Bourbon Peach Galette
Other than a few short stints in restaurants and bakeries plus some classes and culinary boot camps here and there, I am in no way, shape or form a professional pastry chef. Sure my time in restaurants and a disastrous attempt at becoming an artisan bread baker bestowed certain skills and a confidence in the kitchen that I can’t deny. However, like most of you, my cooking is a largely at home pro-bono endeavour, reserved for those I love and the occasional neighborly birthday cake.
There has been much chatter lately in culinary circles about how the floundering economy and rise in foodborne illnesses due to lack of food production oversight is leading to a return to cooking in the home. The fact that we are a culture utterly addicted to convenience over quality has left a large segment of us looking to Sandra Lee for inspiration inside her packets of taco seasoning.
I agree wholeheartedly that basic cooking know-how is a fundamental and quite attainable life skill that not everyone may love as much as I do, but that nonetheless comes with incredible financial, physical and mental rewards for all. However, I am dismayed to find that much of the discussion by “the experts” seems to alienate the exact group of non food-obsessed folks they are attempting to convert – home cooks who are doing their best for their families with the time and resources available to them. I strongly believe that access to nutritious and fresh food is a human right and therefore have little patience for elitist diatribes on this subject more interested in preaching to their own choir than lobbying for real change in their local community and by crafting relevant and approachable recipes for the masses they deride.
It is no doubt time for all of us to re-introduce ourselves to the stove and fresh, local fruits and vegetables. But for this movement towards a healthier and more budget-friendly lifestyle to take off, cooking must be presented as accessible to all and not couch invaluable but basic skills in intimidating, time consuming and costly projects. Surely a balance can be struck between the realities of our present and where we strive to be. And it is in that balance, I believe, that we will find the most progress.
To my fellow food dorks out there, I love nothing more than reading about how to cure my own bacon but in our individual obsessions we must not forget that to teach others to love what we love, we must begin in their kitchen, not ours. Now, I am surely guilty of posting lengthy and complicated recipes here in this space but please trust that I strive for a balance between passion and reality. I also find great inspiration in the queen of demystification, Julia Child, and those present-day cooks out there (Kim O’Donnel, Monica Bhide, Mark Bittman – to name just a few) who do it so well by encouraging a realistic approach to consuming less meat and processed food and also by re-inventing recipes to appeal to wider audiences.
The following recipe highlights a wonderfully basic and quick technique that can be used for a large array of desserts. This recipe for galette dough has been one of my favorites since I first tried it at one of those aforementioned baking gigs. We used this basic dough in the bakery year-round, swapping out the fillings seasonally for an entirely new dish. I adore the ease and ragged-edge appearance of galettes – truly the definition of no-frills, but yet elegant, seasonal baking.
Bourbon Peach Galette
Adapted from Chez Panisse Fruit
This recipe yields enough dough for 2 galettes, however the dough can be prepared in advance, rolled out and frozen for several weeks. The bourbon and peach combination is pretty standard, but completely optional for those who are alcohol-averse. Also, the crumbled cookie and almond layer is an extra step worth taking as it prevents the fruit juices from making the crust soggy.
For the dough
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes and frozen
7 Tbs ice water
For the filling
1/4 cup ground almonds
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup biscotti (or other dry cookie), ground
4-5 large ripe peaches
1 Tb light brown sugar
1/4 cup good quality Bourbon
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 Tb apricot preserves, warmed slightly
In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, sugar and salt and pulse 3 times to mix. Drop 4 Tbs of the butter into the processor and pulse until the dough resembles a coarse cornmeal. Add the remaining butter and pulse until the largest pieces of butter are the size of peas. Slowly dribble in the ice water, 1-2 tablespoons at a time, pulsing once after each addition.
Check the mixture by gently pressing handfuls of the dough together. If the dough remains clumped, you have enough water, if not, dribble in a bit more. You want the dough to just hold together, with large chunks of butter remaining, but not formed completely into a ball. Divide the dough in half, form halves into a ball and wrap each in plastic wrap, gently pressing each into a flattened disk. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, set a large pot of water on to boil. Prepare a bowl with ice water and using a small knife make a small X in the skin on the bottom of each peach. When the water begins to boil, drop in the peaches and allow to boil just until the skin at the X starts to come loose – 3-4 minutes. Remove the peaches from boiling water and dunk immediately in the ice bath. Once cool enough to touch, gently peel away the peach skin, starting at the X.
Thinly slice the peeled peaches and place them in a medium bowl with the Bourbon and brown sugar. Allow the peaches to marinate in the Bourbon mixture for 30-45 minutes at room temperature. Next, make the almond powder by combining the ground almonds, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup flour and 1/4 cup ground biscotti. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Remove the disk of dough from the refrigerator, unwrap and set on a piece of lightly floured parchment paper. Allow the dough to warm up slightly for a few minutes and then gently roll out into a circle, about 8 inches in diameter. Move the dough and parchment onto a sheet pan. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the almond powder onto the dough, leaving a 1 inch border of plain dough around the edges. Place the peaches on top of the powder in a fan arrangement around the dough and then gently fold in the one inch edges. Lightly brush the dough with the beaten egg and sprinkle the entire galette liberally with sugar.
Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until the galette is golden. While still warm, brush the peaches with apricot preserves to glaze and gently move the galette off the sheet pan and onto a cooling rack. Serve slices warm and with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.