Would you like to know the secret to making good pie? Well, don't ask me. I make lousy pie, so I can't help you with that. What I can help you with, thanks to a devious workaround in my bag of tricks, is diverting attention—yours and anyone else’s--from your lack of pie-making skills.
In my entirely unsolicited opinion, whomsoever came up with the phrase “easy as pie” has a little bit to answer for. It’s easy as pie for me to make a cardboard crust that stays raw underneath the fruit but burns on the edges. Easy as pie to underfill the thing so that the top crust collapses AND to overfill it so it blurps all over the oven. It’s easy as pie for me to imagine I can flute and lattice and, heaven help us, stencil a pie crust, but tough as nails to translate that into reality on the plate.
There is nothing like a pie, in my experience, to bring a person’s lofty fantasies regarding their personal superpowers sharply down to terra firma. Although I did just offer to make a wedding cake for some friends who are getting married in November, and I have a consequent hunch that in fact there IS something like a pie for that purpose. My oldest child has quietly requested that she be allowed to live somewhere else while I am constructing the cake. Wise girl.
But pie. Do you long to pass for a pie-maker, and feel pretty hot about yourself into the bargain? We can address this desire.
Cue the trumpets! Enter, stage left, Julia Child! Why, what is that she is carrying? I think it is a galette. Galette is a French word meaning “just as yummy as pie and no trouble to make.” This recipe comes from Baking with Julia and I have tweaked it only a little bit. To revert to the original, leave out the whole wheat flour and use all white flour. The cornmeal gives it plenty of textural interest. But I like the nuttiness of a little whole wheat in here, especially with the plums. Which reminds me that it is a recipe for a BERRY galette, in the book. But I had plums. And really you could use any fruit at all. Or make a savory one with tomatoes and herbs and cheese.
Here are two reasons to love the original recipe, other than the tasty food that results from it: one, when it instructs you to cut in the butter until some pieces are the size of small peas and some are finer, an explanation is given. “The finer bits will make it tender, and the larger ones will make it flaky.” I love that kind of insider info. Teach a man to fish, and so forth. Later on, after you’ve added the liquid, you’re told, “it will be a soft, malleable dough—the kind you might be tempted to overwork.” Mmm hmm. It’s like they were watching me.
This is not a very sweet dessert at all, meaning you get carte blanche (that’s also French, for “a little more wrist action on that scoop, there”) with the ice cream.
Parchment paper is your ally here. Absolutely essential. Don't leave home without it. The almond paste fillip came to me in a flash; I used to put a little bit of minute tapioca in there, to keep the juices from getting too runny (even though Julia and her friends said nothing about this; runniness does not worry them), but the tapioca that clings to the fruit on top doesn't cook properly, and tweezing those bits of tapioca off cuts into my golf time. Adding the almond paste is good because it is yum, and because it drinks up all the fruit juices while all around it stays crisp, but it's hardly essential—to anything other than your “CHECK. ME. OUT.” feeling of happiness, that is. Yeah, that’s right. We got swagger. We ain’t afraid of no PIE.
galette of whatever pleases you
adapted from Baking With Julia
- 3 T sour cream, yogurt or buttermilk
- 1/3 c ice water (about)
- ¾ c all purpose flour
- ¼ c whole wheat flour
- ¼ c cornmeal
- 1-2 t sugar
- ½ t salt
- 7T cold unsalted butter, cut in cubes
- 3 c fruit, sliced
- 1-2T sugar
- 1 t grated fresh ginger
- 1 7oz tube almond paste
- 1 T cold unsalted butter, cut in slivers
- 1 T heavy cream
- 1 tsp sugar
In a small bowl, mix together the sour cream and the water until totally combined.
In a medium bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Toss the butter in there, and use a fork to coat the pieces in the flour mixture. Using a pastry blender, cut the butter in, making sure to leave some bits more or less pea-sized. Now splash in most of the liquid mixture and use the fork to toss it all around. Pinch a bit of the dough; if it holds together, gather the whole mess into a ball; if not, add the remaining liquid. If it still seems dry, add water by the teaspoon until it comes together. Once you have gathered it all up, divide the ball in two and form a disk from each half. Refrigerate for at least half an hour.
When you are ready to bake, take the dough out of the fridge. Let it enjoy the room’s temperature while you mix the fruit and sugar and ginger in a small bowl. Heat the oven to 400 degrees, and have two squares of parchment and two baking sheets at the ready.
Sprinkle a little flour on the parchment, and plop a disk of dough on there. Cover with a sheet of wax paper, and roll out to about ¼ “ thick. Think about a circle as you are rolling, but don’t invest a moment’s thought into whether or not you achieve one. A rustic ovoid will serve. Rough edges are good, too. Take about a third of the almond paste and pat and poink it out (or use your rolling pin, but that means another two sheets of wax paper) to a rough circle that will rest on the dough with a comfortable margin all the way around. Plop half the fruit on top of that, in a single layer, again leaving a wide margin.
Now, we have some fun. Using the parchment paper, fold one section of the dough up over the fruit.
Work your way around the circumference, folding up with the paper.
Why, lookee there! You are pleating your way to magazine-readiness and not even breaking a sweat.
Round you go. Very nice.
And there you have it.
Dot the exposed surface of the fruit with slivers of the butter. Brush the top side of the pleats with a little heavy cream. Sprinkle a teaspoon or so of sugar over that.
Repeat these steps with the second disk of dough, just absolutely digging that pleating thing now that you have it down.
Bake 30-40 minutes, until quite golden brown, and slide the parchment onto a rack to cool for as long as you can restrain yourself.