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Making a galette is easier than, well, pie

The versatile dessert is similar to pie, but more forgiving.

It was supposed to be simple: Roll out, fill, fold, bake. The entire point of a galette is that it is not as fussy as pie, not as reliant on precise measurements or expert technique. But that first one I made was a total disaster.

The crust began to tear instantly, unable to cover the filling I had spooned in the center. The filling itself proved to be too wet, oozing out all over the baking sheet while in the oven. Even the egg wash I brushed on the crust rendered the outer layer an odd texture.

I know what went wrong, and I am here to tell you how to do it right. Because galettes, a fancy-sounding French term for a sort of freeform crust or pastry, are perfect for your Thanksgiving dessert. They are elegant. They conjure the same buttery feelings as pie, but with less stress. And, with the right recipe, they are easy to make.

We need to start here: You have to make your own crust.

It’s the only part of making a galette that is at all challenging; the rest merely requires slicing and arranging fruit. I thought I could take a store-bought shortcut on this step with that first galette, and that’s the first reason why things went so poorly. The preformed pie crusts sold in grocery stores are simply not large enough to provide adequate galette coverage. And the two different brands I tried to roll out to a larger shape devolved into crumbly messes.

Crust recipes are fairly straightforward, and almost uniform in their ingredient list: butter, flour, salt, water. Some call for vodka or apple cider vinegar, which help hydrate the dough without using too much water; water can cause the gluten in the flour to react too much, which can make your dough tough. But I’ve found that ice cold water and a watchful eye can get the job done.

I tried two methods for making the crust on my second galette go-around, determined to begin with a solid base. In the first, I pulsed all of the ingredients in the food processor, adding water slowly until a crumbly crust formed, then rolling it out on my counter.

The second, which I read about recently on Bon Appétit’s website, involved cutting butter into thin rectangles and rolling them into the dry flour mixture, similar to the laminating process when making croissants. You’re essentially creating little layers of butter over and over, resulting in a more flaky crust.

Both methods were relatively simple, though I found the second a little less foolproof than the first. I think the hardest part was clearing off enough counter space to have lots of room to mix and roll. And make sure you refrigerate your dough according to the recipe; dough that hasn’t had a chance to rest won’t roll out nicely.

The other thing to keep in mind about galettes is that the fruit that goes in the center generally does not need to be cooked. Cooking it before it goes into the oven can pull juices and sugars from the fruit that will then seep into the galette and onto your baking sheet, which is what happened to me. I tried cooking sliced pears with caramel on the stovetop first, and it was just too much.

Instead, simply slice your fruit thinly, mix it with just a bit of sugar and maybe some other seasonal ingredients and arrange in the middle of your crust. Anything else you want to add, like caramel, can be drizzled on top after the galette comes out of the oven.

We have now arrived at the best part about a galette: To finish it off, you simply fold up the outer edges of the crust around the pile of fruit. No need to crimp anything, or get out the cookie cutters to make an elaborate crust design — galettes could not care how elegantly you fold up those edges. When it bakes, it crisps and settles and looks charmingly rustic. And that is the beauty of a galette.

Fall Fruit Galette

Apple galette
Apple galette [ MICHELLE STARK | Tampa Bay Times ]

¼ cup (½ stick) salted butter

1 disc Pastry Dough (recipe below)

All-purpose flour (for dusting)

1 pound baking apples (such as Pink Lady; about 2 large) or 1 pound pears, sliced ⅛ inch thick

3 tablespoons dark brown sugar

⅓ cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1 tablespoon sesame seeds, optional

1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

Place a rack in middle of oven and preheat to 375 degrees. Place butter in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until butter foams then browns (be careful not to burn), 5 to 8 minutes. Remove pan from heat.

Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface into a rough 14- by 10-inch rectangle or a 12-inch round. Transfer to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Arrange fruit in center of dough, mounding slightly. Leave yourself about 3 inches of crust on the perimeter. Brush fruit with brown butter and sprinkle with sugar. Lift edges of dough over fruit, tucking and overlapping as needed. Make sure the edges of the dough don’t tear. If they do, try to patch any holes with dough.

Once crust is shaped, brush with heavy cream. Sprinkle with granulated sugar and sesame seeds, if using, and bake, rotating once, until fruit is soft and juicy and crust is golden brown, 40 to 50 minutes.

Remove from oven, immediately drizzle maple syrup over apples, then let cool slightly on baking sheet before slicing.

Source: Michelle Stark, Tampa Bay Times

Pastry Dough

1 ½ teaspoons sugar

¾ teaspoon kosher salt

1 ⅓ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface

¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) chilled, unsalted butter

4 tablespoons ice water

Here is the food processor method: In a food processor, pulse together the sugar, salt and flour. Cut butter into cubes, then add to food processor and pulse until the mixture forms lima bean-sized pieces. Slowly add ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and pulse until the dough just comes together. It should be moist, but not wet.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gather into a ball. Flatten into a disc with the heel of your hand. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Use in a galette recipe.

Alternatively, try the rolling method: Whisk sugar, salt and flour in a medium bowl. Cut butter into 6 rectangular pieces. Toss butter in dry ingredients to coat, then dump mixture out onto a work surface. Roll butter into flour until it is in long flexible strips, using a bench scraper to scrape butter off rolling pin or surface as needed.

Use bench scraper to gather mixture into a loose pile, then drizzle ice water over. Using your hands and the bench scraper, toss mixture until water is distributed, then gather into a rectangular pile.

Roll out dough to a long rectangle, then use bench scraper to fold dough into thirds, like folding a letter. It will be very crumbly and loose; don’t panic. Using bench scraper to help, turn rectangle 90 degrees and repeat rolling and folding, gathering loose bits of dough from outer edges into the center and flouring surface as needed.

Repeat rolling and folding a third time. Dough should be somewhat creamy looking with some dry bits around the edges. Squeeze a bit in your palm; it should loosely hold together. If not, repeat rolling and folding.

Wrap folded dough in plastic, then press it into a compact disc about 1 inch thick. Chill 30 minutes. Use in a galette recipe.

Source: Adapted from the New York Times and Carla Lalli Music