Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Galette: pie for dummies, Girl Scouts & crust lovers

Why do I call galette "pie for dummies"? Because I think the hardest, most troublesome thing about pie is the handling and shaping of the dough. With galette (aka crostata), the dough is simply rolled out in a circle, the filling is heaped in the middle, the perimeter edge folded up over the filling and then it's baked. Tough, huh? I can't think of a baked pastry that's easier or more foolproof than freeform galettes! And now for the Girl Scout part: if you make the dough ahead of time and keep it in the freezer, you can be ready for those unexpected times when some glorious, ripe fruit magically appears in your shopping basket... or in the dead of winter, using apples or frozen fruit, you can surprise and delight your favorite crust lover with a lovely galette for breakfast or dessert. Is that not the definition of sheer happiness?

Freeform Tart Pastry
from Baking Illustrated

I like this dough because it's strong and withstands handling better than regular pie dough. The cornmeal also adds rustic texture and subtle flavor.

2 tbsp. sour cream
2 tbsp. ice water
1 c. (5 oz.) unbleached AP flour
1/4 c. fine stone ground cornmeal
2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
7 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" cubes

Stir sour cream and ice water together and set aside in the refrigerator. Process the flour, cornmeal, sugar and salt in a food processor, using 1-second pulses, until combined. Scatter the butter cubes over the flour mixture and pulse until most of the butter is incorporated. Dribble the water-sour cream mixture in and pulse until the dough just comes together (you may not need to use all of the water-sour cream). Gather the dough into a ball, place it on a piece of plastic wrap and flatten into a 6" dia. disk. Wrap the disk tightly with the plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours; or place in a freezer bag and freeze for future use.

Galette Fruit Filling
inspired by Home Baking (Alford/Duguid)

3 c. fresh fruit (pitted and sliced stone fruits, berries, apples, etc.)
5 tsp.+ sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon (optional)
1 tsp. cornstarch (optional)
1/4 c. finely chopped toasted almonds or walnuts
3 tbsp. butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat oven to 400°F. Place prepared fruit in a bowl, toss with 3 tsp. of sugar or more to taste. If the fruit is very juicy, toss with the cornstarch (make sure it dissolves). Allow the galette dough to come to near room temperature. On a piece of parchment paper, roll out the dough to a 12-13" dia. circle or oval. Spread the nuts evenly on the dough, leaving a 2" border. Mound the fruit over the nut layer and scatter the butter pieces on top. Fold and pleat the edges of the dough over the fruit, like a camera's aperture (or, for you TV sci-fi fans, like the Stargate's iris), leaving a good-sized hole in the middle to allow steam and excess fruit juices to escape. Brush the dough with water, then sprinkle the remaining 2 tsp. of sugar on top. Slide the tart with the parchment paper onto a cookie sheet. If you suspect your galette is near the point of deconstructing itself, you can pull up the four corners of the parchment and staple them together, as in the photo, to hold everything together. Bake for approximately 40 min., or until the crust is golden and the fruit is bubbly. If you stapled the corners, pull them apart for the last 10 min. of baking to allow the crust to brown properly. If the fruit looks dry or unappealing, warm up some jam and spoon or pour it onto the fruit. Allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.

Is that what juxtaposition is?

I make myself laugh sometimes. Like, I'm reviewing my most recent posts and they are about food and cat poop. Yecch. It's no wonder topic-specific blogs work best. It's like when I'd find myself in the checkout line with only Oxy10 and a bag of Dove chocolates... or two cans of chili with beans and Gas-X. Life can be funny that way and it's cheap entertainment.

I've been procrastinating lately. In the next day or two I'll post my favorite pie and galette dough recipes. Ah yup, that was supposed to be in honor of Pi Day, which was March 14th. I did make an apple galette for myself that day, though. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Psst! Secret Portuguese Sweet Bread

It's been a while since I've made Mom's Secret Portuguese Sweet Bread. Oh, I'll try other sweet doughs like brioche and challah, but none can top Mom's. She would not divulge the recipe for many, many years but eventually revealed it to me -- I think when I turned forty!! I'd always suspected it was based on a version that comes from Our Favorite Recipes, a series of self-published cookbooks put out by the Maui Assoc. for Family & Community Education. 1996 marked the 50th anniversary of their publishing the cookbooks, and they put out a fat compilation to celebrate. It's worth getting, and a must if you're interested in Hawaiiana (like the fascination with the processed meat Spam). Though there's no recipe for Portuguese Sweet Bread in it, there's so much more you won't miss it. Order your copy by writing to the organization at PO Box 1784, Kahului, HI 96733 (no price is listed, but you can also get it from Amazon, here).

