One of my food resolutions for 2015 is to bake something every week, so to (quietly) celebrate Tony’s birthday tomorrow, I’m making one of his favorite pastry treats: sweet little bundles of goodness that we call fresh berry galettes.
A galette is best described as a free-form tart or pie, which can be made with either a sweet or savory filling. Galettes can be formed as one large pastry, similar in size to a whole pie, but I prefer to make individual tarts which can be eaten by hand, almost straight from the oven.
Tony and our son, Giovanni, just adore these fruit-filled pastries, and I adore the fact that, despite their fancy name and pretty presentation, galettes are surprisingly easy to make.
The secret is in the crust, and for this specialty I like to make a basic pàte brisée crust. Pàte brisée (pronounced paht bree-ZAY), is a short crust pastry dough, meaning it has a high ratio of fat to flour, resulting in a texture that is crisp and crumbly, and a flavor that is oh, so buttery. The crust can be made in advance and refrigerated for at least two days, or frozen for up to two months.
The key to achieving the best crust is to use very, very cold butter and water. I cut each stick of butter into ½-inch cubes and then place them in the freezer for about 15 to 20 minutes, and then I fill a small bowl with ice and water.
I use a food processor to mix the dough, but you could also use a pastry blender or even your hands, if they’re cool enough. Mix the dry ingredients together first for about 15 seconds, and then add the cold butter and process again for about 15 pulses, until the mixture appears coarsely ground.
Add the water slowly through the feed tube, starting with a ¼ cup, until the mixture just holds together when pinched between your fingers. Unlike bread or pizza dough, this dough will not form automatically into a ball or be sticky, at all.
Once the dough is ready, turn it out onto your work surface and gather it into a ball. It will be somewhat crumbly, but should come together without much effort. If it seems like the dough just will not hold together, return it to the food processor and pulse-in more cold water, starting with a teaspoon.
The dough is divided in half, with each half formed into disks then wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for about an hour. When ready to form the galettes, cut each disk into quarters and gently pat into round disks.
Roll out each disk to a circle approximately 6-7 inches in diameter and transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. The crust is versatile enough to work with sweet or savory fillings, but I’ve always used fresh berries. Sprinkle about a half-tablespoon of sugar in the center of each pastry circle, top with your favorite fresh berries, and finish by sprinkling more sugar directly over the berries, according to taste.
Gently fold the sides of the pastry up and inward, pinching together accordion-style. Brush each galette with eggwash and sprinkle the crust with sugar before baking in a 425-degree until golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes. Or, freeze, unbaked, for up to one month.
Remember, this is a rustic pastry so don’t worry about making them perfect. They will look and taste great once baked, and will be worthy of anyone’s birthday.
Fresh Berry Birthday Galettes
Makes: 8 galettes
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt (I prefer finely-ground sea salt for better flavor)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes and chilled
¼ to ½ cup ice water
2 to 3 packs fresh berries
1 to 2 tablespoons water
Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. Chill cut butter in freezer for 15 to 20 minutes.
In a food processor, mix the flour, sugar and salt together until combined, about 15 seconds. Add the butter and pulse 15-20 times until the mixture appears coarsely ground. Add the water slowly through the feed tube, starting with a ¼ cup, and then by the tablespoon, until the dough just holds together when pinched between two fingers.
Turn the dough out onto a work surface and form into a ball. Divide the ball in half and form each half into a disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for one hour, or up to two days, before using.
To form the galettes, divide each disk into quarters, gently patting each into rounds. Roll each small disk out to a circle approximately 6-7 inches in diameter and transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Sprinkle ½ tablespoon of sugar in the center of each pastry circle and top with fresh berries, leaving about 1-2 inches of pastry border. Sprinkle more sugar on top of the berries, according to their tartness.
Gently fold the sides of the pastry up and inward, pinching together accordion-style. Brush the crust of each galette with eggwash and sprinkle with more sugar if desired. Before baking, chill galettes in refrigerator for 20 minutes to set up.
Bake in 425 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes until crust is golden brown and berry juices are just starting to bubble. Remove from oven and transfer to a cooling rack until ready to serve. Serve with a dollop of ice cream, or as a breakfast pastry.
To Store: Store galettes wrapped tightly in tin foil or in a metal/tin container for up to two days, at room temperature or in refrigerator.
To Freeze Galettes: Place baking sheet with unbaked galettes in freezer for an hour; then, individually wrap each galette in plastic, transfer to a freezer bag or airtight container, label with date and freeze for up to one month. For even baking, thaw slightly (about 15 minutes) and increase baking time by 3 to 5 minutes if needed.
To Freeze Pastry Dough: Wrap each pastry disk in plastic, transfer to a freezer bag, label with date and freeze for up to two months.
- In addition to fresh berries, you could also use sliced pears, apples, peaches and/or cherries as filling.
- To achieve the best crust, use very cold butter and water and avoid mixing or handling the dough too much.
- Taste the berries or fruit for tartness before adding sugar, then add according to taste.
- Do not store baked galettes in plastic, which will soften the pastry crust.