School started just over a week ago, an event that generally makes me and my friends panic and fear that our summer is over. Thankfully, all it takes is one look at the produce aisle or at the stands at any farmers’ markets, to realize that even though we may be back to sitting in uncomfortable chair and desk combinations for seven hours a day, we still have a few weeks of summer left. School or no school, stone fruit season is in full swing, with peaches, nectarines, plums, and cherries on sale for the lowest prices of the year. What inevitably happens is that after I try the peaches or cherries (read: eat close to two whole peaches in samples), I’ll buy more fruit than can possibly be eaten in one day. When I see the pile of fruit that has amassed on our countertops, I start to worry about how to use up the fruit before it starts to ferment.
The most elegant and simplest way to cook summer fruit is to pile it into a simple crust and form a rustic galette or tart that’s a perfect warm weather dessert. To be sure, pies are a fantastic dish to serve as well, but anyone who says “Easy as pie!” clearly has not made a pie, or at least not a very good one.
Galettes are baked straight on a baking sheet, so there’s no need to wrestle a delicate crust into a pie pan. The filling is simply lightly sweetened fruit which conveniently doesn’t require any precooking. To start off, you’ll need to prepare the crust.
Pastry dough relies on a solid fat to add flaky layers produced when the fat melts in the oven. I like to grate frozen butter into the flour, which ensures that the fat is evenly distributed and eliminates the need to wash a food processor. A small quantity of ice water pulls the dough together without making the crust tough.
After adding the water, the dough will look like a dry mass that will never produce a beautiful galette, but don’t stop there.
To produce long, flaky layers in the crust, you must use the technique of fraisage. Despite the fancy name, all this involves is smearing the dough across the counter with long strokes to create thin layers of butter within the dough. These thin sheets of butter also prevent tears and holes in the dough once it’s in the oven.
Gently gather the dough and it will eventually gather into a disk.
While the dough chills in the refrigerator to relax and firm up, pit and halve the cherries, then spend the remaining fifteen minutes of dough-chilling time startling the rest of your family with your bright red hands.
Roll out the dough into a generous circle, then spread the cherries onto the rolled out dough. Make sure to leave a border around the edge because sticky fruit juices are a pain to clean up once they’ve been on a hot baking sheet. I speak from experience.
To make the pleated tart edge, fold up two inch sections of the dough, overlapping them onto the previous section, until the tart looks like the picture below.
Let the galette bake in a hot oven until golden brown and the cherries are bubbling and the juices have reduced to a syrupy consistency. For the perfect end to a summer evening, serve this galette while it’s still warm with lightly sweetened whipped cream. If there are any leftovers (which is unlikely), eat them for breakfast. It’s the cook’s privilege, after all.
Makes 1 galette, which serves 8 for dessert
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon table salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, frozen
¼ cup ice water
1 ¼ lbs. fresh sweet cherries, pitted and halved
4 tablespoons sugar, divided
- To make the crust: Whisk together the flour, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. Set a box grater above the flour and using the large holes, grate the frozen butter directly onto the flour. Remove the grater, then using your fingers, rub the grated butter into the flour until the mixture has a coarse texture and the butter is mostly worked in. Sprinkle the ice water over the flour and fold to combine using a rubber spatula. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and spread into a long, narrow rectangle. Using the heel of your hand, press your hand along the dough to create long sheets of butter within the dough. When all of the dough has been worked through in this manner, gather the dough and knead very briefly until it holds together and shape it into a 4 inch in diameter disk. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour.
- To shape the tart: Preheat the oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Once the dough has chilled, place it on a lightly floured surface and roll it out into an even circle, 12 inches in diameter. Transfer the rolled out dough to the prepared baking sheet. In a large bowl, toss the pitted cherries with 3 tablespoons of sugar until combined. Mound the cherries into the center of the dough, spreading them into an even layer. Make sure to leave a 2 ½ inch border around the fruit. Starting with one edge of the dough, fold up a 2 inch section of the edge onto the fruit, and at repeating 2 inch intervals, create folds in the dough to have large pleats in the crust border until all of the crust has been folded up. Brush the tart with water and sprinkle with the remaining tablespoon of sugar. Bake the tart for 30-40 minutes, rotating half-way through baking, until golden brown and the fruit is bubbling. Let the tart cool on the baking sheet, then carefully remove the parchment paper and let the tart cool on a wire cooling rack for at least 40 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Note: The tart is excellent served as is, but goes well with crème fraiche, whipped cream, or vanilla ice cream.