This recipe came about through my Mom's attempts to recreate the old King's Hawaiian bread we used to get from the actual King's Bakery in Honolulu -- not the fluffy tasteless crap that King's, or whatever conglomerate owns them now, churns out for supermarkets. Mom's version, in my eyes, is a smashing success -- it surpasses any other sweet bread I've ever tried, homemade or commercial. It's also a wonderful all-around sweet dough to use for cinnamon rolls, sticky buns, etc. But I'll always like it best plain and warm, perhaps with a schmear of butter and topped with sweet memories.

Mom's Secret Portuguese Sweet Bread (updated method)

Microwave one peeled and cubed potato in water for approx. 4 minutes or until potato is soft. Reserve 1/2 c. of the water and let cool. Mash the potato.

1/2 c. potato water
1 c. mashed potatoes
3/4 c. milk
2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. butter, melted but not hot
1 c. sour cream
6 large eggs
2 c. sugar
4 tsp. yeast
9+ c. all-purpose flour
melted butter for brushing

Optional: cinnamon/sugar, chopped dried fruit or nuts, milk, powdered sugar

Combine the potato water, mashed potatoes, milk, salt, butter and sour cream in a blender until smooth. Make sure the liquid is not hot before blending in the eggs. In a mixer bowl, combine the sugar, yeast and 4 cups of flour with a batter attachment on low speed; gradually pour in the liquid mixture until incorporated, then beat on medium speed until smooth.

Continue to add the rest of the flour 1/2 cup at a time until the dough stiffens up. Switch to a dough hook and alternate beating in/adding flour until the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl a little. Turn off the mixer and press your fingers into the dough; it should be sticky but not too gooey, and the indentations should remain.

Dump the dough out onto a generously floured surface. Knead the dough, adding sprinkles of flour if necessary, until it is smooth and elastic (5-10 minutes). The dough will remain slightly sticky due to all the sugar. Place the dough into a large, well-greased container, flipping it over so the greased side of the dough is up. Cover tightly with a lid or plastic wrap and let the dough rise until doubled. This can take from 3 to 8 hours, depending on the warmth of the room and strength of the yeast.

The recipe will easily fill at least four 9" x 5" x 3"H loaf pans or three 9" dia. x 3"H pans (round springform type). I usually do 7 balls, with 1 in the middle, in a springform pan. Decide whether you want to add any extra ingredients, like sugar/cinnamon swirl, dried fruits or chopped nuts, and get them ready.

When the dough has fully risen, plop the mass out onto a floured or greased surface and press the excess air out (no punching). Knead the dough a bit. Add in or roll up the optional ingredients if you wish. Divide(1) and shape the dough as desired(2). Place the loaves into well-greased pans, lightly covering with plastic wrap that's also been greased or sprayed with Pam. Do not overfill pans. Let rise again until almost double.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Remove the plastic wrap gently, then optionally slash the tops, do a milk wash for a very dark crust, or sprinkle sugar on top before placing in the oven. Leave plenty of oven headroom for the loaves to rise higher. After 20 minutes, reduce the oven to 325°F. Bake for a total of 35 min. to 50 min, depending on your loaf size (check loaf pans at 30 min., balls in round pans at 40 min.). I usually bake this bread until the internal temperature reaches about 190°F-200°F, which is slightly undercooked but I like it that way.(3)

Remove the loaves from the oven and let sit for 5 minutes in the pan before running a knife around the edges if necessary, popping out of the pan and allowing to cool on a rack. Brush tops with melted butter while still warm. Dust with powdered sugar when fully cooled if desired. Serve with sweet butter.

(1) Use a scale to apportion dough and get dough balls the same size. (2) If you know how to "round" dough, do it -- if the dough is lumpy or ragged, the bread will bake up that way. (3) To take the bread's temperature without making obvious holes or removing the loaf, insert the thermometer from the side of the loaf just above the pan rim, aiming down towards the middle.