I’ve made a lot of apple pies over the years, but tonight I felt like making Apple Galette – a slightly different variation of a classic dessert with a French twist. It tastes similar to apple pie and isn’t really any more time-consuming to prepare, though the galette’s presentation is much more elegant.
Whenever I think of apple pie, what comes to mind isn’t exactly Thanksgiving or holidays as one might expect. I’m usually brought back to the memory of two vociferous budgies I once owned and to an old friend from my days at the Royal London Wax Museum. I used to bake this friend apple pies in exchange for his frequent bird-sitting services whenever I went on vacation.
The year that I started working there, I had just finished reading The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins and was intrigued by its Napoleonic villain, Count Fosco, whose eccentric habits included taming canaries and perching them on his shoulders to sing sweet songs in his ear. Young, misguided and easily impressionable, I thought that taming canaries would also be a sure-fire way to impress a prospective girlfriend I had invited for dinner that very weekend. I convinced myself how smitten she would be with my feathered menagerie of yellow friends and also with me as their modest but proud father/trainer; so I coaxed my roommate to drive me to the pet store that afternoon. Ignorant of birds and lacking a substantial budget, I ended up with two cacophonous budgies who squawked without pitch or melody all day long, much to the dismay of my neighbours, instead of ending up with the sweet-sounding canaries I had hoped for. The girl never did end up coming over and the only trick I was ever able to teach my budgies was to eat from my hand, a far cry from the Cinderella scene I had envisioned.
Whatever apple pie means to you, whether budgies, family dinners or the gratuitous scene from American Pie, try this apple dessert out instead as a break from the ordinary.
Makes enough for 6-8
Preparation and cook time: 2 hours (a lot of this is just waiting though, so don’t despair)
For the Dough:
1 1/4 cups cake or pastry Flour
3/4 cup Unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
12 tbsp unsalted butter (approximately half a cup), cut into small cubes roughly the size of dice.
Approximately 7 tbsp of very cold water
1 – 1 1/2 pounds of Granny Smith apples (about 3 medium-sized apples)
2 tbsp butter, solid; plus 1 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar; plus another 1/4 cup sugar
Dash of ground cinnamon
Dash of ground nutmeg
1 tbsp brown sugar
1. In a food processor, combine flours, sugar and salt using 3 quick pulses. Next, spread out the butter pieces evenly around the flour, still in food processor, then pulse 5 more times, quickly, until the butter becomes pea-sized.
2. Add cold water over the mixture, one tablespoon at a time, pulsing quickly in between each tablespoon. Keep doing this, with added tablespoons, until the the mixture begins to look like dough, sticking together. This should take about 6 or 7 tablespoons of water.
3. Remove the dough from the processor and place onto a lightly floured surface. I used parchment paper as a work surface, because I don’t enjoy cleaning my countertops after I work with pastry. Form the dough into a rectangular shape about 6 x 8 inches. Use the heel of your hand to slowly spread and smear the dough onto the work surface. This will spread the butter into the dough better and help make the dough flakier. This is called fraisage and if you say it with a french accent and a little bit nasal makes you really sound pretentious. Say it a few times aloud to your partner, just to annoy them. Bring the dough back together and then repeat the smearing one more time. Form the dough into a square and wrap with plastic, then let sit in the fridge to cool for 30 minutes. Have a glass of wine while you wait.
4. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place rack to middle of oven.
5. Five minutes before you remove the dough from the fridge, begin slicing the apples. You’ll want to cut them fairly thin, lengthwise – about 1/8 inch thick. Don’t let the sliced apples sit too long or else they’ll start to brown.
6. Put the dough onto floured parchment paper, about 14 x 12 inches. Roll it out with a rolling pin until the dough reaches the edges, though don’t worry if the shape isn’t perfect. You’re aiming for something that moderately resembles a rectangle and that is fairly thin. You may need to dust the rolling pin if you find the dough sticks.
7. Roll up 1 inch of each edge to form a border, then pinch this with your fingers so that you have borders 1/2 inch thick.
8. In a small bowl, mix together 1 tbsp of melted butter, with 1/4 cup sugar and a dash of nutmeg and cinnamon. Drizzle this onto the dough with your fingers. Spread some onto the borders as well.
9. Begin layering the apple slices, beginning in one corner, to create even rows, overlapping each slice by about a half. Then overlap each row by the same amount. Depending on the size and shape of your dough rectangle, you may have to get creative or may require a little more or less slices. Dot the apples with the butter and sprinkle with remainder sugar, brown sugar and another pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg. Bake, using the parchment sheet on a baking sheet, until the bottom of the galette is golden, about 45-50 minutes.