chance to make galette soon, but, in the meantime, enjoy those potatoes!!

baylah said...

that was amazingly easy. i substituted some orange liquor for the calvados (just couldn't make it to the store) and i needed to add a tablespoon of water to bring the dough together, but what a treat! it was gone in 24 hours!
thank you!

Matt said...

Oh my gosh, that looks absolutely delicious! What a creative way with dough and fruit.
How do you keep it from not sticking to the counter without adding too much water or drying it out with too much flour?

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