Last night I had some apples sitting on my counter, just waiting to be made into a pie. In fact, I had promised my neighbor Benji an apple pie at Christmas, then got too caught up in Christmas and the SUGAR BOWL to make a pie and deliver before he went back to his home away from home in China. In a Cooks Illustrated Holiday baking issue, I found a recipe for an Apple Galette. I remembered those wonderful pastries when we visited Paris (for part of one day- long story that involves me mis-reading a train schedule, having to purchase expensive replacement tickets, and cutting an already short stop in Paris to a 20 hour stop, followed by another train ride- now fondly remembered as the train ride from you-know-where to Rome) back in the Fall of 2007. Another story for another recipe. Back to the pastry. Oh, how I loved those French pastries. Thin, flaky, a little crispy, a little sweet. As usual, the “Cooks” people provide a detailed run down on how to get the perfect pastry crust for this particular dessert. INcluding (yes I meant to leave that in CAPS) why they use instant flour blended with all purpose flour (creates a more tender,crisp pastry) and why you should use the fraisage technique when making this dough. Here is the short version: Fraisage is a technique that calls for partially cutting the butter into the dry ingredients, leaving large pea sized pieces of fat unmixed. Small bits of dough are pressed firmly against the counter with the heel of the hand to create a uniform dough. As a result, the chunks of butter are pressed into long, thin, sheets that create lots of flaky layers when dough is baked. Instant or quick mixing flour was touted as the essential ingredient in making a flaky yet tender tart crust in both Julia Child’s “From Julia’s Kitchen” and Andre Soltner’s “Lutece Cookbook”. You can read the whole long, interesting and thorough explanation at Cooks.com
- 1 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup instant flour Wondra, Pillsbury Shake and Blend Flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 12 tablespoons butter 1 1/2 sticks cold, unsalted
- 7-9 tablespoons ice water
Apple Filling and Glaze:
- 1 1/2 lbs 3-4 medium or 4-5 small apples
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter cut into 1/4 inch pieces
- 1/3-1/2 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons apricot preserves
- 1 tablespoons water
Cut in Butter:
Combine flours, salt and sugar into food processor with three 1 second pulses. Scatter butter pieces over flour, pulse to cut butter into flour until butter pieces are the size of large pebbles, about 1/2 inch, about six 1 second pulses.
Sprinkle 1 tablespoon water over mixture and pulse once quickly to combine, repeat, adding water 1 tablespoon at a time and pulsing until dough begins to form small curds that hold together when pinched with fingers (dough should look crumbly and should not yet form cohesive ball).
Empty dough onto work surface and gather into rough rectangular mound about 12 inches long and 5 inches wide.
Fraisage and Chill:
Start at the farthest end, using heel of hand to smear small amount of dough against counter, pushing firmly down and away from you, to create a separate pile of dough (flattened pieces of dough should look shaggy). Continue process until all dough has been worked. Gather dough into rough 12- by 5 inch mound and repeat smearing process. Dough will not have to be smeared as much first time and should form cohesive ball once entire portion is worked. Form dough into a 4 inch square, wrap in plastic and refrigerate until cold and firm, but still malleable, about 30 minutes to 1 hour.
About 15 minutes before baking, adjust oven rack to middle and heat oven to 400 degrees. Peel, core, and halve apples. Place in bowl of cold water with a few tablespoons of lemon juice to prevent browning. Cut apple halves lengthwise into 1/8 inch thick slices.
Roll and Trim Dough:
Place dough on floured 16 by 12 inch piece of parchment paper and dust with more flour. Roll dough until it overhangs on all four sides of paper. Trim with knife. Trim so edges are even with paper.
Roll up 1 inch of each edge and pinch firmly to create 1/2 inch thick border. Transfer dough on parchment to baking sheet.
Layer Apples and Bake:
Starting in one corner, shingle sliced apples to form even row across bottom of dough, overlapping each piece by about one fourth to one half. Continue to layer apples in rows, overlapping each row by half. Dot apples with butter and sprinkle evenly with sugar. Bake until bottom of tart is deep golden brown and apples have caramelized about 45-60 minutes.
Combine apricot preserves in a small bowl and microwave for about 1 minute, mix in the water, and whisk together. Brush on pastry when removed from oven.
-I used Granny Smith apples, thought the tartness was just right with about 1/2 cup sugar.
-Don't slice the apples too thick, or they will not cook properly.
-I didn't add the borders to all sides, just trimmed the dough, and added that to the two ends of the pastry.
-If the dough is too firm when removing from refrigerator, roll out as much as possible and let sit for a few minutes. It will soften quickly.
-Don't be put off by the whole "Fraisage" process. It's simple, just adding water to dough while kneading with the heel of your hand on a counter.