High Country Baking: An elegant, easy pear almond galette
VAIL CO, Colorado
Editor’s note: Living in the Colorado high country is pure joy. Baking in it isn’t. High altitude makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall, and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips to make baking in the mountains successful.
This column isn’t about shaving, though the spell-check program on my computer keeps insisting it must be. A galette is not a razor; it’s a free-form tart, made without a pan. And this one, featuring pears and almonds, is a lovely example. The tender crust cradles slices of pear flavored with cinnamon, brown sugar, almond extract and apricot preserves and crowned with an almond streusel. The taste of pears, so subtle that it’s sometimes lost when baked, is beautifully enhanced by the other filling ingredients and the contrast between the soft fruit and the crisp nut topping adds to this dessert’s acclaim.
While the directions seem long-winded, the galette isn’t time consuming to make. I usually do it over two days, preparing and refrigerating the crust dough on the first day and, on the following day, filling and baking it.
Be sure to select pears that are firmer than those ready to be eaten out of hand; the truly ripe ones will be mushy when baked. If you have a crust recipe you prefer to the one I’ve included, feel free to use it.
Pear Almond Galette
1 cup of flour
2 teaspoons of granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon of salt
6 tablespoons of very cold unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
3-4 tablespoons of ice water
1/4 cup of apricot preserves
3 tablespoons of brown sugar
2 tablespoons of cornstarch
3/4 teaspoon of almond extract
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
4 firm Bartlett pears
2 tablespoons of flour
1 tablespoon of brown sugar
Slightly less than 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter at room temperature
3 tablespoons of sliced almonds
Optional: 1 tablespoon of cream for a glaze
Make the dough for the crust: Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the pieces of butter and pulse until they’re broken up a bit but still in big chunks. Add three tablespoons of the ice water and pulse until the dough just comes together but isn’t smooth. If the dough seems too dry, add an additional tablespoon of ice water. Turn the dough out on a sheet of waxed paper, knead gently until smooth, gently form into a disc, cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. The dough can remain refrigerated for a day or can be frozen for a month.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, with a rack in the center position. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Remove the dough from the refrigerator, let it warm slightly if necessary, and roll into a circle, about 12-13 inches across (I do this between two sheets of plastic wrap). Transfer the dough circle to the parchment-lined baking sheet. Set aside.
Make filling: Put the preserves, brown sugar, cornstarch, almond extract, and cinnamon in a mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Peel, core, and cut the pears into one-fourth to three-eighths inch slices. Place slices in the mixing bowl and gently stir/toss to coat them well with the preserve mixture. Pile the coated pears on the dough circle, leaving a border of about two-three inches around the outside. Carefully fold this dough border over the filling, pressing the folds of dough so they hold together. If the dough tears, press it back together; you don’t want the filling to leak out.
Make the streusel: Combine the flour and brown sugar in a small bowl. Cut the room temperature butter into small pieces, add them, and mash with a fork until the mixture forms moist crumbles. Sprinkle the crumbles over the opening of the galette. (Hold on to the almonds; you’ll add them later; if you do so now they’ll burn). If glazing the galette, lightly brush the crust with the cream. Bake until the crust is set and light golden and the filling bubbles. This takes from 22-27 minutes in my oven. Scatter the sliced almond on top of the streusel about five minutes before the galette is done. If the almonds brown before the galette has finished baking, cover the open center with a loose tent of foil.
Remove the galette from the oven; let it cool and firm up for at least an hour before serving. After it’s cooled 20-30 minutes, carefully run a metal spatula between the crust bottom and the parchment paper, pressing down while doing so, to loosen any bits of crust that are stuck to the paper.
I like to cool the dessert completely, cut it into pieces and reheat them in a 300 degree oven or a microwave right before serving. Vanilla ice cream is a nice complement to the warm pastry. Store leftovers, covered, in the refrigerator.
Vera Dawson, a chef instructor with CMC’s Culinary Institute, lives in Summit County, where she bakes almost every day. Her recipes have been tested in her home kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. This is a variation of a recipe from the California Pear Advisory Board.
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